Two complementary philosophies form a powerful combination to change the organizational culture and establish a process for continuous improvement. The Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) approach, based on people and process, transforms culture and the way we view our assets. The Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) approach can be daunting, although it establishes a strong foundation for a maintenance strategy. Individually, both have been monumental approaches to maintenance excellence, but when combined have been proven to reduce downtime and increase productivity.

SKF has made a decision to change the way it view its assets. Our assets – like yours – are invaluable. Could it be as simple as to make a decision to change?

Complementary Philosophies
By supporting the TPM process, in particular the Planned Maintenance & Autonomous Maintenance pillars, the RCM methodology will further solidify the maintenance management foundation and facilitate continuous improvement. You can conclusively gain a maintenance program based on the organization’s overall business goals. What we all must first understand is that before anyone goes anywhere (i.e. “world-class” production and maintenance) or does anything (i.e. “working smarter instead of harder”) – a decision has to be made on all levels of the organization to change.

SKF learned this first-hand from one of our Automotive Division factories in South America. In a highly competitive market, this factory found it difficult to gain the competitive advantage with traditional behavior concerning production and maintenance. When faced with closure looming in the years ahead, they decided to make a change. In order to stay open and nobly save many jobs in the process, this factory chose TPM as the catalyst to change. Sometime later, SKF had adopted this philosophy as one of their ways to build a foundation for World-Class Manufacturing Excellence.

Since adopting TPM, SKF began to realize the missing ingredient, reliability thinking. The adaptation was first thought to be RCM, but it was later found to be more adept to use the SKF SRCM process. Why? RCM is particularly useful and feasible for maintenance of identical installations (like aircraft), but given the operational context and the maintainability of our assets, it was not the case.

Another issue was that a certain level of maintenance maturity is required to ensure accurate and complete asset data. It was difficult to gauge and to ensure that everyone would be at equivalent levels. Based on irregularity of assets and irresolute maintenance maturity, SKF chose SKF SRCM.

SKF SRCM is a maintenance strategy review process that provides virtually the same results as classical RCM, but uses an efficient process to define needs and focus appropriate efforts on critical and non-critical equipment, functions and systems. Both TPM and SKF SRCM have been integrated, and the Planned Maintenance Pillar of TPM has been since redesigned. The impacts not only affect the Planned Maintenance pillar, but have a cascading effect on all pillars that SKF has chosen to implement. The chosen pillars, in no particular order, are Focused Improvement, Training and Education, Planned Maintenance, and Autonomous Maintenance with a foundation of 5-S.

Total Productive Maintenance
TPM, a Japanese philosophy used in many facets of industry, seeks to increase productivity by eliminating any waste of effort. TPM is attractive to many different industries but has proved well in line and batch manufacturing. The idea began in 1951 when preventive maintenance was introduced to Japan from the USA. Nippondenso, part of Toyota, was the first company in Japan to introduce plant-wide preventive maintenance in 1960.(5)

After some realizations were made, the workload was too much for maintenance alone. A shared maintenance relationship between operators and maintenance was implemented called planned and autonomous maintenance. This has since grown into the eight pillars we commonly know today as Kobetsu Kaizen, Autonomous Maintenance, Planned Maintenance, Training and Education, Early Equipment Management, Safety Hygiene & the Environment, Quality Maintenance, and TPM in the Office. Many different organizations alter TPM and make it unique to their company’s philosophies; however, the concept and inner progressions remain mostly the same.

Reliability-Centered Maintenance
RCM can be briefly explained as a structured process, originally developed in the airline industry, to determine the equipment maintenance strategies required for any physical asset to ensure that it continues to fulfill its intended functions in its present operating context.

The assets are decomposed, extensively analyzed and described, failure modes and effects analyses (FMEA) are made for the most critical components, and the maintenance organization and processes are carefully (re)defined.(1)

To make an austere statement, RCM was derived from a process to help keep airplanes from falling out of the sky and to make nuclear power plants from being the next Chernobyl-like disaster.

RCM was developed in the U.S. commercial aviation industry in the late 1960s. RCM was then adopted by U.S. Department of Defense in 1970s. RCM was identified by the USA Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 1984 as a candidate for application to nuclear power plants. Furthermore, three pilot applications were sponsored by EPRI from 1985 to 1987; they all were single-system studies that were initiated.

To further clarify what RCM is and is not, a standard from the Society of Automotive Engineers was developed known as SAE JA10112 and can be found at This standard provides an evaluation criterion to eliminate any questions of whether or not the so-called RCM process is true to its roots to ensure that the asset continues to fulfill its intended functions in its present operating context.

The seven criteria simplified are as follows:

  1. What are the functions and operating context?
  2. How can it fail to achieve these functions?
  3. What makes a functions failure become true?
  4. What is the result of this true failure?
  5. What is outcome of the result and its defined significance?
  6. What must be done to eliminate failure?
  7. What must be done if failure cannot be eliminated?

First Steps First
SKF decided to make a change and chose a vehicle. We then altered that vehicle to meet our needs and address the culture. Simple TPM and SKF SRCM were the sponsored methods. These two methods when combined would only be the starting point for World-Class Manufacturing Excellence. Many other areas such as Six Sigma, energy efficiency, etc., need to be sprinkled in and they all have to be well balanced with one another. Proprietary reasons restrict some content of how, but if focusing only on the Planned Maintenance pillar of TPM, the main points can be highlighted and conveyed.

This change was not only needed on the manufacturing floor, but by the management team as well. SKF needed to open its eyes to see in a different way. Benchmarking was the first key metric. Gauging our performance against other manufacturing industries across the globe was vital. SKF did have pockets of “best practices” internally, but it would be more powerful to compare external organizations. It would assist in driving home the need for change.

Five Key Ways SKF Improved
Visiting companies like Bosch, Tetra Pak, Fiat and Unilever (among others) gave a foundation to create a gap analysis to accurately measure our current situation when compared to SKF’s vision. The gap analysis as well as the SKF Client Needs Analysis (CNA) are the tools that are used. SKF needed to measure production and maintenance maturity.

These tools are easy enough to relay information between the individual manufacturing facilities around the world to a centralized location. The gap analyses and the CNA are an ongoing effort that is usually carried out on a yearly frequency to check progress and address weak areas.

Organizational structure was very much needed. Why? In a global organization, it is impractical to have a small or large group located centrally to make global change.

It took some time to configure the most appropriate organizational structure. There typically is no right or wrong way, but there certainly are by-products from poor organizational structure. A bottom-up approach was the preferred way. SKF has found that it constantly must change in order to address new issues and promote continuous improvements. The diagram below depicts the bottom-up approach and where support was aligned for continuous improvement.

Figure 1. Top-down approach for organizational structure.

Consultancy is a key area that continues to make a difference. When SKF does not have the resources or internal availability, it must be supplemented. We have called on TPM consultants, as well as other content experts, to provide assistance to SKF in order to transform globally. Due to the nature of consultants, their deliverables match precisely with what the needs are of the organization. Good quality consultants are a must for SKF to better understand its current situation and to gain competitive advantage over where the opposition is headed.

Business Process Management (BPM) is something that has emerged recently in the context of BPM systems. BPM systems allow management and engineers alike to analyze and measure effectiveness of business processes. Using a rudimentary BPM system, SKF’s Industrial Division and Service Division joined forces and overlaid Asset Efficiency Optimization (AEO) using the SKF SRCM process and the Planned Maintenance pillar of TPM. Six fundamental characteristics were identified in the context of planned maintenance:

  1. Evaluate the current stage (KPIs and business goal alignment)
  2. Repair assets and improve weak points
  3. Organize the Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
  4. Develop maintenance strategy
  5. Implement maintenance strategy
  6. Evaluate and sustain maintenance strategy

The final key area that SKF was able to exploit is how and when to use what technologies and techniques. SKF Asset Management Services works closely to prescribe the right medicine for an accurate diagnosis. This is, of course, in the context of maintenance management. It is well proven to gain a quick win is just that – a quick, short win. Part of the decision-making process, as discussed in the
Complementary Philosophies section of this paper, is to decide whether sustained improvements over time is appropriate or if it’s more astute to get some quick wins in order to gain momentum. SKF chose sustained improvements over time.

In conclusion, it is quite simple to decide to do anything. Following through and continuously improving is what most fail to do. Establishing systems and processes and putting them in place matter most for continuous improvement. Could it be as simple as to make a decision to change? The answer, in my opinion, is no; it is what the content is and what we do. It’s not what we merely talk about, but rather actions. This is what is needed in order to achieve the overall vision.

SKF continues to experience results such as reduced downtime, improved throughput, increased efficiency and employee satisfaction due to this decision. Moreover, the choice is yours to make. What will you decide?


  1. Aptitude Exchange glossary
  2. Issued August 1999. Evaluation Criteria for Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) Processes, SAE JA 1011.
  3. Nowlan FS, Heap HF,. 1978. Reliability Centered Maintenance, National Technical Information Service, U.S. Department of Commerce, Springfield, Va.
  4. Roberts J. 1997. "Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)," Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology Texas A&M University-Commerce; The Technology Interface.
  5. Venkatesh J. revised October 28 2007. An Introduction to Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)