Purpose Autonomous maintenance (AM), one of the pillars of total productive maintenance (TPM), aims to achieve performance toward zero defects and zero breakdowns. AM system equipped with comprehensive lean tools provides continuous improvement during the AM activities. Despite its long duration, establishing a lean AM system with a robust guideline would provide significant benefits such as high quality and short lead time. Therefore, AM design approach should be provided in a holistic and detailed manner. This study aims to develop a framework for AM design, including preliminary, reactive, preventive and proactive steps using the axiomatic design (AD). Design/methodology/approach Requirements and technical parameters of the AM system are explored with AD. An extensive literature review and a real-life application are presented. Findings The proposed design was validated by adapting the proposed roadmap to a textile manufacturing system in Turkey. The application results justify the established AM system design with an average downtime improvement of 69.2% and the average elapsed time between two failures improvement of 65.1% for apparel department. Originality/value This study has the novelty of establishing an overall AM system design with all of its stages stepwise. It presents a comprehensive guideline in terms of integration of lean philosophy into AM design by generating maintenance-related use cases for lean tools. The developed approach facilitates creating and analyzing complex systems to improve maintenance implementations while reducing nonvalue-added operations.