The roles and responsibilities of today’s equipment-health-focused professionals go beyond collecting and analyzing data.
MT asked a condition-monitoring expert to tell us what the job descriptions don’t.
By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor
Many colleges and universities require their students to take a basic psychology course. Most students wonder why. But according to Trent Phillips of LUDECA, Inc., a condition-monitoring (CM) analyst would be very likely to know why.
As the study of mental processes and behavior, psychology teaches the use of behavior and scientific methods to investigate questions and arrive at appropriate conclusions. Such tactics, says Phillips, are critical to anyone who aspires to be a successful analyst—including those in the field of equipment condition-monitoring.
Observe and listen
A CM analyst must observe and listen to equipment, fellow employees and management, says Phillips. Information from these groups, considered with their actions, will often provide the answers the analyst seeks. Additionally, the CM analyst must review the facts (data) and weigh them against other information. “The wise CM analyst learns to distinguish between anecdotal evidence and facts,” notes Phillips. “And this process will determine the course of action the analyst must take.”
In Phillips’ opinion, convincing others of the unseen, unheard and dire consequences that are likely to occur if appropriate actions are not taken is arguably the greatest difficulty an analyst faces. “Failure to plan almost always results in a failure to succeed,” he explains. “This is absolutely true when it comes to conveying critical condition-monitoring information to maintenance, operations, production and management within a facility.”
But therein lies a problem: Each group will process information differently, demonstrate different behavior, have different priorities and different objectives. To address this problem, Phillips says, a CM analyst, must learn to communicate the required information differently to each group based upon their exhibited behavior, objectives and understanding. This requires careful planning and implementation to succeed.
How to influence
Although CM analysts are usually not empowered to implement the changes required to improve equipment health, Phillips says their role and responsibilities typically involve more than simply collecting data to detect, diagnose and confirm equipment-health conditions. “Proper data collection and analysis is only part of the battle a CM analyst will routinely face,” says Phillips. “Understanding how to influence those responsible for funding, implementing change, directing repairs and engineering resources to improve equipment health are also qualities of the most successful CM analysts.”
In addition to collecting data, Phillips says CM analysts must be able to:
- Identify individuals and groups responsible for implementing changes that are required to maintain and improve equipment health and become their partner in reliability.
- Understand the goals, motives and objectives of these individuals and groups.
- Understand how to motivate these individuals and groups to provide the support required to improve equipment health and reliability.
- Understand the knowledge level of each individual and group.
- Present the information in a way that is meaningful, understandable and motivates others to take necessary action.
Work with others
According to Phillips, the right attitude is often a major factor in the success of a CM analyst. He notes that “works well with others” and “has a high tolerance for rejection” are characteristics necessary for success in the role. “The CM analyst by definition must interact with others, because his or her efforts can only be brought to fruition by others,” he says. “Information is the deliverable supplied by the analyst. The way in which it is conveyed will determine the success of the individual, facility, corporation and reliability efforts.”
Phillips notes that as challenging as technology and interpretation of results can be, they are among the easiest hurdles a CM analyst faces. The most difficult part may be getting others to follow the recommendations needed to improve maintenance and reliability.
“The successful condition-monitoring analyst must have the unique ability to determine what is important, what motivates and what creates a reaction from those responsible for equipment maintenance and reliability,” says Phillips. “They must be prepared for constant rejection and be willing to keep advocating until the needed action is taken.” MT
Trent Phillips is the Condition Monitoring Manager of LUDECA, Inc., a leading provider of shaft alignment, vibration analysis and balancing equipment. He has worked for many years in creating and managing reliability programs and developing condition-monitoring technologies, and holds several certifications in the field. Contact him at email@example.com.
Work Environments and the Success of CM Analysts
How important is the management of expectations?
LUDECA’s Trent Phillips says work environment can have a major impact on the success of CM analysts. In a facility or business with a well–planned production and reliability process, employees know what is expected of them and the role they play in the organization’s success. “This type of atmosphere makes it much easier to be a successful CM analyst,” he explains. “But it’s the exception. Few analysts today work in such environments.”
Phillips has found that expectations placed on many of today’s analysts and channels of communication are not always clearly defined. Furthermore, since many facilities still operate in a reactive state, their actions are focused on getting through current production cycles, not on improving long-term reliability and plant capacity. These situations keep CM analysts on the hunt for ways to effectively advocate for the equipment they monitor; convince responsible plant personnel to take appropriate action(s) before unwanted consequences occur; and, ultimately, improve equipment reliability. It doesn’t have to be that way, he says.
A wise—and successful—CM analyst will reach out to others with an offering of service, suggests Phillips. “The analyst who makes it his or her job to help others be more successful will soon become an integral part of the organization,” he says. “Support is easier to obtain when others see the CM analyst as one who is committed to helping them succeed, improve maintenance and increase reliability.”