Autonomous maintenance is one of the most distinctive activities in TPM. After preventive maintenance was introduced into Japan from America, operation and maintenance were formally separated. As operators lost ownership of their equipment, they gradually lost their sense of responsibility for maintaining it.
The autonomous maintenance practiced in TPM reverses this tendency Operators become involved in routine maintenance and improvement activities that halt accelerated deterioration, control contamination, and help prevent equipment problems.
Because process plants employ a small number of operators in relation to the number and size of equipment units, strategies for achieving autonomous maintenance goals must be adapted somewhat from the traditional approach followed in fabrication and assembly industries.
When tailoring autonomous maintenance to individual process environments, planning teams must:
- Consider how autonomous maintenance steps can be conducted most effectively on different types of equipment.
- Investigate the relative importance of different equipment items and determine appropriate maintenance approaches.
- Prioritize maintenance tasks
- Allocate responsibilities appropriately between production and specialized maintenance personnel
Autonomous maintenance activities are typically implemented in steps and are only effective if the progression from one step to the next is strictly controlled. To manage this, appoint official auditing groups and lay down pass/ fall standards.
A plant’s top management should give final approval for groups to graduate from one step and move on to the next. Why is close control so important? initial cleaning (Step 1), for example, involves much more than merely cleaning and tidying the equipment and adjacent areas.
If team efforts are not focused on identifying and treating problems found in the course of thorough cleaning, the goals of eliminating and controlling deterioration cannot be achieved. Similarly, depending on the plant’s location, salt spray, rain, snow, and so on, may corrode the equipment and erode its foundations. Products such as powders, liquids, solids, gases, and so on can also cause accelerated deterioration of equipment, through scattering, leaking, blocks, and so forth.
How much deterioration is treated will depend in part on the environment, the equipment, or the form of the product. However, if Step 2 of an autonomous maintenance program (action against contamination sources and inaccessible places) is not properly implemented, the program will slip right back to Step 1 or even further.
Step-by-step auditing of team activities to keep them properly focused is essential for the successful implementation of autonomous maintenance.