Inspection 2.0: The Cornerstone of World-Class TPM

Jim Fitch, Noria Corporation
Tags: maintenance and reliability

Inspection 2.0: The Cornerstone of World-class TPM

Inspection 2.0 is rooted in some of the most fundamental and time-honored maintenance principles. One of them is total productive maintenance (TPM). Today, it’s hard to play an active role in the field of maintenance and reliability without encountering and embracing TPM. Honestly, it is delusional to think otherwise.

World-class maintenance organizations understand the intrinsic value of a well-tuned and culture-driven TPM program. World-class TPM programs are fundamentally powered by keen observation. You can’t fix what you can’t see. Therefore, all progress hinges on the power of observation. Allowing you to see is the bedrock. Improve the quality of inspection and, by default, you improve the quality of TPM and all the benefits that TPM seeks to achieve. It’s that simple!

The origin of TPM can be traced back to the Japanese automobile industry in the 1960s. It has many similar elements to the quality movement that was advanced in Japan during the same period. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that the western world learned of TPM when two seminal English texts were published on the subject by Seiichi Nakajima. From that point, TPM spread across the vast global maintenance and reliability landscape.

TPM has similarities and overlapping features with other branded maintenance philosophies, including reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), condition-based maintenance (CBM) and asset management (see Figure 1). However, its strongest difference is the active and responsible role of machine operators and small groups toward maintenance prevention and improved asset utilization.

Brief TPM Overview

The central objective of TPM is the elimination of losses, business interruption, wasted energy, scrap, defects, unnecessary work orders, expensive repairs and unsafe workplaces. TPM does not borrow from academic or technical principles commonly associated with reliability engineering, tribology or even condition-based maintenance. Instead, TPM focuses on production workers, team building and behavioral factors. The following is a good basic definition for total productive maintenance:

Total productive maintenance is a methodology that enables continuous and rapid improvement of production processes and asset utilization. This is accomplished largely through the use of motivated employee involvement, employee empowerment and closed-loop results measurement. TPM deploys strong machine operator engagement in maintenance activities. TPM is wholly built on the concept of ownership and symbiotic integration of production and maintenance functions.

Implementing an effective TPM program usually spans five elements of activity, often referred to as pillars. These are:

Autonomous Maintenance

Autonomous maintenance is the one pillar of TPM that is most central to its success. It motivates and empowers operators to undertake essential maintenance activities for their individual machines. As such, they would be expected to perform regular and frequent inspections, precision checks, routine lubrication and simple repairs. Autonomous maintenance breaks down the division of labor that spurs conflict and inefficiencies between the roles of operators and dedicated maintenance workers.

The following is an abridged reconstruction of the classic seven-step approach of autonomous maintenance. It underscores the culture of operator engagement, ownership and inspection that is foundational to a successful TPM transformation.

Initial Cleanliness

Restore the machine to an initial optimized state of cleanliness, performance, reliability and operating conditions. Below are a few examples that encompass the broad concept of cleanliness:

Standardize the Optimum State

Develop and document standards that define the optimized state of cleanliness, lubrication, performance and operating conditions. The optimum state should reflect machine criticality and known failure modes. These standards must be measurable or verifiable. Individually and collectively, these standards are referred to as the optimum reference state (ORS).

Verify Optimum State Compliance

Develop inspection protocols, assessments and condition monitoring procedures that enable near real-time awareness of the machine’s current and transitory state of cleanliness, lubrication, performance and operating conditions. These verify that the machine’s cleanliness, lubrication, performance and operating conditions comply with the standardized optimum reference state.

Restore and Remediate

Establish a regimen of frequently performing these inspections, assessments and condition monitoring practices. Quickly restore all non-compliant conditions and operating states to within the ORS according to the documented standards. For example, these include refreshing lubrication levels, locating and stopping leaks, tightening loose bolts, performing mechanical adjustments and making tension measurements.

Revise Standards

The last step for successful autonomous maintenance is to revise standards and establish a process of continuous improvement (kaizen). This includes improving machine maintainability and the ease of maintenance and operation.

TPM Produces Real Benefits

When well-implemented, TPM usually yields solid, tangible benefits to the organization. These include increased productivity, reduced manufacturing costs, fewer production losses, better product quality and improved safety. There are also less-tangible benefits such as a higher confidence level among workers, a clean and attractive work environment, a positive attitude among workers and an overall improved business culture.

Inspection 2.0: The Eyes and Ears of TPM

Your TPM program is no better than the inspection program on which it depends. It must go way beyond inspecting for faults, cleanliness, orderliness, etc. Inspection 2.0 takes this much further. When inspection improves (earlier detection, better detection and more frequent detection), so too will TPM and the cascading benefits that result. TPM is powerless without a vigilant and probing inspection program.

Let’s connect the dots and look at how inspection is deeply imbedded in each of the TPM pillars:

Autonomous maintenance means autonomous inspection. Operators rigorously and intensely inspect to verify that the actual machine state is as good or better than the optimum reference state. The moment this is found not to be true, corrective action must promptly occur.

Equipment improvement is largely a process of readying each machine for optimized inspection practices. This includes the addition of inspection windows, oil sampling points, instrumentation and inspection devices. Read my column from the September-October 2016 issue of Machinery Lubrication magazine for a detailed discussion on machine inspection readiness.

Figure 2. This expanded-metal
guard allows easy inspection of
the mechanical coupling.

Quality maintenance involves optimization of maintenance procedures, tools and skills. A major subset of this pillar is optimization of the inspection procedures, tools and skills.

Maintenance prevention is not the same as preventive maintenance. Instead, it relates to buying and installing machines that are inherently reliable and easy to inspect. A good analogy is quality assurance (maintenance prevention) versus quality control (preventive maintenance).

Education and training provide the only practical way to break the mantra of “business as usual.” A highly skilled operator with Inspection 2.0 training doesn’t just “look” at a bearing, seal, coupling or pump. Instead, he or she “examines” these components with a keen and probing eye. Inspection 2.0 is intense and purposeful. It seeks to penetrate and extract information from the machine’s “sign language.” An Inspection 2.0 operator, guided by TPM, has the linguistic skills to translate this sign language into prescribed activities and instructions to stabilize reliability.

Figure 3. A sight glass can give
easy access to oil using a pipette
for quick blotter spot and crackle
test analysis.


TPM is not your usual short-lived maintenance cost-reduction program. Instead, it’s a culture that both transcends and rises above Murphy’s law and the perfect storm. It is a maintenance lifestyle that’s fundamentally engrained into the organization as part of its DNA. Yes, there are costs to the organization, and complete, optimum implementation rarely takes fewer than three years. When successfully implemented and married with Inspection 2.0, the benefits-of-scale can be enormous.

If TPM is new to you, take the time to access some of the many excellent resources available in print or online. Additionally, you will find several articles and other references on the differences between traditional inspection practices and Inspection 2.0 by visiting