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What is Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)?

What is Total Productive Maintenance?

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a system of engaging employees at all levels of an organization to improve the efficiency and safety of production equipment.

The goal of TPM is to get as close as possible to perfect production, which means:

  • No breakdowns
  • No stops or slow running
  • No defects
  • No accidents

In order to work towards those goals, TPM incorporates maintenance into the culture of the organization rather than separating the roles of production and maintenance. This requires getting into a mindset of using proactive, rather than reactive, maintenance techniques.

What are the Pillars of TPM?

In order to build an effective TPM program, everyone in the organization should be aware of TPM principles. TPM is built on a 5S foundation and consists of the following eight supporting pillars.

Autonomous Maintenance

  • What is it: Autonomous maintenance gives operators full responsibility for cleaning, lubricating, and inspecting their own equipment and work areas to ensure they maintain a baseline standard. This gives operators ownership of their equipment and helps identify issues early on, before they become failures. That way, maintenance teams can focus on larger issues that need more specialized skills
  • How to do it: Operators must be well-trained on the skills for conducting a routine inspection and how to maintain their equipment themselves. In addition, in order to ensure everything runs smoothly, operators should follow clear SOPs.

Focused Improvement

  • What is it: Focused improvement is based on kaizen, which requires continually improving functions and processes.
  • How to do it: Identify and resolve recurring problems in order to reduce product defects and improve safety measures. Leaders must regularly assemble cross-functional teams to discuss how to continually improve equipment operation. This ensures that everyone’s viewpoints are considered when determining new processes.

Planned Maintenance

  • What is it: Schedule regular preventative maintenance activities based on failure rates, time-based triggers, and historical downtime. That way, there is minimum disruption to production processes, since you can schedule maintenance to occur when the equipment isn’t being used.
  • How to do it: You’ll need to use a data-driven approach in order to predict and schedule the best times for planned maintenance activities. This will help maintain uptime, prevent any decreases in production, and maximize equipment usage.

Quality Management

  • What is it: Quality management involves building in error detection and prevention into the production process. This prevents defects from moving downstream, which reduces rework and minimizes downtime related to defects.
  • How to do it: Use root cause analysis methods to identify and eliminate recurring quality defects at their source. The 5 Whys can help identify bottlenecks in production and backtracks from the problem to its source.

Early Equipment Management

  • What is it: Early equipment management involves using operators’ knowledge of and interactions with the facility’s equipment to improve new equipment design. This leads to higher performance levels and fewer maintenance issues down the line.
  • How to do it: Team leaders must be able to easily access maintenance reports and collect feedback from each member of the team. Then, they should incorporate that feedback when considering new equipment.

Education and Training

  • What is it: Since TPM is an entire organizational effort, training and educating everyone from operators to management is important to carry out a successful TPM program. This pillar ensures that everyone is aligned with the TPM process and can work collaboratively towards the same goals.
  • How to do it: Track your team’s skills at every level in the organization and fill in knowledge gaps where necessary.

Administrative TPM

  • What is it: Streamline and eliminate waste in administrative functions, like purchasing, procurement, and scheduling. Better processes in earlier steps in the manufacturing process will flow downstream.
  • How to do it: Ensure that you are applying TPM principles beyond the shop floor.

Safety Health Environmental Conditions

What is it: Maintain a safe working environment that is accident-free.

How to do it: Eliminate health risks by considering safety in any proposed solution as part of the TPM process. Improvements in efficiency should not be at the risk of health and safety.

How to Implement a TPM Program

A successful TPM program leads to increased productivity and less wasted time and money. With all its benefits, the next logical question you should be asking is – how do I implement TPM at my organization?

Many agree on the following basic steps to implementing a TPM program:

  1. Ensure you have clear standardized procedures and processes that make TPM possible (using the 5S foundation)
  2. Educate everyone on TPM principles
  3. Identify a pilot area
  4. Restore equipment to prime operating condition
  5. Measure OEE
  6. Reduce major losses
  7. Implement planned maintenance

However, introducing standardized procedures, identifying bottlenecks for pilot areas, measuring OEE, and doing the type of root cause analyses that TPM requires is no simple task. That’s where digital technology comes in. Here are a few use cases for digital technology that will help you implement a successful TPM program.

Digital SOPs

A TPM program involves giving operators autonomy and responsibility over their own equipment maintenance. However, this can cause problems if operators are not well trained and don’t have clear SOPs. One way to make this easier is by providing digital work instructions that accurately guide operators through their tasks. Rather than following instructions from a long paper guide that needs to be reprinted every time a procedure changes, they can follow interactive, step-by-step instructions with images, videos, and CAD files. This in itself will help reduce errors and improve employee engagement.

Quality Management Tool

While TPM focuses specifically on equipment reliability, it also has a strong connection to quality. Quality issues and defects increase downtime and rework, especially if they move downstream. In order to detect errors at their source, you’ll want to bring quality inline. This involves leveraging your shop floor machines and IoT, creating inline quality inspections, and making sure your operators follow the right procedures every time.

Machine Monitoring

Two major steps in the TPM implementation are measuring OEE and reducing major losses. Digital technology makes both of these steps much easier. While OEE can be calculated manually, it is also important to collect data on unplanned stop time, track reason codes, and identify the impact of these stops in order to reduce those major losses.

Machine monitoring tools can help you collect this data and give you visibility into how to improve your production process to prevent downtime proactively. This is important to achieving multiple TPM pillars, including: focused improvement, planned maintenance, and quality management.

Skills Tracking and Employee Training

A large part of implementing TPM is education and training across the organization. For example, all your operators need to be trained on how to maintain their equipment and conduct routine inspections. You’ll need to be able to identify and fill skill gaps in your shop floor and make sure the right skills are being taught to the right people.


Implementing a successful TPM program relies on building a culture around TPM principles. It also revolves around having the foundation and tools in place to empower every team member, including your frontline workforce, to be an important part of the maintenance process.

Tulip’s no-code frontline operations platform gives the people closest to operations the power to build apps to solve any use case – ranging from digital work instructions to quality management and machine monitoring solutions.