of companies in America have started a TPM effort. Only a few hundred have
succeeded. Reasons for this are many, most of them only justifications. As
we know, there are people who use more energy to find justifications for not
accomplishing their goals than they do to achieve them. After some years of
dealing with those who have not succeeded with TPM, I am convinced that the
real problem when implementing TPM or any other lean manufacturing practice
The old concept
that power is about control and authority is still present in many plants.
But today, many people are realizing that real power can only be achieved
through leadership. No longer is secret-hoarding the formula for respect.
How can we develop
the right leadership environment to support TPM? How can that valuable,
traditionally wasted intelligence and creativity of our workforce become an
active asset in our companies? Very simple: Listening. We need good,
respectful, patient listeners to become TPM champions. Much harm has already
been done to the morale of those operators and workers in general who at
some point have been told not to touch the machines, not to state their
opinions, and not to create new ideas for improvements on the process,
materials or products. It is time for those good new leaders to recover the
damaged wills of all our people and bring up their confidence and
Empowerment is the
deal; trust, delegation and abundant appropriate training is the process;
their ownership over the product, process and plant is the response.
TPM is based on the
right training for all people to become involved and co-participants in the
new global economy. Our maintenance technicians must also understand that by
sharing their expertise with operators, they are contributing to that
positive leadership environment. When the maintenance technicians have less
to do with the cleaning, lubrication, inspection, adjustment and setup of
the machines, they will be able to develop higher skill-demanding tasks.
They will also be able to comply with the PM schedules, so frequently
neglected, and find good ways to apply predictive maintenance, now with the
advanced technologies that help us prevent breakdowns better than ever
Operators will have
the opportunity to undertake their new role and become better prepared for
the new labor market that has started requiring such backgrounds. They will
also be working to increase their job security. It is a win-win situation
for all of us. There is no doubt that the more we learn about the equipment,
the better our chances to determine abnormal conditions as soon as they
But there is more
for those operators: Pride! Dr. William Edwards Deming used to rate this
pride as the “basic right that workers have traditionally been deprived
of.” When people at all levels of the organization are proud of what they
are doing and contributing, the environment becomes more productive. Their
work lives acquire a higher quality.
A few months ago, I
had the opportunity to visit one of my customers. One of their great
concerns was the high turnover rate of between 20 and 25% per month, which
is typical of the maquiladora (see rectangle) industry . There
was an impressive difference already being noticed in that area. After the
TPM implementation, the turnover rate had come down to less than 5%, and the
trend is toward further improvement. The reason behind this is the pride
that those workers enjoy, seeing their pictures and names on the visual
progress board, where all the graphics show how they have contributed to cut
downtime and improve the cell’s productivity.
So, if we want to
succeed with TPM, what we have to consider is this: the leadership
environment, full respect for all people’s contributions, recognition and
acknowledgement, and for real leadership to take the place of the old
concept of authority. We must grow a new breed of supervisors who are
conscious about their role as listeners, trainers and facilitators.
Mora has been acknowledged by national publications for being a very
effective TPM and Lean Manufacturing implementer. He has developed a bilingual
(English/Spanish) website at www.tpmonline.com, where he shares his
expertise in the field.
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