By Rick Carter, Executive Editor
In deference to the recent holiday season, I prepared only one end-of-year question for our Maintenance Technology Reader Panelists: What’s on your wish list for 2014? I was looking for input on what they hope to achieve or obtain that will help them do a better job and their company or organization to prosper.
Anything related to the maintenance profession was allowed, which I thought likely to produce at least a few requests for new equipment and improved technology, perhaps, or maybe better benefits. Not so. As you’ll see, the responses uniformly reflect a need for better job basics: improved maintenance strategies, more training and greater professionalism, among others. OK, someone did wish that he would not have to work so many hours in 2014. But otherwise, the group offers a focused, sober reflection on the many challenges today’s maintenance professionals still face.
Q: What’s on your wish list for 2014?
“My main wish would be that our company finally comes up with a robust PM program. When I was put on as a PM leader a few years ago, I went through our PMs and revised the task sheets, which led to a 65% improvement in production and an 80% improvement in uptime. The machines were in such bad shape we were doing partial overhauls. This year, our schedules increased and we are now paying a price with poor output and production numbers because we did not continue the PM program. We are now just doing inspections with little corrective work allowed due to production demands.
“Also, we are again having a problem finding qualified skilled trades people, and with demand for our parts increasing, we are seeing more machinery coming into the plants so we need more people to work on them. Our leadership team has put together a plan that provides training for new people and a refresher for others. I again plan to press management to improve our training and preventive maintenance programs. Our [union] contract is up in 2015 so I’m sure our team will be looking for suggestions for upcoming negotiations.”
…PM Leader, Midwest
“On my dream list would be a way to develop a better team attitude! My company has tried and started many campaigns to obtain this, but with limited success. Here’s a quote that has stuck in my head for years: ‘What makes a man stay when common sense tells him to run? What makes him stand with his fellows, when staying means death and running could mean life?’
I know that dedication is a powerful force and that if we could use the answers to these questions, we would have success. We must remember that free will is mandatory, and that a slave-labor [approach] does not work. An organization must earn and keep earning this dedication if it is truly to work. The never-ending battle to get workers to communicate and try to function as a team, to dissolve the silos and stop the blame game, is worth fighting. We should consider the concept of a dedicated workforce that functions with only the most basic oversight. Knowledge, skill and dedication: What an unbeatable team!”
… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic
“In the last few years, our company has invested in several predictive maintenance technologies, including infrared, vibration, ultrasonic, optical and laser alignment. We have also stepped up our oil-analysis program. I am very pleased with the company’s willingness to make these investments and enjoy learning new ways to evaluate our machines, which have saved labor time and increased productivity. However, staffing has remained the same, and it is difficult to do your best when new responsibilities are added to existing ones. Therefore, my goal for 2014 is to dedicate more time to training and education for these new PM tools. I will still have our routine tasks to complete, but my hope is that as I improve my skills at predicting problems, many of our visual inspections and time-based work can be reduced even more. The ultimate goal is that the labor hours spent by our small staff bear more fruit and are not used to do things simply because that’s how they have always been done.”
… Senior Maintenance Mechanic, South
“My basic goals for 2014 are:
• Develop and complete the approval process for a minimum of five new educational programs for maintenance personnel. Reason: State-of-the-art technologies are moving very fast and the maintenance staffs need to keep up their skills.
• Implement a program to encourage major local companies to become involved in the training and educational programs for maintenance technicians. Reason: [My state] is not the best for putting money into the education system. The industrial markets are short of skilled labor, and manufacturers need to become involved.
• Improve my ability to communicate in Spanish. Reason: 38% of [my state’s] workforce speaks Spanish. This group is an excellent source of maintenance technicians, but they have to be trained. Even many of the new code books are in Spanish.”
• Contact many of our nation’s college to obtain information on new training techniques, grants, lab setups and textbooks. Reason: To develop and implement a business plan that will expand our training capabilities.
… Senior Maintenance Engineer, West
“Professionalism in every corner of maintenance!Many in the maintenance profession have the books, may have even read them and can recite all the well-intended best practices, yet they do not practice them. Mediocrity reigns. I believe that the trend toward operational excellence will shake their carpets and make them aware that professionalism is demanded of all of us. It will open the door for autonomous manufacturing and autonomous management, and turn autonomous maintenance into a reality everywhere. The processes must become totally transparent so everyone can see the abnormalities, and be educated and empowered to intervene without having to ask for permission from a supervisor or manager. But management must drive this. I have long felt that wherever there is a problem, management is at the root. Managers generate policies and preserve the old ones as well. Policies rarely take into account the needs, working situations and characteristics of the population they govern. So maintenance management requires a revolution in thinking and acting. That is my objective.”
… Consultant, Upper Midwest
“My number-one and only goal for 2014 is to get as many leaders as possible to have a long-term vision for their plants’ equipment reliability. This past year, I visited several of our company’s plants, and every Maintenance Manager I spoke with was concerned only with what was happening at the moment (Reactive). Not one had a plan to become more proactive in the future. So I am determined to change the mindset of as many leaders as I can this year so they understand and believe the benefits of planned and scheduled maintenance. After they become true believers, I then hope to help them develop a plan to move toward maintenance excellence. That will be a hard sell, and if I can accomplish that, I think I will have achieved something for the year.”
… Production Support Manager, Midwest