What is Total Productive Maintenance?

For all industrial companies, equipment maintenance is one of the more important business processes. Efficient and correct maintenance can reduce costs and expensive, revenue-losing downtime. Ineffective maintenance can cause instability and partially or completely pause the production process.

With this in mind, companies often have an objective to implement the most effective maintenance procedures while also achieving high levels of efficiency. Over the last few decades, many maintenance activities have moved from being manual to being digitized, facilitated by specialized software. While this has certainly improved the efficiency of maintenance programs, many companies could benefit from going even further, employing Total Productive Maintenance as a key performance metric.

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A worker conducting a maintenance inspection (Image: @kateryna-babaieva-1423213/Pexels.com).


Defining Total Productive Maintenance

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is an equipment maintenance approach which has the goal of achieving a perfect production process. TPM has three main goals: zero unplanned failures, zero product defects, and zero accidents.

Two important aspects of TPM are:

  • Getting ahead of maintenance issues through proactive and/or preventative maintenance, and that
  • Everyone should have a hand in owning the responsibility of maintenance.

To elaborate on the second aspect: shared ownership holds that everyone, from top-level management to the technicians on the floor should play a role in equipment maintenance. Management should be involved in TPM by instilling it as a corporate policy, while equipment operators are the owners of the assets and should find early signs of equipment deterioration and report them. Maintenance managers and technicians need to train and assist operators to perform more advanced preventative maintenance activities. A maintenance team should also be established to own responsibility for the maintenance program.

TPM has its origins in lean manufacturing, having been developed in the late 1950s by Seiichi Nakajima of the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance. The first company to use TPM was Japanese automotive manufacturer Nippondenso. TPM is built on the so-called “5S foundation” with 8 pillars supporting it.

The 5S Foundation

Each aspect of the 5S foundation needs to be implemented to start building a TPM process:

Sort: First, determine which items are used most frequently in the maintenance process and which are not. The ones used frequently should be kept close by while the others should be stored further away.

Systemize: Each item should have its own place to be stored.

Shine: Clean the workspace. A clean workspace makes problems easier to identify, making maintenance easier to perform.

Standardize: Standardize and label your workspace. This may necessitate the creation of new processes.

Sustain: Efforts should be made to continually perform each of the other steps at all times.

Once this foundation is laid, it is time to move onto building the 8 pillars of TPM.

The 8 Pillars

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The pillars of TPM (Image: source).


The eight pillars of TPM are mostly focused on proactive and preventative techniques for improving equipment reliability.

Autonomous Maintenance

Autonomous maintenance gives operators the responsibility for routine maintenance activities such as cleaning, lubricating, and inspection. This allows operators to have greater ownership of their equipment as well as increasing their knowledge of the equipment. Furthermore, it allows maintenance personnel to focus on more pressing tasks and for operators to identify issues as they emerge and before they become failures.

Planned Maintenance

Bigger maintenance tasks should be scheduled based on predicted or measured failure rates, with the equipment only being shut down for that period of time. This significantly reduces unplanned stoppages, enables most maintenance to be done when the machine is not expected to be in production, and also reduces inventory turnover through better control of wear-prone and failure-prone parts.

Quality Maintenance

Error detection and prevention should be built into existing production processes. Additionally, root cause analysis should be applied to identify and eliminate recurring sources of quality issues. Through this implementation, the number of defects is reduced, costs are reduced, and specific projects can be put into place that targets the root causes of defects.

Focused Improvement

Small groups of employees should proactively work together to achieve regular, incremental improvements in equipment operation. By creating these groups, recurring problems can be identified and resolved by cross-functional teams. This initiative combines the various talents of different teams to create an engine for continuous improvement.

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Total Productive Maintenance workflow (Image: source).


Early Equipment Management

This pillar encourages the direction of practical knowledge and understanding of manufacturing equipment gained through TPM towards improving the design of new equipment. By doing this new equipment can reach planned performance levels much faster due to fewer startup issues. Maintenance is also simplified thanks to employee involvement prior to installation.

Training and Education

Operators, maintenance personnel, and managers should receive the necessary training to upskill to achieve TPM goals. Operators need to develop the skills to maintain equipment and identify emerging problems. The maintenance staff needs to learn techniques for proactive and preventative maintenance. Finally, managers should be trained on TPM principles as well as to how to effectively coach and develop employees.

Safety, Health & Environment

An important pillar is to maintain a safe and healthy working environment. Maintaining a safe and accident-free workplace is essential for TPM and numerous other aspects of a successful business. A productive environment should not come at the expense of health and safety.

TPM in Administration

TPM techniques should be applied to administrative functions. This extends the benefits of TPM beyond the plant floor by addressing waste in admin functions. The benefits of applying TPM principles to admin functions further benefit the plant floor through more efficient operations in areas such as order processing, procurement, and scheduling.

How JourneyApps and RealWear Help You Achieve Your TPM Goals

Combining RealWear hands-free devices with the custom workflow capabilities of JourneyApps provides an innovative avenue to address a number of TPM pillars. Head-mounted displays directly lead to an increase in productivity, with users having hands-free access to information, allowing them to remain in flow. This access impacts the quality maintenance pillar.

Additionally, giving operators (and other team members) access to a remote expert who can be called from the location of equipment, drastically speeds up the resolution of minor maintenance issues.

The pillar that an implementation of RealWear and JourneyApps may impact the most is health, safety, and environment. Using a digital device that is voice-controlled means the employee conducting maintenance is less distracted by their work instructions, decreasing the likelihood of an accident. Many industrial workers work in hazardous environments, where they want to complete their job as quickly, but efficiently, as possible. Having their maintenance information within sight, at the mention of their voice means that jobs can be completed quicker.

On-the-job video-based training means that training can be done more effectively. With the training that TPM requires of maintenance and non-maintenance personnel, any gains here are beneficial to the company and reaching the TPM goals. Training on-the-job with headsets that guide you through the process means that employees get more practical training, time is not wasted in the conference room with theoretical training and training costs are reduced.

While these 3 pillars will benefit the most from the implementation of RealWear devices with JourneyApps applications, your overall TPM goals are made more attainable by it.


JourneyApps provides a rapid way to build custom apps for RealWear® HMT, mobile and desktop. Voice commands are simple to set up and manage, we provide offline support out of the box, and deploying apps happens with a single click. Comes with prebuilt ERP integrations. If you are interested, please contact us to schedule a demo. You can also visit our RealWear page to learn more and subscribe for notifications about new blog posts.


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