Autonomous Maintenance: 5 Steps to Improve

Autonomous Maintenance Gives Operators Freedom and Responsibility

Autonomous maintenance (AM) is performed by the operators and not by dedicated maintenance technicians. It is a crucial component of the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). The core idea of autonomous maintenance is to provide the operators with more responsibility and allow them to carry out preventive maintenance tasks. 

According to conventional maintenance programs, a machine can run until it breaks or reaches its maintenance date. The maintenance department is then responsible for handling/fixing it. In contrast, autonomous maintenance allows machine operators to carry out directly simple maintenance works (lubrication, bolt tightening, cleaning and inspection) to prevent breakdowns and react faster if a certain failure has been detected. 

Total Productive Maintenance was developed by Japanese companies, trying to extend the existing concept of Total Quality Control (TQC) with the ideas of preventive and predictive maintenance programs. 

Since TPM gives operators much more responsibilities, a dedicated training is required as well as some modifications on the machines to ease operations of cleaning and maintenance. This will significantly increase the operators’ skills level and helps them better understand how to maintain and even improve the equipment.

What Actions Are Expected for Performing Autonomous Maintenance?

Autonomous maintenance requires operators to develop and master certain skills:

  1. Detect abnormalities and make improvements;
  2. Understand the functions and the components of the machines and detect the causes of abnormalities;
  3. Recognize possible quality issues and identify their causes.

The machine operator should be able to provide fast and reliable initial diagnosis and troubleshooting in a certain number of failure cases. The best way to impart this knowledge is through dedicated trainings and even an entire methodical implementation program.

Whenever the failure requires the intervention of the maintenance department, the operator may be asked to assist the maintenance engineer.

One of the biggest advantages of Mobility Work CMMS is that in such cases, the operator can quickly report his intervention and the detected issues. This optimizes the traceability of the encountered fault and helps the team to provide the best troubleshooting solutions. 


Operator’s Education Starts with the Five S: 

The operators’ education should start with the strict observance of a certain number of rules, called by the Japanese “the five S”:

  • Seiri: storage, elimination of unnecessary things
  • Seiton: order, methods
  • Seisso: inspection, control
  • Seiketsu: cleanliness
  • Shitsuke: discipline, moral education, respect for others

If the five S are properly introduced and strictly followed, working methods for failsafe operations will get highly optimized. The successful implementation of autonomous maintenance relies on 5 steps, originating from the 5 Japanese S.

All of them are crucial to production and demand persistent coaching and control. Please notice, that the below mentioned steps may slightly differ from one plant to another: 

1. Education of operator

Sometimes called “step 0”, the education level is about imparting basic knowledge of machine components and functions. In order to perform properly the most important task – machine cleaning, operators should fully understand the objectives of autonomous maintenance and be even able to deliver improvements in equipment reliability.

The shared maintenance protocols on Mobility Work CMMS can be incorporated in the trainings sheets and used as study cases.

2. Initial Cleaning and Inspection

The initial cleaning of the machines is essential for high-quality maintenance. It is usually performed by all involved members of the production, maintenance and engineering team and includes the thoroughly cleaning of the equipment and surroundings.  The purpose is to ensure that the machines’ performance is fully restored by identifying and eliminating all signs of deterioration.

  • Leak detection;
  • Control of loosened bolts;
  • Lubrication;
  • Detection of non-apparent cracks; contamination rate decrease of oil or other fluids;
  • Correction of defective items;
  • Removal of material rests from oil or water;
  • Removal of dust and dirt and therefore reduction of paint corrections;
  • Suppression of conductibility of trouble in the electric manufacturing due to oil deposits or dust on the contact points;
  • Suppression of electrical incidents related to conductivity contact points covered with oil deposits or dust;
  • Elimination of micro-stoppages due to accumulation of dust, waste;
  • Prevention of fire in the waste and dust accumulated in inaccessible places;
  • Better precision adjustments especially when changing production levels.

autonomous Maintenance exemple tpm definition

Access all documents (photos, videos, etc.) and checklists from the equipment sheet in your Mobility Work application

Try our Maintenance Software For Free

The process and the results can be written down in a protocol and uploaded on Mobility Work CMMS. This would ease the traceability of the detected faults. Furthermore, next time when performing initial cleaning, the operator can directly access the file and simply follow the steps. 

3. Eliminating Contamination and Inaccessible Areas

After the initial cleaning has been performed and the equipment has been restored again, it is highly important to make sure that it doesn’t deteriorate again. This happens by eliminating all possible contamination sources and improving accessibility for cleaning and maintenance.

At that point, the machine operators can be given the freedom to control the root causes of contamination directly at source, especially given the fact that they know the machine better and were the ones who performed the initial cleaning.

This step also considers all possible security issues that could happen during autonomous maintenance. Cleaning a running machine is quite dangerous and the frequent changing of operators only increases the difficulties.

A maintenance manager should take into account the following possible solutions:

  • Maintain cleaning standards. The most serious problems cannot be repaired immediately and may request the extended shutdown of the machine. Other detected issues as leaks or damaged parts can be fixed.
  • Achieving lasting cleanliness by avoiding soiling. The main causes for machine soiling should be eliminated gradually. The common solutions include high-quality sealing and covers. However, some causes for contamination may request more serious investment as dedusting or pumps.
  • Promoting cleanliness, when stressing the topic during inspection operations and machine maintenance.
  • Encouraging operators to keep order. Who has never seen a delayed troubleshooting because of a missing specific tool?
  • Operators should be shown how to facilitate the planned inspections by eliminating any inaccessible zones.       

4. Develop Standards for Cleaning, Lubrication and Inspection

The establishment of standards for operations of cleaning, inspection and lubrication starts from the current documentation and follows the suggested lubrication and inspection schedule. This is the step, which can be individually adjusted from the operators to every machine. In this phase, one develops own standards indicating the items to be cleaned and/or lubricated, the methods to be used and the responsibilities to be assigned.

In this case, two complementary methods should be followed:

  • In case of non-critical machines, operators can be trained in-house to follow the established general standards and then given the opportunity to settle their own rules, led by an experienced technical maintenance engineer.
  • In case of critical machines, a special working group, dedicated to maintenance methods and production, can be created.

The final outcome of this phase is the established standards, which are also the best evidence for the successful implementation of autonomous maintenance at a plant.  

5. Inspection and Monitoring

Unfortunately, basic machine inspections are overlooked in  many manufacturing plants.

This shouldn’t be the case, since their implementation is not so laborious. The machine operators themselves can successfully perform the following simple tasks:

  • Checking lubrication levels;
  • Locating leaks;
  • Tightening loose bolts;
  • Identifying possible mechanical problems as cracks, wear, etc ...;
  • Performing mechanical adjustments: tension measurement, regulate sensors, micro switches, etc…

All these operations can be planned in Mobility Work CMMS with specific recurrences, allowing precision and optimum traceability of every single inspection or check done by the production operator.

Mobility Work’s calendar feature allows you to schedule all your preventive and predictive maintenance tasks. 

Try our Maintenance Software For Free

6. Finalize Standards

The last step for a successful implementation of autonomous maintenance is to finalize all provisional standards and establish a process for autonomous maintenance.

Mobility Work the industry 4.0 CMMS can be involved in every single step of the autonomous maintenance actions. Furthermore, Mobility Work is also an online community, allowing you to share data and maintenance protocols on machinery and tools with colleagues all over the world. The social network facilitates your equipment search and helps you benefit from the experience of other community members.

You are interested in maintenance management and would like to learn more about this subject in order to increase your productivity and save costs? Let's plan a free online training with our team!

Plan a free online training

Watch the video presentation

You also like