By Gary Barnes

The concept of autonomous maintenance

The origins of OAC are found in the concept of autonomous maintenance, recognised as an integral pillar of the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) model covering professional maintenance, autonomous maintenance, early equipment management (EEM), training and development, 5S and quality etc.

Unfortunately the word maintenance in TPM created problems. Technicians wrongly assumed their role would be reduced and tasks transferred to operators. Operators were concerned they would need to be trained as technicians etc. Over the last five years however, particularly within the food and drink sector, OAC has grown rapidly in preference to the more challenging autonomous maintenance philosophy with most sites adopting the approach and regular OAC assessments to verify competences required and eliminate waste.

OAC is now seen as a key driver towards achieving operational excellence in food and drink. Site leaders previously adopted the approach that production broke the equipment and maintenance repaired it. Arguments would arise during the daily production meeting whether the root cause was engineering or not, and then continue with analysis of quoted downtime against repair time.

As the true root-cause was not analysed, the problems would not be eliminated. Now, with more investment in sophisticated equipment and control systems, a leading edge food and drink site requires operators to be more knowledgeable on the use, cleaning and care of their machinery, enabling technicians to be focussed on utilising their high-tech skills on preventive and proactive activities.

The Six Losses (or Long Stops and Short Stops) are expensive. Directors are concentrating on return investment for these sites with waste eliminated. Hence, the need to link lean with TPM and reliability to maximise the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) delivered.

MCP’s Work within Food and Drink

MCP has been working with leading food and drinks companies discussing OAC. This has involved assisting with a survey to assess the potential benefit of operator asset care in the production industry as part of a MSc. thesis research project and collaboration with the National Skills Academy (NSA) food and drink.

Topics under debate include:

  • What good should look like in terms of skills for operators and technicians skills’ models
  • Staff engagement and communication
  • Effective use of computerised maintenance management systems(CMMS)
  • Journey towards improved OEE
  • Animation of processes and components to aid understanding

The principles of OAC include the 4 stages of:

  1. Equipment Competent Operator– ECO (includes Standard Operating Procedures – SOPs, Skills Matrices and Competences) = ‘ECO Warrior’ understanding his equipment and not a ‘push button’ operator
  2. Clean, Inspect & Lubricate (CIL)
  3. Changeover, Set-up and Centre-lining
  4. OAC Checks from Reliability studies (First level maintenance with defined tolerances and aligned with Craft PMs as well as Condition Monitoring or Predictive Maintenance – PdM)


MCP’s Asset Management Improvement Service (AMIS) is a 3-5 day assessment tool.  For 25 years MCP has conducted AMIS assessments at over 1500 sites worldwide, and helped in over 4000 operational improvement programmes ranging from food and drink, pharmaceutical, chemicals to automotive. AMIS has continuously evolved to measure the effectiveness of an organisation’s asset management systems, maintenance approach, organisational structure, training and development, computerised maintenance management systems and operational processes.

AMIS Research into Autonomous Maintenance:

In 2011, Gary Barnes a technician at Diageo studying for his MSc at the University of Manchester undertook research into the success of autonomous maintenance as the first stage of his OAC implementation project. Gary asked MCP if they would support the research project by allowing his MSc. thesis questionnaire to be circulated to the AMIS participants in the UK. Food and drink companies who participated in the research include: Greencore, GlaxoSmithKline, Heineken, Kraft, Kerry, Mars, Matthew Walker, Nestle, Northern Foods, PepsiCo, S & A Foods and United Biscuits. The overall results from the survey indicated:

  1. Over 70% of participants had tried TPM over the last 20 years.
  2. Only 17% said TPM was a success with 50% showing partial success
  3. 36% of respondents indicate barriers were at shop floor level. Companies who had understood the barriers to change or had demonstrated benefits to stakeholders had better success
  4. 33% indicated management had not bought into the culture change process which links to Q3 above
  5. Most companies are now migrating to asset care excellence and some 27% responded that they had successfully implemented OAC. 23% are currently planning their OAC implementation with another 20% considering OAC as the next part of their lean programme
  6. Twenty years ago the words autonomous maintenance caused some challenges with both operators and craft groups. 89% responded that OAC was a key pillar of their asset management programmes and over 50% said they recognised the importance of correct implementation to deliver the known benefits.
  7. 81% believe greater success is delivered when barriers are understood and a culture change programme is used to deliver engagement.
  8. Maintenance was considered to be an issue with over 50% of people, organisational development and competences in terms of health and safety were seen as vital ingredients.
  9. Only 26% of responses agreed that a reliability technique is important to select the optimum combination of approaches i.e. OAC checks, craft PMs, condition monitoring or predictive maintenance (PDM) techniques, overhauls, design-out maintenance (DOM) and run to failure (RTF). Too often managers adopt a simplified walkabout check list not aligned to the techniques currently in place. Often no requests are raised from these OAC checks, which is the same challenge as the effectiveness of PMs when completed 100% each week.
  10. Only 37% regularly use reliability techniques (RCM, FMECA, REM etc) with 32% occasionally using such techniques.

The work with the AMIS OAC workgroup supports these general findings. The history to date includes a number of work-streams including:

  • Gap analyses to identify opportunities
  • Organisational development
  • Assessment centres to identify appropriateness and training needs
  • Basic training
  • Competences and certification

During any AMIS Journey to world class performance OAC development is a key work-stream and would cover the following elements: 

OAC is now well adopted and the sustainability, as well as, delivery of high performance demands high levels of competences and aligned processes. Therefore the organisational aspects, also learning and development programmes need to be fully aligned with the manufacturing excellence work-streams.

The MSc. research project included the practical implementation of OAC at one Diageo site.  This learning has now been rolled out across all sites globally.

OAC is a key pillar of manufacturing excellence and provides two key elements including:

  • Higher and more stable OEE through more competent operators
  • Reliable plant through a proactive regime underpinned by OAC checks reducing need for handholding by technicians

MCP would like to thank all the AMIS participants involved with the benchmarking survey for supporting a young technician with his professional development.

For further information on the following please visit MCP at :

  1. MSc Thesis – Autonomous Maintenance Benchmarking results
  2. AMIS Journey to Manufacturing Excellence
  3. OAC Networking Workgroup
  4. Autonomous Maintenance /OAC Maturity Assessment