Getting Back to the Basics

Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this picture? Exactly! As my daughter would say, “It looks like a hot mess!!” Oh yeah!  By the way, this equipment is has broken down. Which has resulted in 3hrs of down time and counting.  And I should also note that each minute of non-production has a premium loss of about $700/min for this nice little sold out business.  Now if you are in charge of this little “jewel of manufacturing” you are probably getting a lot of unwanted attention from your boss.  And you need to figure out not only how to get the equipment back on line, but how to make sure this situation never happens again.  So, what should be your first step? Of course!  You should form a kaizen team to do a three month black belt project, Right?! WRONG!!  Your first step is to get the mess under control by restoring the equipment to basic condition and completing the require mechanical repairs.  What does it mean to restore the equipment back to basic condition?…….Good question!  Let me break it down for you. (pun intended. Lol!)

Basic machine condition is the expected good state of repair that equipment should possess in order to produce quality parts in a timely manner.[1]  Typically, when people think of restoring basic equipment conditions, they think of simply cleaning the equipment.  However, to do this effectively requires a little more than that.  The true value comes when there is an understanding of the equipment placement and control variable settings that keep the equipment running as designed.  In the application of TPM, the Theory of Operation is the tool that is uses to capture this level of detail and truly define basic conditions for your equipment.  In the next section we will explore the details of the Theory of Operation and it is value.

Theory of Operation

The theory of operation is a tool that is used to define basic conditions by answering 3 critical questions at the transformation points on a piece of equipment.  Note: (The transformation point is the place where the equipment changes or has action on the product/material passing through it).  These questions are referenced to a diagram or picture of the equipment to provide visual support in explaining the equipment characteristics.  The questions are as follows:

What is the Idea Sequence of the Movement? This question requires an explanation as to how the product/material is moving through the equipment

  1. What is the Idea Sequence of the Movement? This question requires an explanation as to how the product/material is moving through the equipment
  2. What are the required conditions for each movement? This question requires an explanation as to the position of the equipment and its overall physical state as the product/ material moves through it.  This information specific and quantitativeUSE NUMBERS OR VISUAL CONTROLS to denote the correct position. DO NOT use words like appropriate, adequate, general, etc to describe these settings.
  3. What are the Operating Settings? This question requires an explanation of the control settings of the equipment as the product/material moves through it. Again, make this information specific and quantitativeDO NOT use words like appropriate, adequate, general, etc to describe these settings.

The answer to these question is obtained by using a combination of the equipment vendor records and the experience to the people the operate and maintain the equipment.

Click the picture below to access and example of a Theory of Operation on


The Theory of operation tool should be use for the follow 2 activities primarily:

  1. To focus the activity of defining Cleaning, Inspection, and Lubrication (CIL)[2] These standards will give details on how to keep the equipment in basic condition.  The standards are then to be paired with an activity schedule so that the CIL task can be managed by the Line AM team.  The Theory of Operation, CIL standards, and AM [3] Calendar are 3 key deliverables during the restorative steps of the equipment’s AM journey.
  2. To answer the question of “How the equipment differs from ideal state or basic condition?”, when executing the 5W2H tool of a root cause analysis or Kaizen.

Now that the basic conditions have been defined and you have created your CIL standards and AM calendar there is one more key component to ensure that the basic conditions are sustained……You Guested It! Now you need a robust defect tagging system.

Defect Tagging

During the course of completing the activities per the AM calendar the team will inevitably find that the equipment is now longer in basic condition per the CIL standards.  The tagging system is a way to systematically prioritize and restore the basic conditions in a timely fashion.  A robust tagging system should have the following characteristics:

  1. Be instantly accessible at the point of defect.
  2. The ability to be completed in less that 30 secs with minimal data entry required.
  3. The ability to capture pictures as a way to provide detail on about the defect and its resolution.
  4. The ability to communicate the defect information instantaneously and track it to completion.
  5. Automatic linkage to a tag register which shows the status of each tag
  6. Automatic calculation of all of the key tagging metrics as defined by TPM methodology

Luck for you, OpExApps,INC has created a tag management system that does all of this and it can be accessed from your phone.  Click on the link below to access the; where you can find demos of the Tag Management System and a system for Root Cause Analysis.

Click pic below!!!



In summary, the restoration of the equipment back to its basic conditions is the first preventative action that should be taken following an equipment breakdown.  The Theory of Operations is a tool that is used to defined the equipment’s position and control variable settings as the equipment transforms the product.  In order to sustain these conditions, CIL standards need to be defined and a schedule needs to be provided to the team to define when the CIL activities are to be completed.  Finally, a robust defect tag management system is needed to ensure any defects against the standards will be fixed in a timely manner.

About the Author


Patrick T Anderson  is a leader and practitioner of Continuous Improvement in manufacturing with over 18 years of extensive experience.  During this time, he has trained, coached, and audited hundreds of people on Lean methodology and led teams to deliver millions in hard savings to the companies he has served.  Patrick is the founder of OpExApps, INC; in which he has taken his passion for programming technology to develop systems to make the application of continuous improvement easier.  Patrick is an alumnus of Florida A&M University and  Xavier University , from which he obtained his B.S. Chemical Engineering and MBA degrees respectively.

*Note: Do you want the ability to close out 100% of your defect tags 100% of the time with less stress and more efficiency?  If so, sign up to be a Beta Tester for OpExApps, Inc. at today.






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