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10.01.2024 / Peter Wolfram

“Operator Asset Ownership” – So valuable and so hard to achieve

Some of the most successful print manufacturing facilities deploy several strategies to ensure their operation functions as effectively and productively as possible. Industrial technologies are deployed and then topics including lean manufacturing, agile manufacturing, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management (TQM), and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) are discussed by many of our users on a daily basis.
Just like people do in other industries, we think about how to create smart factory environments and manufacturing methods in our practice. Modern Muller Martini systems are ideally suited to work in these environments and to help their owners achieve operational excellence.
There are many, often confusing, complex acronyms, strategies, and principles when it comes to manufacturing asset management. To me, there is one specific method, that, especially if broken down to its fundamental principles, can stand on its own and yield positive results, even without a fully developed, complex, lean, or agile manufacturing environment.
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) has been around for many years and in essence, focuses on creating an environment and culture in which operators develop a sense of ownership for the equipment they run. They partner with maintenance, engineering, and operations management to ensure their machine produces efficiently and successfully every day.
The TPM concept expands on the idea of preventive maintenance and leaves the majority of all basic maintenance tasks to the asset owner, which is usually the lead operator and their team. In its ideal state, an operator develops a full sense of ownership for the equipment that has been trusted to them and feels compelled to keep their manufacturing asset in the best possible condition.
Establishing and especially sustaining a TPM approach is quite difficult to achieve. Too often we encounter purely reactive production environments, in which case the organization reacts to breakdowns when they occur. In many cases operators stand back, waiting for maintenance to arrive and take care of the problem, thus accepting and absorbing production and efficiency losses that often could have been limited or prevented.
Breaking down the TPM concept into just a few key components provides a more basic path for clients to explore whether this could be a beneficial strategy for their own print manufacturing operation.
Operator Care versus the “I operate it, you repair it” approach
Operator Care programs are driven by operators, making operators responsible for keeping their machines in the best possible production condition. To make this successful and sustainable concept, operators have to be supported by all production stakeholders. Plant management, operations, production, engineering, and maintenance staff work together to uphold the expected level of machine performance, by reducing the need for reactive maintenance as much as possible.
Should an operator encounter a problem that requires support, small cross-functional teams are deployed to lend a hand and solve problems together with the operator or asset owner.  In those environments, the days of “I operate it, you repair it” are over.
Autonomous Maintenance (AM)
Operators are deeply engaged in caring for their machines. They apply their training and follow standard operating procedures when monitoring, detecting, inspecting, and correcting issues with machine functioning. Activities such as these as well as cleaning, lubricating, and monitoring for wear become part of the operator’s daily work routine.
Maintenance technicians focus on preventive, planned maintenance activities and support operators at a deeper level when more complex problems arise. Driven by the operator or asset owner, these teams work towards reducing or eliminating breakdowns as well as reducing set-up time, rejects, start-up waste, and stoppages while maximizing output.
Training and Competencies Development – MMServices 
Implementation of the TPM concept requires a substantial and sustained training effort. To supplement in-house training, Muller Martini offers machine-specific performance training programs for operators and maintenance technicians. These programs are ideally suited to establish standard operating procedures and help operator and maintenance teams be successful in a TPM environment.  In the end, operators are by far in the best position to monitor their machines for wear and inefficiencies, as well as for opportunities for improvement. A focused, sustained training schedule not only enables them to increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) but also increases job satisfaction and yields a sense of accomplishment.
The importance of an attractive plant environment: Where would YOU rather work?
In a very competitive job market, many of the strategies used to attract qualified employees are just as conducive to the TPM environment. Working in a modern, clean, and well-lit facility with advanced equipment promotes efficiency and productivity of the production facilities and makes it easy for operators to develop a sense of ownership for the machines for which they are responsible.
For example, like all current Muller Martini systems, the latest Muller Martini Primera PRO saddle stitcher is designed to provide an attractive and engaging workspace for all, even less experienced staff. Ergonomic design with easy and comfortable access, an intelligent LED lighting scheme, noise-reducing strategies, smart and precise set-up technology, and large, interactive machine interfaces make this state-of-the-art system not only a highly effective production tool but also a machine that operators feel good about and like to engage with – a machine that is an asset to them as well as to the company.
Peter Wolfram
Müller Martini Region North America
10.01.2024 Peter Wolfram Muller Martini Region North America