Moving beyond TPM to total plant reliability: Redefining the concept to optimize benefits

Total productive maintenance, a methodology originating in Japan to support its lean manufacturing system, was introduced to this country in the late 1980s.

By John Roup February 1, 1999

Total productive maintenance, a methodology originating in Japan to support its lean manufacturing system, was introduced to this country in the late 1980s. Defined as productive maintenance carried out by all employees in small group activities, TPM focuses on optimizing the use of capital and human assets. The three main concepts of TPM are:

– To focus on continuously improving equipment

– To share equipment maintenance responsibilities

– To focus natural work groups on equipment.

The first concept has become the maintenance equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. The second — shared equipment maintenance responsibilities — is a simple idea that can transform an organization. In the United States, it has meant the end of the era of “We’ll run it; you fix it!” How many of our organizations have operated under the premise that the maintenance function is a free or allocated good? More importantly, how many offered incentives for operators to work at making equipment reliable? Or imposed consequences for not participating in the reliability process? No wonder operations and maintenance were often antagonistic toward each other. TPM has helped foster a change in this fundamental relationship in the United States.

The greatest difficulty has come in successfully applying the third concept. Although there are cases of the successful use of teams in maintenance, total reliance on them does not translate as well as the other two concepts. The prevalence of social cooperation in Japanese culture makes this understandable.

In the U.S., there are times when individuals or small groups can act alone more effectively than teams. Japanese concepts that are good business practices work well everywhere. But concepts tied to Japanese culture are more difficult to apply here.

Moving beyond TPM

TPM, by definition, is a continuous improvement methodology. After nearly a decade of having the TPM concept implemented in North America, it should not be surprising that it needs to be redefined. At our firm we have taken to calling this next iteration of TPM Total Plant Reliability, or TPR. To communicate the comprehensive nature of the new strategy, we have borrowed the concept of fishbone diagrams from the quality movement and developed a fishbone diagram of our own (left).

Understanding and applying this concept requires defining TPR and its cornerstone improvement strategies.


Total can be defined in two ways. First is the total involvement of the organization. Everyone in the organization must be involved if Total Plant Reliability is to be achieved. Second is the total optimization of production with a market focus. What is the best combination of reliability, production, flexibility, deliverability, safety and environmental factors, etc., for optimizing the long-term profitability of an asset? TPR is about achieving the level of reliability that the market indicates will optimize your profits. It is about teaching maintenance organizations to be good business people.


The focus of TPR is on heavy industry. The concepts are currently applied in paper, steel, petrochemical, automotive, and various discrete manufacturing industries. TPR is about production and manufacturing. It does not venture into administration and corporate business processes, although it supports excellence in these other areas.


Reliability can be a hard word to define. We define it as the probability that equipment, machinery, or systems will perform their required functions satisfactorily under specific conditions within a certain time period. Although the term is hard to define, it is easy to measure. We use Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): “Are you running?” “How fast are you running?” “Are you making a good product?”

Vision of TPR

A vision is defined as an inspirational description of a prosperous future. Vision for TPR is “to become a learning organization that exceeds its customers’ expectations by optimizing plant reliability, production, and flexibility… an organization that is growing and expanding because reliability has become a key competitive advantage… a company where maintenance and operations have formed a partnership for production excellence.”

Does this describe your organization, or what you would like your organization to become? The key to a successful vision is that it is shared. “To inspire me, your vision also needs to include a role for me.”

TPR advancements

TPR depends on many key TPM concepts, including autonomous maintenance, zero breakdowns, and the other tools of maintenance prevention. It is a comprehensive improvement strategy intended to guide all aspects of the improvement process from the corporate reliability vision statement to the turning of wrenches. TPR advancements from TPM include:

– Focus on reliability

– Focused empowerment

– Market-based maintenance

– Use of a balanced scorecard.

The focus is on the goal of reliability , not the function of maintenance. One problem is maintenance’s inability to sell the idea of maintenance excellence to management. Maintenance excellence is generally associated with increased costs, not increased profits. But improved or optimized reliability is a goal that can be sold!

Without leadership, even the best maintenance and reliability engineers and data in the world cannot achieve Total Plant Reliability. Approaching this challenge is defined as focused empowerment . Empowerment does not mean everyone does his own thing. Employees still require guidance to focus their efforts. One tool we have developed to guide the improvement process is the empowerment checklist. It has proven successful in guiding employees through the improvement process.

Excellence in asset management requires mastering the maintenance basics of planning and scheduling. But it is not enough to know how to respond after a failure has already occurred. TPR means proactively planning to prevent failures, influencing the future instead of reacting to events as they occur. For example, if a pump fails, it is probably an emergency to get it back on line. A good vibration-monitoring program detects an approaching bearing problem, letting maintenance plan a minor bearing replacement scheduled at everyone’s convenience.

Perhaps the most exciting trend in asset management is that of outsourcing your CMMS. Maintaining a CMMS internally can be prohibitively expensive. Perhaps at your company, this service can be delegated to a firm that specializes in asset management, reliability engineering, and the development and support of PM and PdM programs. If maintenance is not a core competency of your company, outsourced asset management may be the right choice.

For years, our corporate models of operations have been closer to the old Soviet Union’s centrally planned economy than the market system in which our economy operates. Are your maintenance costs free or arbitrarily allocated? Maintenance should be recovering the full costs of its services through a market-based billing rate. Other market cues such as charging more for emergency work can be used to minimize the abuse of priority systems.

Market-based maintenance is a refinement of the shared equipment responsibilities concept. No more are work orders written simply to change lube oil filters. But such a transformation requires leadership. A key moment in successful reliability improvement programs is when the plant manager informs the operations manager that operations is now accountable for maintenance costs.

The reliability balanced scorecard is a strategic management process first defined in the Harvard Business Review in 1992. The concept is built on two ideas. First, organizational success must be based on more than just financial measures. The balanced scorecard concept introduces the additional perspectives of the customer, internal business processes, and learning and growth. Second, balanced performance measurement must be tied together with the company’s strategic management system. In other words, balanced scorecards measure the success of such strategic management systems as communicating and linking goals, or feedback and learning.

For a maintenance manager, this means performance and rewards are now tied to a set of reliability balanced scorecards, not based solely on maintenance costs. What do our customers want? At what processes must we excel? Are we continuing to learn?

Implementing the plan

Applying the balanced scorecard concept to reliability improvement pulls TPR ideas together into a workable improvement plan. Achieving total plant reliability means leading our people, maintaining our assets, and continuously improving and measuring performance in a balanced manner. This is not a simple 12-step process that can be implemented in three months. TPR is too complicated for simple definition and implementation. One recent improvement plan contained more than 200 steps in the first year.

A plant considering TPR must do the benchmarking required to know where it stands today. It is vital to begin with focused empowerment activities. It is important to develop balanced scorecards in the first three months of the program. Without them, there is no way to guide and measure the success of the program. Finally, it is imperative in the first year of the program to focus on asset management, not maintenance prevention. Most engineers and technicians head straight for the technical solutions. However, if the maintenance basics of planning and scheduling are not in place, the technical solutions usually flounder.

Maintenance and reliability improvement in North America have gone well beyond the original scope of Total Productive Maintenance. Total Plant Reliability defines the exciting new strategies that will be required to achieve lasting reliability improvement in your company.

John Roup, vice president of operations for HSBRT, is responsible for overseeing and directing maintenance and reliability improvement programs in a wide range of industries. His company offers an integrated range of products and services designed to help plants achieve TPR.

Questions about this article may be directed to at 281-358-1477. The company web site is .