Improvement Strategies


Whether you opt for TPM, Lean, Six Sigma, EFQM/INK or another approach, your processes must always be able to produce the right information in a controlled and reliable manner.



For those applying a corporate improvement strategy, let me briefly explain the main strategies and explain how Makigami fits in.

TPM and Makigami?


TPM stands for Total Productive Maintenance, a company-wide strategy for improving effectiveness in equipment oriented environments.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) was introduced in 1971 by Japan’s JIPM (Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance). TPM ultimately evolved into Total Productive Manufacturing.

By the end of the 1980s, the concept of TPM became more widely known in the Western world. At the time, Productivity Inc. published English translations of two books by JIPM expert Seiichi Nakajima: Introduction to TPM and TPM Development Program.

TPM emphasizes machines

Implementing TPM means applying methods for continual improvement in order to reduce losses in a structural manner. Given the fact that the added value of products usually occurs in machines and equipment, TPM primarily focuses improvement activities on machine-related losses. The first translations of TPM as Total Productive Maintenance resulted in the stubborn misconception that TPM was in fact a maintenance program. However, the term ‘Maintenance’ actually refers to maintaining the entire production system.

TPM visions a zero-loss production-system.

Maintaining the production-system includes product and process engineering, planning, logistics, production and maintenance. The ultimate goal is to allow the machine to add as much value for the customer as possible.

TPM aims for an ideal production situation: no breakdowns, no deviations, no rejects/loss of quality, no accidents, injuries or health problems. In other words: fully controlled processes.

This ideal situation is achieved by using a process of continual improvement. This demands complete involvement on the part of everyone who works for the company, from the operators on the shop floor to the office staff, and all the way to the executive management level.


Although with TPM you might first think of factories, it applies also excellent to hospitals (where many processes depend heavily on  complicated and expensive equipment like MRI and CT scanners, Radiation units etc.)

8 Pillars

TPM consists of 8 so called pillars. The last –more recent added- pillar is called ‘office TPM’. Basically it described briefly the appliance of the other pillars in office-environments.

Because TPM, from its nature, focuses heavily on the physical environment of a process, the ‘Office TPM’ pillars focused merely at the ‘office’ as an environment, rather than at the process being applied here.

When I last visited a lecture of Nakajima-san in Tokyo, he stated the 8th pillar would have been better named ‘Process-TPM’, focusing on the improvement of information processes.


This book can be seen as a invulling of tpm’s 8th pillar.



‘Lean Manufacturing’ and ‘Flow’

Nevertheless TPM aims to create a fully effective production system, its focus on individual pieces of equipment brings up the rightful warning that if you pay attention to only a single machine out of a whole production chain comprising multiple machines and lines, an imbalance could easily arise between the various machines.

The same warning applies to improving a single process in an office.

Lean Manufacturing is an improvement strategy that originated in the automotive industry. It is geared towards achieving a balance in all steps involved in the production chain. If you have to produce a whole car every minute (!), then it is absolutely essential that every single cog in the entire production chain works together as precisely as a Swiss watch. If there are any machines in this type of process that fail to do exactly what is expected of them, the entire chain shuts down. Traditionally, this is solved by putting in buffer stock here and there.

The systemic approach of Makigami discussed later in this book, helps to take the lean approach much further than the supply-chain alone.

Traditionally within lean this is being tried to achieve by applying Value Stream Maps (VSM) in administrative areas.


The Makigami Process Map can be seen as a more specific form of Value Stream Map, better utilized in non-visible value streams.

Six Sigma

The core of the Six Sigma improvement strategy is to ensure that the quality of that which is produced stays within controlled limits.

The original core of Six Sigma focuses on managing the technical process to ensure stable quality of that which is produced. (In TPM, we see this in the Quality Maintenance Pillar). A number of excellent techniques are provided to this end.

Roughly speaking, the idea is to create systems where as long as all components remain within its specified limits, the final result will remain within its specified limits.

While ‘lean’ looks more at logistics and the chain of various process steps, Six Sigma emphasizes controlling individual actions in the process. This is done by ensuring that the outcome of the process continually stays within the margins.

In the various later ‘versions’ of Six Sigma al kind of additions are made to make Six Sigma more hands-on applicable.

The lack of a ‘flow’ component is recently being solved by the Lean-Six Sigma fusion.

Makigami could fill in the remaining gap to create stable processes in office environments since the basic principles used in Six Sigma and Makigami are the same; they all originate from the same sources like the work of mr. Deming.

The relationship between OEE, Lean and Six Sigma

Although OEE was initially used in the TPM corner, it is an indispensable tool in every improvement program geared to production. After all, OEE measures the entire scale of effectiveness losses of systems. Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma simply choose a different focus and/or strategy to tackle these losses.

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