What is Autonomous Maintenance?

Autonomous Maintenance is an approach to maintenance that involves giving machine operators responsibility for basic maintenance tasks, allowing dedicated maintenance teams to focus on more complex maintenance tasks. Autonomous Maintenance is a pillar of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), an approach designed to optimize equipment performance and a foundational aspect of any lean manufacturing environment.

Autonomous Maintenance gives operators more control over cleaning, lubricating, and inspecting their own equipment, and helps to identify equipment issues early on before they become failures.

Successful Autonomous Maintenance requires that manufacturers provide their operators with the appropriate digital tools and knowledge to perform these tasks independently.  This involves digitizing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for cleaning, lubricating, and inspections, and providing operators with easy access to training and knowledge base of information.

What are the Benefits of Autonomous Maintenance?

The primary benefits of Autonomous Maintenance are:

  • Ensuring that equipment is properly cleaned and lubricated
  • Identifying issues before they lead to critical equipment failures
  • Freeing maintenance personnel for more complex maintenance tasks
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Improving overall safety

These benefits help maximize equipment effectiveness and help improve overall productivity.

The 7 Steps to Follow for Implementing Autonomous Maintenance

Implementing autonomous maintenance can be achieved through the following seven steps:

1. Performing Initial Cleaning and Repairs

This first step of Autonomous Maintenance involves the operator performing initial cleaning and inspecting and resolving any equipment issues in need of repair. Standardized work instructions and digitized checklists provide accurate step-by-step guidance for operators to perform regular cleaning and repair activities.

2. Remove Contamination and Improving Access

During normal cleaning and inspection processes, operators should look at where contamination is coming from, and either remove or minimize the sources.  For operators that are connected with digital tools, this represents a great opportunity to capture these activities and record them into a knowledge base for future operations.

3. Capturing Standards for Cleaning, Lubrications, and Inspections

Defining what operators will clean, lubricate, tighten and inspect, how they will do it, how often the activities are performed will help ensure that the equipment is operational and in peak condition. In modern manufacturing environments, these standards are digitally captured into electronic SOPs and maintenance procedures.

5. Increase Operator Knowledge through Training and Information

Use modern digital tools to train and guide operators during maintenance tasks. Connected worker platforms that incorporate digital work instructions and on-the-job training, including one point lessons, help sharpen job-related knowledge and enable operators to be successful at regular maintenance tasks, preventing further deterioration of the equipment.

6. Carrying out Inspection and Monitoring

Once operators are trained and have access to digital information to help guide them through the maintenance processes, they are able to perform these tasks independently and at an optimal level of safety and quality.

7. Organize the Workspace

Manufacturers must also organize the workspace to make it easier for operators to complete maintenance tasks. Useful tools include visual aids that help operators understand the equipment, flow of fluids, labeling, etc, and reinforce standards. These can be delivered to operators through digitized, visual instructions, which can be enhanced with visual instructions, which may include images or video guidance on equipment operation.

8. Continuous Improvement

As operators become more digitally connected, manufacturers have access to a new rich source of data related to how those operators performed their tasks, and improve on it over time. Through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, data analytics, and operator feedback, manufacturers can gain insights into areas where the largest continuous improvement opportunities exist in productivity, training, workforce development, and content creation.

Why are Connected Worker Platforms Essential for Successful Autonomous Maintenance?

Connected worker platforms are digital software tools that can help standardize and improve the way operators perform maintenance tasks. Connected worker platforms are used to improve communication, collaboration, guidance, and support for the operators.

Connected worker platforms are used to create, assign, and manage the maintenance tasks being done. Through a combination of digital work instructions and real-time collaboration tools, operators can independently complete maintenance tasks at peak performance.

Connected operator for autonomous maintenance

Furthermore, connected worker solutions that are built on an AI foundation are also being used to support continuous improvement and lean initiatives in the workplace. With the foundational elements of digitized SOPs and remote expert guidance in place, manufacturing companies can not only help guide their operators with contextual information, aiding them in performing their jobs at peak efficiency and solving problems faster, but this also allows organizations to capture valuable data not just on the work that is performed, but also on how those workers are performing their jobs along with what activities or interactions are contributing to the success or performance of certain jobs.