How autonomous maintenance can benefit the shop floor

Louise Davis

In the Dutch sport korfball, every player has the same role. Unlike sports with designated positions, each individual is equally responsible for attacking and defending the basket. Here Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial parts supplier EU Automation explains how autonomous maintenance, one of the pillars of total productive maintenance (TPM) requires the whole manufacturing team to take responsibility for maintenance.

Autonomous maintenance is a strategy where equipment operators share the responsibility for the performance and health of equipment with the maintenance team. Like the players in a korfball team, operating staff are responsible for more than one position – their role includes maintenance too.
Autonomous maintenance is a crucial pillar of TPM, developed in Japan to combine the concept of Total Quality Control with preventative and predictive maintenance. A vital principal of TPM is the involvement of the entire team to improve maintenance with proactive, predictive and preventative practises.
The idea was spawned by production teams who wanted to control and improve their overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by reducing breakdowns, losses in speed and equipment deterioration. To perform autonomous maintenance, all operators must be able to detect abnormalities, understand the equipment and be aware of the common causes of anomalies to identify the root of a problem when it occurs.
Steps in the right direction

For autonomous maintenance to impact OEE, it must be implemented correctly. The Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM) has defined a seven-step improvement process with three phases for companies to follow.
The first step, sometimes known as step 0, involves educating the team and detailing the specifics of machine functions. The team should be educated in what is expected and the improvements that an autonomous maintenance strategy can deliver.
Once the team is trained, the company can begin step one; initial cleaning. In this step, staff perform careful inspection to identify any signs of a problem. After equipment is clean, it is imperative that it does not get contaminated again – which is why step two is to eliminate sources of contamination and improve accessibility for maintenance. Once this is complete, the company can commence step three, to formulate standards for cleaning, inspection and lubrication.
Once the first phase is complete, companies can follow steps four to seven to consolidate, improve and develop. The steps include, general inspection and verification of standard operating conditions, conducting autonomous inspections, standardisation of work processes and autonomous equipment management.
Once the process is embedded, it will be easier to identify and eliminate the causes of machine faults, to reduce unplanned downtime and increase the operating performance of the equipment.
Obsolete or new?

Two of the core principles of autonomous maintenance are to prevent equipment deterioration through correct operation and daily inspections and bring equipment to its ideal state through restoration and proper management. However, it’s clear that this isn’t always possible and there will always be times when a product must be replaced.
Because continuous learning is at the heart of continuous improvement, it pays to encourage operators to understand the basics of the replacement process. A good example is empowering the operator to understand the choice between new and obsolete parts, which encompasses deciding between a potentially complex upgrade and a simple fix that will result in the line getting up and running as quickly as possible.
We regularly work with both manufacturing directors and shop floor level staff to help them make this kind of choice and to supply the part as quickly as possible once it has been made.
The ultimate consequence of autonomous maintenance should be a well-trained workforce able to take responsibility for different maintenance activities according to protocol. Rather than set maintenance staff, production staff will also be responsible for the goal of improved overall equipment effectiveness, much like the players in a korfball team are all responsible for attacking and defending the basket.

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