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Green TPM

Lean Articles

Improvements in machine reliability and uptime are the benefits most people think of as the results of total productive maintenance (TPM). But what many people are gradually coming to realize is that TPM can also be a way of helping the environment.

Green TPM, as it is called, is “looking at day-to-day activities and processes, and their impact not only on health and safety, but more specifically, on the environment,” says Ellis New, consultant with Productivity, Inc.

He adds, “Think about a dirty motor and how that can impact reliability. We don’t think about how that same motor can have an impact on the environment. It pulls more amperage; the carbon footprint is going to be impacted because of that. The kilowatt usage per hour is going to be impacted. The environment itself is going to be impacted.”

New recalls a manufacturing client whose processes involved using significant amounts of compressed air. The company had three main plant compressors, and “the biggest complaint was they never had enough air pressure, and they needed another compressor.”

But New noted that “compressed air is, in some cases, the number one cost of energy. We always hark on fixing compressed-air line leaks, not just from the standpoint of reliability, but from an environmental standpoint.” The company took that to heart, he said, and after an intensive effort to fix all leaks, air pressure had improved so much that the company was able to shut down one of the compressors and run another only intermittently. Equally important, the effort achieved a 25 percent reduction in the company’s electric bill.

The specific techniques used to implement Green TPM, New notes, are not all that different from implementing TPM without that focus.  The shift in focus will impact what initiatives are undertaken and when focusing efforts on the environment, additional metrics may be involved.  For example, in addition to metrics like uptime or incident rate, Green TPM might also focus on waste disposal or kilowatt-per-hour usage, he observes.

While the environment has gained increased attention and focus in recent years, looking at TPM in environmental terms is “still more the exception than the rule,” New says.

“The topic wasn’t even talked about 10 years ago. Today, there are more questions being asked.  The community affairs manager and the director are talking about carbon footprint and environmental impact. But those discussions aren’t always working their way down to actions on the shop floor.”

He adds, “The guys on my TPM team at Productivity, we bring it up more within our client base than our clients bring it up. At the end of the engagement, we leave them nodding their head and grinning – because they not only achieved an increase in their reliability, but a decrease in their carbon footprint and their costs.  It is not uncommon for them to tell us ‘we got more out of this than we thought we would.’

To achieve those types of benefits, New suggests looking at different ways a problem such as a leak can affect your business (and the metrics that measure those affects). These might include:

  • Lost capacity
  • Unplanned downtime
  • Handling and disposal costs
  • Additional energy needs and costs (which, in some states, may include fines)

He also notes that these kinds of problems can create health and safety issues, such as slips, trips and/or falls. These can be measured in lost time, injuries and even fatalities.

“We’ve been by default focused on the environment. It’s just now becoming one of the right things to do and say,” New comments. “When the primary focus of TPM is the environment, reliability, uptime, all those things are impacted in a positive way, and vice versa. They definitely go hand-in-hand. It’s just a matter of a slight shift in focus to broaden the impact you have.”