from Marshall Institute
In 1996 MRC Bearings, a unionized aerospace industry supplier, recognized it had a problem. They were behind on their orders. Their customers were pushing for shorter lead times and cost reductions.
Approximately eighty percent of their maintenance hours were dedicated to emergency work orders. In October of 1997 over one thousand, six hundred and sixty hours were consumed by unplanned maintenance in just one area. Ten months later that number fell to less than thirty hours. That’s over a 99% decrease.
In another area they were able to achieve almost a 98% decrease in the number of unplanned maintenance hours in an eight-month period. Greg Folts, Manager of Continuous Improvement at MRC attributes their remarkable success to having a hardworking, dedicated maintenance team and implementing a Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) program.
“We started slow, beginning with a small area that was critical to our process but was experiencing chronic problems,” said Folts. “At first, a lot of people were skeptical and not really interested in getting involved with TPM,” he said. “We had a core of people who were excited about TPM and we enlisted the help of people outside of our organization to work with us,” Folts said. MRC worked with Preston Ingalls, President of Marshall Institute, to organize their TPM efforts. He continued, “Preston helped us get started, but he was also our best cheerleader. He got our folks fired up about TPM.” One of MRC’s customers, Pratt-Whitney, also supported their efforts by facilitating MRC’s first TPM event and sharing their TPM practices with MRC.
MRC began with a week-long TPM event. Folts explained they would begin by cleaning, inspecting, lubricating, and performing corrective work on a piece of machinery. Once a machine was cleaned, it would be painted. At first, people were reluctant to participate in TPM events. As time went on, people began to notice what improvements were being accomplished under the TPM events. “In fact, the same people that were hesitating in the beginning were suddenly asking when their machine would be scheduled for a TPM event,” Folts said.
Rick Staples, an Electrician that has been involved with TPM since it’s inception said, “The physical changes are easy to see. Our machines are more reliable, the area is cleaner and a lot more pleasant atmosphere to work in. Other changes, to those of us that work here every day, are not as easily detected. For instance; several people who were totally against TPM at the start, have now willingly participated in TPM workouts or equipment improvement teams.
Another individual, who one told me to keep my TPM away from his machines, now is a fully trained TPM Coordinator in his area. It’s these types of things that truly amaze me. The culture change is slow, but it’s happening.”
MRC formed Equipment Improvement Teams (EITs) to work on resolving equipment-related issues. Folts credits the EITs with a success that was critical in their adoption of TPM. He explained they had a piece of equipment with chronic problems. It was breaking down monthly requiring three or four days each time to fix. He explains, “We were really frustrated by this problem, we kept fixing it only to see it break down again.”
The Equipment Improvement Team took on this problem and discovered the original manufacturer had used a sub-spec coupling on a drive unit. The problem was solved by upgrading to the proper coupling. This fix alone increased the efficiency on this piece of equipment by sixteen percent. “By taking the time to find the root of the failures, rather than just fixing the symptoms, we were able to solve this problem. In the years following this repair, the problem was completely eliminated. That success showed a lot of people in the company that TPM can make everyone’s daily life easier as well as improving productivity,” Folts said.
After the initial success, followed by eight TPM events, MRC expanded their TPM efforts to their second facility. They created a TPM Steering Committee at their second site and also created a Policy group to coordinate the efforts of both facilities. The President of MRC Bearings, Bengt Nilsson joined the Policy group as an active member. “Having the company president working with us to drive TPM sent a clear message to everyone that this was not just another flavor of the month program,” said Folts.
Don Russell was then solicited to assist in driving the process as the TPM Coordinator. “We have been very fortunate to have fantastic support from both management as well as our U.A.W Union personnel,” said Russell. In a recent MRC company newsletter, President Nilsson is pictured shoulder to shoulder with the TPM Area Coordinators. TPM at MRC has been described as one of the most successful co-management programs ever started at MRC. Mr. Nilsson said, “I am very pleased and proud of how the whole organization, after the initial skepticism and hesitation, enthusiastically embraced the TPM concept. It is of utmost importance to have reliable and well maintained machinery in order to serve our customers well and to get on-time deliveries. A well developed TPM program is one of the cornerstones in our drive for manufacturing excellence.”
MRC trained ten TPM Area Coordinators who are dedicated to TPM one week each month. These TPM Coordinators organize TPM events in their areas, also lead EITs, and make sure the process keeps working. MRC has begun to create full-time TPM teams. One such team, comprised of Jeff Franklin, an Electrician and Jim Klugh, a Mechanic, and Jeff Johnson, an Operator, were able to correct a long-standing equipment problem which reduced the scrap produced by that equipment to almost zero.
Folts and Russell attribute their success in implementing TPM to seven things. Russell said, “We realized early on that we couldn’t do it all. So we identified a few areas that we felt were key, we did those things, and we did them well.” The areas that MRC focused on were:
- Putting predictive maintenance process in place (i.e., vibration analysis equipment)
- Cleaning the machines, resulting in inspection
- Creating standards on the equipment for cleaning, lubrication, and daily checks
- Collecting data on downtime
- Creating Equipment Improvement Teams
- Creating TPM Area Coordinators
- From this experience, Russell suggests organizations beginning TPM programs start small and keep it simple.
Did MRC learn any lessons implementing TPM? Folts said, “We learned that training is a key to being successful with TPM. We did some initial TPM awareness training for the organization, about one week of training with the operators, and some for the mechanics. But, looking back we could have had quicker success if we had done more training.” Folts also credits their success to the support of their management, the U.A.W. union, the hard work of the people at MRC, involvement of Marshall Institute, and the support of their customers. “Ultimately this is a people issue and we are lucky to have the right people involved,” he said.
Thinking back about the initial resistance to TPM, Don Russell laughs and says, “At first a lot of folks here defined TPM as ‘Totally Painted Machines’. Now I can say we all define TPM as ‘Taking Pride in our Machines’.”