311 The first line managers view of TPM

(with thanks to Graham Davies of WCS International for his insights as an ex-Plant Manager and Supervisor)

The scenario

The principles of TPM and their adoption may be accepted by the upper management of any company, but the area which can make or break any real commitment to TPM is the first line management, usually called the Team Leader, who is often an ex-shopfloor person. Attitudes and hence 'buy-in' on the shopfloor are dictated more by the Supervisor than the Plant Manager.

As far as an operator or maintainer is concerned, the only person they relate to on a daily basis is their Supervisor. The majority of changes being implemented by upper management do not make a great deal of difference to them. The only concern in their mind is whether or not their Supervisor will put these changes into practice and how he sells it to them. If he is autocratic, then the opinion the operator and maintainer have of the company will reflect that; if he is an open-minded person who people respect and he takes their ideas on board, then they will have a different view of how the company operates.

My name is Fred Whitlock and, as a Team Leader, it is my job to implement the changes which management see fit to promote within our organization. I also feel, however, that with the experience I have, I should ensure that I interpret changes in a way that will be of benefit to our company and also make it easy for me to sell to the workforce.

I have worked for this company, man and boy, for thirty-five years. At fifty-two, I am at the point of knowing this place inside out and have the respect of my peers as someone who can sort out the problems that occur on my shift and within the department as a whole.

In the time that I have been working here I have seen all sorts of so-called 'initiatives'. I call them 'flavour of the month' because that's about as long as they last, and here they are again with another one. Yes, it's TPM, Total Productive Manufacturing - the best thing since sliced bread!!

The denial phase

I only have eight years left before I retire, and all I want to do is to have an easy life until then. I do not see why I need to take on extra responsibilities when I do not get enough time to do what I should be doing at present. 'Taking time to save time' - that's a load of cobblers. I do not have time to spit on occasions and neither do my guys, and this so-called TPM Pilot Team are now going to take a day per week to sit down and sort out the troubles of the world. How do they expect me to release people and run my shift?

The consultants that the company has brought in are costing us a fortune, but because they are from outside the management will listen to what they have to say Us old timers have been telling them the same things for years, and they won't take any notice of us.

Well, I have just come back from a so-called coaching session on a one-to-one basis with a consultant and I honestly cannot see what we are paying for. This must be the biggest rip-off I have ever seen. They talk about teamwork but we do that already, otherwise we could not solve all the problems we come across. My shift have always worked together to problem solve, but the other shifts have a few strong personalities on them and they will never change.

This so-called Pilot Team have been meeting one day a week for the last six weeks and all I have seen is some form of fancy calculation called OEE -Overall Equipment Effectiveness. This is split up into Availability, Performance and Quality. They say this gives a more in-depth look at how your equipment is performing, but I cannot see anything wrong with the efficiency and quality defects that we report on each month at the moment. All this TPM is doing is creating more and more paperwork!

I have just come on shift on this Monday morning and we have already had a breakdown on the machine the TPM team are supposed to be working on. They have scheduled me to shut this machine off for a further four hours for them to do something called a Condition Appraisal. I have to hit my production targets and if they seriously think I am shutting down when I am already behind schedule, they have another think coming. Production comes

They have carried out that work on one of the other shifts and that cost us twelve hours' production downtime. For what?? No one has had any feedback as to what they've found, if they've found anything at all. They have put a few more pretty pictures up on their communications board, but they still have not achieved anything as far as I can see, although I must admit the

I cannot believe what is happening in this company. That team has now had permission to shut down the machine for one week to carry out a 'Refurbishment Plan'. The number of times I have tried to improve this machine and I have not been allowed to because of 'production demands', is ridiculous, and here we have a group of 'shopfloor workers' being allowed to do so. They are undermining the authority of the Shift Team Leaders, as far as I am

That machine is now back in production and, apart from some initial teething problems, is running well. We have maintained these machines on many occasions in the past, and they run better for a while but then drift back to the condition they were in before they were worked on. They then become inconsistent and unreliable, and I can guarantee the same thing will happen

I have just come back from two weeks' holiday in Spain and am surprised to see that the TPM machine is still running well. I have also noticed a change in approach by the operators, who in some ways are now controlling the machine and not the other way round. They have changed their working routine and now carry out minor front line asset care tasks, which is all part and parcel of keeping their machines in good condition. They call this their Asset Care Routine. Conversations with these operators have changed, as they now have a great deal more knowledge of the process than they had in the past. The TPM process has now allowed the operators and maintainers to take on ownership of problems and allows them time to problem solve. The operators can now discuss more of the technical issues of the equipment, as they have a far greater understanding of the equipment. They have also become far more safety-conscious, as they now seem to understand how the

The change in relationships between skilled and unskilled is dramatic, and they are now discussing faults between themselves and coining up with answers without having to involve myself at all. The fitters and electricians have now trained the operators to carry out minor tasks that used to tie the skilled guys down on trivial jobs, so they have time to tackle the bigger problems on site. It has amazed me how people have taken this on board. In the past, if we as managers had asked the skilled personnel to train the operators, they would have gone on strike. As team members, they are doing it without question. The trouble with all this development of the shopfloor people is where does it leave me? All the time I have been a supervisor I have dictated to the shopfloor how they are expected to work on my shift. Now I have to back off and co-ordinate things rather than manage the people.

Collection of the data has been going on since the start of the pilot project and OEEs have been generated. I feel that this is the most difficult section of the nine-step process, as people cannot see how all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together at this early stage.

The buy-in phase

I have just undergone Team Leader training, which has given me a better understanding of how powerful a tool the OEE really is. The first OEE figures showed us that our machine was performing at an average of 35 per cent over a three-week period. We came up with a realistic figure as a target by taking the best availability, performance and quality for that three-week period, which came out at 52 per cent. This is classed as the 'best of best' and, if we can take control of our losses, we can achieve this figure consistently. When you actually put a cost on this, it equates to a saving of £150 K per annum, and if I find a fault I can justify downtime to eliminate that fault against loss of OEE per annum. This is the first time that I have actually been given a tool which allows me to go forward to upper management and be able to justify my spending and planned downtime on equipment.

The nine-step process is going well and the team have made their job a lot more user-friendly and also more efficient in the way they operate their equipment. This in turn gives me more time to complete my work without being disturbed and without people asking me to sort out their problems all the time.

We have also been trained in the art of CAN DO, which is the same as the Japanese 5S. We have had an initial clear-out of things that were not wanted or had been stored in our area by someone else. The neatness Step 2 is now being progressed and the place is looking a great deal better - it is surprising how much extra space we have created in the department. I have now been allocated an 'improvement zone' within my department which I am responsible and accountable for. I still run the whole department and have to ensure that we hit production targets as well as keeping the place clean, but I have one area as my TPM /improvement zone which includes CAN DO as well as attacking problems using the nine-step process.

The hardest problem is getting all shifts to buy into keeping each other's areas clean instead of dumping their rubbish into my area when they are due to be audited. We have had the same trouble with every initiative we have tried and if we can make it work across the five shifts, then we really have taken a massive step forward. At the moment, I feel that we are not going to move any further forward with this as there are a lot of people not wanting to change in this company. Luckily, I have never been that way inclined, or have I? The initial audits were set out with dates against when they were to be carried out. However, although we cleaned up the day before the audit, what we found was that the time taken to get the areas back to that standard was reduced dramatically. We have since changed to a system of auditing randomly, which means the department has to be kept at this level at all times.

Two years later - looking back

When I look back over the last two years and see the changes which have taken place within our organization, it has made a tremendous difference to the way I now do my job. During the initial introduction with the consultants supporting it, they stressed that it was not a quick-fix solution but a drip-feed change of attitudes and approach to problem solving. People like myself have changed our approach without actually realizing what was happening and, as I look at the upper management, the people who I felt would be the stumbling blocks when we started are no longer in the same positions as they were twelve months ago.

The main advantage I have found is that the TPM process is not just a machine-related system but becomes an all-encompassing approach. It looks at the door-to-door OEE, not just at an individual machine, but also at the value chain through the whole organization and involves everyone, from planning to finance to forklift truck driver.

The change in my role has allowed me to stand back, look at the bigger issues within our department, and not just be an ostrich/head in the sand type of Team Leader. The money we invested with consultants in the early days of TPM, with which I totally disagreed, has been paid back over and over. The problem we had, once we had an understanding of the process, was that TPM is not rocket science, it is an obsession with attention to detail, and we felt that we could do it all ourselves. You very quickly realize that you need someone to keep you on the right track, otherwise you get involved in side issues and forget what it is you are actually trying to achieve.

It is a complete change in culture and, carried out properly, it can be the best thing since sliced bread but, as the saying goes, 'You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette!'.

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