Lean implementation, step by step

Successful TPM program generates savings of $12 million.


The maintenance leader is often the key to a successful, reliable, and performing maintenance department, such as in the case we are studying here. But success never happens by pure luck. It is the result of bold moves, relentless work, and believing in human empowerment to solve problems. The following case study is one example of how that can be accomplished. We used the Lean A3 process and nomenclature to follow step by step the exact formula to achieve results. As is often the case in Lean methodology, it is important to follow each exact step. Also, using the PDCA cycle to attain goals ensures reaching the optimum solution and maximum success with the tools at hand.

At the various phases of the project, we integrated TPM elements or tweaked old ones that were already in place, but we also closely monitored the process over a three-year period and its impact on the crucial KPIs for the business: Percent Uptime (versus the more negative term of Percent Downtime), MTTR (Mean Time To Repair), MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) and Maintenance Response Time (MRT) to Emergency Work Order.


In the early 2000s, the production unit in question embraced the Lean manufacturing philosophy, which is an adaptation of the Japanese just-in-time philosophy described in a book written by James Womack in 1990. Adopting the value-added philosophy developed in the dire years after WWII by Toyota, the high-volume, high-tech plant of more than 750 workers was implementing the Lean method. You could find evidence of 5S in every corner of the shop. The result was an  Lean model is integrated by stabilizing the 4Ms: Manpower, Machine, Method and Material, which are the cornerstones of the philosophy.empowerment environment for operators in which the decision-making process was delegated to the lowest level and the Lean model was integrated by stabilizing the 4Ms: Manpower, Machine, Method and Material, which are the cornerstones of the philosophy.

With the pressure of producing and maintaining improvement trends each budgeted year (cost reduction, productivity, Health and Safety (H&S), Percent Uptime, and quality) and competing in the global arena for higher volume and technologically advanced equipment (to sustain those KPIs), management had to focus its attention on the maintenance side of the business since the gap between production and maintenance support was widening. Management's decision was to pursue total assets management instead of focusing solely on maintenance reactive intervention or even spot improvements.
Management’s decision was to pursue total assets management instead of focusing solely on maintenance reactive intervention or even spot improvements.

Current conditions 

The Maintenance Department was composed of skilled workers split in two trades, where all the support services jobs-electricity, plumbing, cleaning, tribology-were handled by outside contractors. This created an environment of mistrust with the in-house full-time employees establishing a second-class citizenship role for the outsiders. It produced a silo-type environment where everything was connected by arduous communication lines and where projects were handled by young engineers whose loose monitoring of projects was significantly affecting the budget and day-to-day maintenance operations.

H&S rules were documented, implemented, and disseminated, but human behaviors were not following the same path, and with the morale of the workers at its lowest point, problems were on the horizon. Other impeding problems were that the servicing of critical machines was controlled by production people driven only by daily throughput numbers, the average age of maintenance workers was more than 45 years, and new machines kept arriving with equipment standards decided by the head office thousands of miles away.

On the bright side, efforts had been made years before to implement CMMS software, prepare a solid plan, and reorganize a MRO store. However, the necessary links had not been established between projects, resulting in a spot improvement process.

The reliability and maintenance organizational roles were also unclear as to who was responsible for supervising, planning, analyzing, or coordinating.


The first couple of weeks into the project were dedicated to data mining and patching holes. For emergency planning, we had to redefine the 24-hour service of each department and the weekend overlap. The next step was to reorganize the next shutdown (to cut it from one week to one weekend) and to get a simple message out to the team: "TPM for all and we will have the best maintenance."

Our analysis provided the following input:

  1. Machine criticality level was attributed by production people who were more aware of their own numbers than the overall budgeted plan. We found out that everything was treated at the highest level at all times, which eventually resulted in eliminating the sense of urgency.
  2. The other related issues were that the Maintenance Response Time (MRT) for an Emergency Work Order was going up and was taking a major bite out of the Mean Time to Repair (MTTR).
  3. Technical maintenance issues were sometimes handled by floor production people as part of the empowerment process, which was creating lots of complaints since people with maintenance experience had not been consulted.
  4. The Percent Uptime was 94.2% with a negative outlook, and all the machines were at the same level of criticality, including Kleenex machines (e.g., machines with a short life span, low acquisition cost, and high maintenance costs at the end of their effective life span) that should have been disposed of but were still in use.
  5. H&S rules were becoming tougher to apply and to follow and, at the same time, buy-in and behaviors were following a downward spiral as maintenance employee morale followed the same trend.
  6. A higher volume of parts produced for the best budget figures and thus maintaining jobs for everyone was equated with operational costs going down, but the Maintenance Department was considered an impediment at best when it was time to be part of the solution.
  7. Even worse, the Percent Plan/UnPlan trends of hours worked in the last six years indicated system deterioration. After an early increase in the first years of the TPM implementation, it was now going the wrong way. The best-in-class follows the 80/20 pattern, but in this case almost the reverse was true. The Percent Plan/UnPlan trends of hours worked in the last six years indicated system deterioration.


The project had numerous goals, but the main ones were to:

  • Increase maintenance efficiency to help production absorb 40% more production volume in the next three years.
  • Improve employee morale, empowerment and involvement.
  • Implement real-time machine problem monitoring and develop KPIs (MTTR, Percent Uptime, and MTR) to achieve best- in-class numbers.
  • Develop autonomous maintenance on critical machines.
  • Improve H&S behaviors and bring the accident rate close to zero.
  • Integrate the TPM concept into the workshop, training, and meeting discussions. Keep the message simple, but hammer it home all the time.


The generic name for the main countermeasures was TPM, but that overall solution has nine different pillars (on a solid 5S + 1 foundation) to implement, and each of those has to be monitored on a daily basis. The pillars are as follows:
The overall solution has nine different pillars (on a solid 5S + 1 foundation) to implement, and each of those has to be monitored on a daily basis.
Each pillar had its own committee and its own action plan deployed over a three-year period

Foundation: 5S + 1(Safety)

  • Integrate concept by holding 5S + 1 Kaizen workshops every month for the first year.
  • Audit process put in place to monitor progress and sustainment over the next two years.
  • Audit schedule done with different rotating members each month for every department, room, tool chest, and workshop.

  1. Training

    • Each type of WO is completed and recorded, which provides a better understanding of employee weaknesses and strengths.
    • Twice a year, workers are evaluated on value buy-in and performance and given an improvement plan to follow.
    • TPM and 5S+1 training is given to everyone.
    • Each employee has to participate in Kaizen activities (5S+1, cell layout, quality, etc.).

  2. CMMS

    • Lead KPIs established and monitored closely on a weekly basis (Percent Uptime, MTTR, TTR and MTBF).
    • Real-time data recording of all critical machine breakdowns.
    • Assessment of machine criticality and prioritization every quarter.
    • Everything has to be recorded in one of the nine types of work orders.

  3. Emergency maintenance

    • Task the team assigned to each shift to take care of Work Order Emergencies.
    • Real-time (Electronic Andon board) data to help plan and respond to Work Order Emergencies.
    • Coordinator in place to track day-to-day progress.

  4. Corrective maintenance

    • Task a team of experienced workers only on the day shift.
    • Engineers help determine original root causes (FMEAC) and gather technical knowledge from coworkers.
    • The MRO store will be Lean-ified and the critical spare parts list revisited.

  5. Autonomous maintenance

    • Access to real-time tracking of emergency calls for each operator (Electronic Andon board).
    • Each production line takes care of its own machine according to 5S, priority level assertion, and basic needs (clean, check, oil program in place).
    • An autonomous inspection routine is established for each critical machine.
    • One operator is delegated by line to be trained and coached by the maintenance planner.
    • Key concept of TPM implemented: Help chain to record any problems detected by operator on equipment.

  6. Preventive maintenance

    • A machine binder, documentation, and calendar board were already in place.
    • They were replaced by an electronic format within a year.
    • Planning was improved by dividing tasks between the maintenance planner (PdM, PM, Projects) and the coordinator (Emergency, H&S, Training, Minor).
    • The CMMS planning tool was customized for better level loading of the PM calendar.

  7. Predictive maintenance

    • Analysis monitoring was improved with the tribology expert.
    • The vibration routine was reorganized.
    • The machine calibration routine was re-established with knowledge transfer to a younger employee.

  8. Optimization 

    • Gradual transfer of manpower to optimization task team, LEAN R&D, automation and SMED teams.
    • Integration of engineering into each project for budget control, planning, and results tracking.
    • All new engineers have to be trained in maintenance TPM philosophy before going to other departments.

  9. Prevention design

    • Years 2-3: Implementation of Kobe Tsu Kaizen team.
    • First study performed using FMECA as RCM choice tool.
    • Standards for new M/C acquisition drawn up.
    • Safety guarding rules integrated into each new design.

The plan was prepared for the next three years according to the Toyota typical TPM roadmap and re-evaluated every year based on the production volume, new technology, and market demand.Plan

The plan was prepared for the next three years according to the Toyota typical TPM roadmap and re-evaluated every year based on the production volume, new technology, and market demand.

A deterioration of response time by workers in the first three quarters just as the Percent Uptime was improving. The roadmap worked out almost perfectly for the entire project. However, a big factor was overlooked at the outset of the implementation phase: culture change resistance. The graph below shows a deterioration of response time by workers in the first three quarters just as the Percent Uptime was improving. People were reluctant to scan their badges when taking care of an emergency work order, because they felt that by showing improvement their jobs would be in jeopardy. Coupled with H&S problems (six accidents in half a year), it almost derailed the whole project.

You should never underestimate the strength of inertia and remember that H&S problems are never solved by drawing up a list of technical problems to be addressed. A manager's soft skills are needed to improve readiness to change and H&S issues require behavioral changes.


The lead KPIs were the same from start to finish, but the action taken was adapted to the situation. The first thing to do was to evaluate worker behavior before we even talked about performance and WO completion. It led to an evaluation form that was more closely aligned with TPM values and better H&S behaviors.

At the same time, we prepared the usual list of technical problems encountered by the workers and the impact on their H&S, asking them to do a daily check of everything that they considered awkward or risky. The thinking behind it was that, after identifying the problem, 99% of the time a behavior has to change before we make any technical changes (machine guard, process change, or even redesign of a machine).

The Percent Uptime exceeded 98.8% at the end of the project.Also, after benchmarking, we launched an audit process that was prepared, controlled, and applied by the workers themselves. It took six months before the workers became accustomed to it, but it gave the project a zero accident record over the next 1,000 days.

By taking care of the human side of our project-communications (everyday roll call, mandatory participation in all Kaizen training, evaluation, help ticket), behaviors, and self-audit-we had more leverage for delivering the performance message. As shown in the following graph, the Percent Uptime exceeded 98.8% at the end of the project.

The actual production time savings evaluated and stamped by the Finance Department were 99,000 hours for close to $12M in savings over three years. The QA Department even decided to follow our lead by benchmarking the Andon technology and carrying out the same process with the operators.

Luc Proulx, is an industrial engineer with more than 25 years of experiences in the manufacturing business. He has worked with Pratt & Whitney, GE Aircraft, Bombardier Transport and CamoplastSolideal. He has acquired a large expertise in Lean manufacturing, maintenance and in team management. Currently he is Senior Advisor for Prosygma Reliability and Maintenance professional services based in Longueuil, Québec. Edited by CFE Media. See more Lean manufacturing stories below.

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