autonomous maintenance

Autonomous Maintenance (AM): Meaning, Benefits, 7 Steps to Implement

Autonomous maintenance (AM) relies on giving front-line employees the responsibility for maintaining and keeping track of equipment to improve reliability and decrease maintenance costs.
Autonomous Maintenance

What is autonomous maintenance (AM)?

Autonomous maintenance is a strategy that allows operators and other non-maintenance employees to handle basic equipment maintenance tasks, such as cleaning, lubrication, and inspections. ​​

It is based on the idea that these employees have a deep understanding of how it operates and can take preventive action to keep it running smoothly.

This industrial practice is essential for maintenance management in factories and other industrial settings.

Two principles guide autonomous maintenance: proper asset usage, which involves using machinery appropriately to prevent deterioration and unnecessary downtime, and adequate asset maintenance, which is keeping equipment in good functioning order and fixing and repairing assets.

Implementing AM required extensive training and resources previously, but today it's made much easier using computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS).

A brief history of autonomous maintenance

Autonomous maintenance is an approach that originated in the 1970s with Seiichi Nakajima, a Japanese engineer.

It was created as part of the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) strategy to improve efficiency and lower costs associated with traditional maintenance methods.

Nakajima’s idea was to give front-line employees the responsibility for maintaining and keeping track of their equipment which would improve reliability and decrease costs.

He believed that employees closest to the equipment were in the best position to identify and address maintenance issues.

The eight pillars of TPM are

  1. Autonomous maintenance
  2. Focused improvement
  3. Planned maintenance
  4. Quality maintenance
  5. Early equipment management
  6. Training and education
  7. Safety, health, and environment
  8. TPM in administration

Seven steps to implement autonomous maintenance

Applying autonomous maintenance varies based on the operations of each plant, but it is broken down into seven stages.

Increase worker knowledge and skills

The first step in adopting AM is to give workers information on running and maintaining machinery.

Educate operators on how the machinery interacts, so they know which components require regular inspections and special attention.

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Implement training tools to help employees quickly improve their knowledge and comprehend practical information.

Preliminary cleanup and examination of equipment

Once operators understand the intricacies of the machinery, they can examine it.

They must be able to detect any mechanical component that requires dust and dirt cleaning, adjusting nuts and bolts, or even painting and greasing.

Get rid of contamination sources

Once the machinery is cleaned and restored to optimal operational conditions, the operator must learn how to maintain it.

Maintaining appropriate housekeeping and sanitation at the workplace helps prevent contamination and ensure working environment safety.

Establish lubrication and inspection standards

Equipment must be cleaned, lubricated, and maintained in compliance with the manufacturer's recommendations to operate with optimal quality and performance.

Establish and implement standards, tools, and strategies on maintenance activities to perform, procedures, and maintenance frequency.

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Employ checklist tools to instruct operators on what to undertake and how to execute routine maintenance and notify them when a chore is needed.

Conduct regular inspections and monitoring

Operators can check their machinery and submit inspection reports with images detailing the present state of the machinery and the maintenance chores undertaken.

Standardize visual maintenance

Make it simpler for operators to execute upkeep tasks by using visual information such as color-coded tags and simple signs that remind employees of the actions to take when operating the equipment or being around them.

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Design visual cues of the guidelines to help operators observe and reinforce the procedures for maintenance.

Drive continuous improvement

AM is not a one-time activity you complete after meeting goals. It’s what you do during an asset’s lifetime. Continually gather and evaluate maintenance data to determine how to optimize your maintenance strategy.

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CMMS solutions like Facilio can assist with this. You can also solicit input from machine operators, group leaders, and technicians to enhance your AM strategy. The idea is to create a beneficial long-term plan.

Three activities integral to autonomous maintenance

Implementing an autonomous maintenance program can be daunting. However, three activities are integral to the success of an AM program: 5S audits, abnormality management, and CILs/centerlines.

5S audit

A 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain) audit is used to assess and improve the organization and cleanliness of a work area.

By conducting regular 5S audits, you ensure that your workstations and machines are in good working condition and everything is where it should be. This helps reduce downtime and improve productivity.

Abnormality management

Abnormality management is a process for identifying and addressing abnormalities in equipment performance. This could be anything from a machine malfunction to quality issues. You can proactively identify and address these abnormalities to prevent them from becoming more significant problems.

CILs/Centerlines

CIL(clean, inspect, and lubricate) activities are performed weekly, daily, or per shift, involving checking for damaged or failing machine components and preventing degradation.

Centerline is a technique for maintaining consistent performance in manufacturing using process parameters based on the manufacturer's specifications, industry standards, or historical data. It helps monitor various parameters like vibration, temperature, pressure, or wear.

Why is autonomous maintenance required?

Autonomous maintenance is vital for industries that lean on reliable and efficient equipment, like manufacturing, transportation, and energy production.

Equipment failures have severe consequences, including lost production, safety risks, and damaged equipment, which AM prevents by empowering operators to perform regular maintenance tasks.

Here are some examples of autonomous maintenance in different industries:

  • For example, in the manufacturing industry, operators are trained to perform routine cleaning and lubricating of equipment, such as conveyor belts and machine tools. This helps prevent equipment failures and improve productivity.
  • Institutions in the healthcare industry can apply AM to medical equipment maintenance. Operators perform cleaning and maintenance tasks, such as sterilizing instruments and malfunction checks. This ensures proper equipment function and reduces the risk of infections or other complications.
  • Transportation companies apply AM to vehicles such as buses and trucks in the transportation industry. Operators perform routine activities like checking fluid levels and tire pressure and inspecting brakes and engine systems. This helps prevent breakdowns and prolong vehicle lifespan.
  • Energy businesses apply AM to power plants, refineries, and other facilities. Operators check and clean fuel tanks and inspect pipes and other equipment. This prevents equipment failures and improves efficiency.
  • Organizations in the food and beverage industry apply AM to production equipment and facilities. Operators can perform activities like cleaning and sanitizing machinery and inspecting for any issues. This prevents equipment failures and maintains the quality and safety of the products.

What is AM and PM maintenance?

Autonomous maintenance (AM) and preventive maintenance (PM) are techniques to maintain and improve performance and reliability.

Preventative maintenance is a proactive approach in which routine upkeep is performed at predetermined intervals according to manufacturer recommendations by maintenance technicians or engineers.

PM aims to identify and address potential problems before they occur and extend the equipment's life, potentially improving cost savings by 12-18% over reactive maintenance programs.

AM involves front-line employees taking ownership of equipment maintenance and addressing problems. It is based on continuous improvement, empowering front-line employees to take ownership of equipment maintenance and encouraging a culture of problem-solving and efficiency.

AM and PM are essential for maintaining and improving the performance and reliability of equipment and systems. Therefore, AM is carried out more frequently than PM, focusing on identifying and fixing problems.

Benefits of autonomous maintenance

  • Lowers labor expenses: Since operators are always closer to their machines, inefficiencies associated with travel and wait periods for a maintenance specialist to arrive are not present.
  • Creates a routine for equipment cleanliness and lubrication: When a maintenance professional is in charge of a large repair, they can forget simple duties like cleaning and lubrication. With AM, operators regularly perform these quick activities.
  • Increases plant safety: As operators constantly service equipment, there are fewer accidents since the surrounding workspaces aren't congested with tools and waste.
  • Helps with early issue discovery: AM empowers operators to exhaustively understand the equipment to catch early indicators of degradation and failure. This lets them take remedial steps before disasters.

Tips for sustaining autonomous maintenance as you scale

  1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities: It's essential to determine who performs AM tasks and ensure that employees understand roles and responsibilities.
  2. Provide ongoing training and support: As your business scales, it's vital to ensure that operators and other personnel have the necessary training and support to perform AM tasks.
  3. Set up a system for reporting and addressing equipment issues: Establishing a system for reporting and managing equipment performance problems is critical. This involves setting up a system for logging and tracking machine failures and abnormalities and a  process for identifying and addressing root-cause failures.
  4. Monitor and measure results: Regularly monitoring and measuring AM results help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the program meets its goals.

How does a CMMS help with autonomous maintenance?

A CMMS helps businesses manage and optimize maintenance processes by providing a centralized system for storing and accessing maintenance schedules, documents, and data.

It lets machine operators track maintenance activities and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure that tasks are consistent and accurate.

It also tracks and analyzes maintenance data, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of autonomous maintenance efforts.

Here are some features of CMMS software that help:

  • Asset tracking: Using a CMMS, stakeholders easily track each asset's maintenance and repair history. This includes information on when the operator performed maintenance, the type of maintenance, and issues identified and resolved., Operators proactively identify potential problems and take action to prevent equipment failure with this information.
  • Preventive maintenance: Schedule and track PM activities, like regular inspections and cleanings. This ensures that equipment is kept in good working order and operators can resolve potential issues before they become serious.
  • Work orders: Create and track work orders for all maintenance activities. This helps ensure that the appropriate operators are notified, and the necessary resources are allocated for the work.
  • Inventory management: Track and manage inventory levels of spare parts and consumables needed for maintenance activities. This helps ensure that the necessary parts are available when needed and also helps reduce excess inventory and costs.
  • Training: Track training and certification for operators. This ensures that operators are adequately trained and qualified to perform maintenance tasks.
  • Reporting and analysis: Generate reports and provide analytics on maintenance data, which helps identify trends and patterns in equipment performance and maintenance activities. Use this information to improve maintenance planning, prioritize maintenance tasks, and identify process improvement areas.

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