Corpus Christi, TX - Sizable savings, production increases and reduced equipment downtime is the result of a proven maintenance concept that recently landed at the Corpus Christi Army Depot.

CCAD's Office of Continuous Improvement (formerly the Lean office) is incorporating Total Production Maintenance, a Boeing Company initiative that integrates equipment maintenance with aircraft production personnel.

TPM, if implemented properly could save millions of dollars annually.

"It is a way of making your return on investments and the life cycle of your equipment increase," said Ted Kaufmann, Equipment Maintenance Manager for Boeing. "It'll make them last longer, more secure and less costly."

Kaufmann recently held a weeklong seminar at the depot instructing an initial group of 24 employees including managers, supervisors, operators, and maintenance teams on how the program unfolds. The process begins by identifying a particular type of production equipment and conducting an in-depth analysis of its operating parameters. For this class, four different types of grinders in the machine shop were used for evaluation.

"The process we're doing is autonomous maintenance," said Kaufmann. "We team the maintenance crew with the production operators."

The goal is to give the operator full autonomy in maintaining their equipment on a day to day basis while the maintenance people concentrate on predictive and preventive maintenance. Integrating the stakeholders while providing the methods, the teams work together to return the equipment to a higher level of operation. It also affords the opportunity to maintain equipment in optimum condition.

"We're going to go in and take look at the equipment during this event," said Rich Alvarado, Program Analyst for CCAD's Office of Continuous Improvement. "We want to build that autonomy. Boeing has made it work, we can learn from them."

Breaking it down

The seminar consists of the group spending a couple of days in the classroom learning about the process and then heading down to the floor to work on the equipment. Once up to speed with 'head knowledge' each team of 6 is assigned a grinder to clean, inspect and identify areas of concern, then ensure its operation.

Spending several hours during each phase, they begin by cleaning up the equipment, at times scraping away years of accumulated grease and oil. Then they touch and feel everything associated with that piece, from hydraulic lines to switches to controls to casings.

When they discover an abnormality, they'll identify it by placing a yellow tag with the issue along with their name and a concise description of the problem (e.g. rear hydraulic line cracked at connection to inlet valve).

After the initial cleaning and inspection, the teams then begin to work and resolve the issues noted. If an issue is outside their skill level, a work order is forwarded to maintenance for repair.

At the end of each day the teams gather together and compare notes on maintenance or operator concerns. Ownership In a full blown TPM program, the team looks at the big picture: the condition of the machine, its history and any trends.

One of the goals is for the team to take ownership of the equipment, said Kaufmann.

"We're looking at condition-based maintenance--preventive maintenance activities," he said. "We're looking at going after the problems before they arrive rather than after."

"We're looking at being proactive rather than reactive, he added" Condition-based maintenance means evaluating the equipment over a period of time, recognizing changes in operating parameters: oil temperature, heating or cooling issues, breakdowns, leaks, etc. using Thermography (infrared), Vibration Analysis, Motor Current Analysis, and Oil Analysis.

"We also want indicators," said Alvarado. "Similar to what's used in newer cars that tell you the oil life is at 10%, so you don't have to track the number of miles to the next oil change. That's the same thing we want from our machinery."

As the teams work through the TPM process they'll identify the areas where indicators or sensors might be placed. This builds in operator and maintainer teamwork to realize how to keep the equipment in better condition without extensive wait times if there is a problem.

The first of many

The depot has more than 4000 pieces of equipment which, with TPM, can result in huge cost savings when implemented across the varied production lines.

"You have exceptional maintenance people who can firefight very well and who can improvise," he added. "But they limp along and it's a very expensive and arduous process to fix these pieces of equipment when they're always breaking down."

The push to succeed must come from upper management with accountability at every level. Follow-through and leadership by management to be part of the team is where the process generates the savings-creating the team effort to make it work.

The products will get out on time because the machine has a reduced chance of breakdown if they're in the TPM program.

"My prediction is, if they let this team loose with autonomy, the TPM program will succeed here," said Kaufmann. "