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This is the second in a series of discussions regarding tasks associated with operator-performed maintenance. As explained in Part I (Nov. 16, 2020), the use of operators for such tasks has met with mixed reviews ever since the concept rolled out as part of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), in the 1980s. The fact is, however, that when properly deployed, operators can provide the most efficient and effective form of preventive maintenance in a plant. The key is to think operator “care,” not “maintenance.”

When we think in terms of operator care, a completely different set of tasks and skills comes to mind. That’s what was intended in TPM, and is likely the most beneficial approach. But this “care” must be defined to focus on specific results that improve performance and reliability.

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“Operator-Performed Maintenance (Part I): Benefits And Barriers”


Why engage operators? In most industrial plants there are more operators than maintainers. And they are closer to their machines for longer periods of time than maintenance technicians. Thus, operators often know more about their machines from setup, adjustment, operation, changing material, tool changes, and the like. Maintenance technicians typically aren’t fully versed in those routine operating tasks.

Operator-care tasks should NOT require sophisticated tools, measurements, or adjustments. And they should NOT be designed to eliminate the need for skilled maintenance personnel. Most important, such tasks should NOT interrupt the routine work of an operator.

So what tasks could operators perform? Understanding TPM’s pillars is the starting point. The foundation of TPM is its first pillar: “Improving equipment effectiveness by targeting the major losses (or causes of poor performance).” This is the pillar that launched “Overall Equipment Effectiveness” (OEE) as the root-cause score card of equipment- performance problems. Here are several questions to help sites sort out their operator-care tasks:

1.  What are the recurring equipment-performance losses that could be mitigated by the use of quick and easy tasks with a minimal amount of training and tools? Look closely at unplanned downtime, reduced rate or cycle time, and defects.

2.  What training would be required to enable machine operators to perform the tasks to address the causes of these recurring losses?

3.  Would operators have the time to perform the operator-care tasks to keep the machine running as opposed to waiting for maintenance technicians to respond to a trouble call and address the problem?

From years of helping organizations deploy the fundamentals of TPM, I’ve noted a huge list of operator-care tasks. They typically fall into the following buckets:

♦  End of shift cleaning and inspection. The goal is to leave the machine “mission ready” for the incoming shift.

♦  Start-of-shift inspection. These tasks assure the operator that the equipment is started up, running correctly, all systems around the machine look and sound normal.

♦  Routine cleaning of wear causing and product damaging debris. These tasks address the accumulation of packaging debris, glue, metal shavings, parts, oil/grease, etc.

♦  Assisting maintenance technicians. The goal is to have the most knowledgeable people involved in maintaining the equipment. Operators know aspects of the machines that maintainers do not. Put these two groups together during preventive (planned) maintenance downtime, and much more can be accomplished to improve machine performance and reliability.

The bottom line here is to focus on the results from operator care and make it happen. Now stay tuned for Part III on enabling operator care with the five pillars of TPM.TRR

Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the people-side of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or bwilliamson@theramreview.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM,
 operator care, maintenance management, plant operations