Archive | January, 2014


10:07 pm
January 23, 2014
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The Changing Face of Apprenticeship


By Michael I. Callanan, Executive Director, National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee for the Electrical Industry (NJATC)

It’s been more than 25 years since I completed my electrical apprenticeship program in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). As an apprentice, I learned my craft by splitting time between on-the-job training assignments and classroom-related instruction. I learned my “hands-on” skills on the job and the theoretical parts of my trade in the classroom. For the better part of the years since, the apprenticeship model has remained virtually unchanged. While it has clearly served us well, three recent developments have highlighted the need to reinvent and reinvigorate that traditional model.

First, and perhaps foremost, the way apprentices are used on the job today is vastly different than when I was an apprentice. In my day, it was not uncommon for apprentices to stand at the bottom of the ladder watching a Journey-level worker—waiting their turn to demonstrate what they had been shown. Now, the competitive nature of construction and maintenance operations rarely affords the opportunity for apprentices to watch and learn in the same manner that I did. Today, they must be a productive part of the workforce and contribute to the overall efficiency of their respective projects. This has resulted in a dramatic shift from the jobsite to the classroom in the teaching of hands-on skills.

Second, changes that have occurred on the jobsite have been accompanied by significant changes in the classroom. Undoubtedly, the classroom I sat in so many years ago is now little more than a relic. Technology has changed the game. Today’s classrooms incorporate digital media, distance-learning models and simulations, as well as a host of other technologically advanced training aids that equip instructors with a full palette of educational tools to help them meet their objectives. For example, instead of merely looking at a three-phase synchronous motor sitting on a table in a classroom, students these days have the opportunity to view 3-D drawings of the motor and use animations and simulations to virtually replicate the operation of the unit.

Third, in case you haven’t noticed, today’s apprentices aren’t the same as in the past. They are, for the most part, older, better educated and, most important, more technology-savvy than their predecessors. Apprentices today also learn differently. Thus, we need to meet them where they are as learners. This means we must equip them with technology-based learning tools that mesh with their learning styles.

Later this year, my organization will transition our national apprenticeship model—the same one I completed over two decades ago—to a blended learning model. Approximately 30,000 apprentices will complete their homework assignments online in a learning-management system that permits our instructors to monitor their progress in real time. When our apprentices come to class, their instructors will have prepared a customized lesson for them based on the results of their homework. After reviewing learning objectives that were problematic, the apprentices will move to the shop area and practice the hands-on skills that are critical to their development as new electrical workers.

Although our traditional apprenticeship model has served us well, the demands of our customers and our industry have precipitated the need for a change. Fortunately, we have the technology and a new breed of apprentices that will help to ensure our model remains sustainable for the next generation of workers.MT&AP

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9:44 pm
January 23, 2014
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Viewpoint: The North American Maintenance Excellence Award

0114viewpointBy Stanley T. Grabill, CMRP, 2013 Chairman, Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence

The North American Maintenance Excellence (NAME) Award is an annual program to recognize North American organizations that excel in performing the maintenance process to enable operational excellence.

The NAME Award is run by the non-profit Foundation for Industrial Maintenance Excellence, established in 1990, whose board of directors comprise past winners. We are volunteers—and represent some of the best owner/operator practitioners in the business. Companies represented belong to multiple business verticals: Automotive, Biomedical, Chemicals, Food, Mining and Metals, Petroleum, Pharmaceuticals and Pulp & Paper. There have been over 70 applicants and 21 winners to date. The program follows an annual venue, starting with the initial application deadline of June 30, whereby all applicants are eligible to achieve this recognition.

What are the objectives of the NAME Award?

1. To increase the awareness of maintenance as a competitive edge in cost, quality, service and equipment performance. 2. To identify industry leaders, along with potential or future leaders, and highlight “best” practices in maintenance management. 3. To share successful maintenance strategies and the benefits derived from implementation. 4. To understand the need for managing change and stages of development to achieve maintenance excellence. 5. To enable operational excellence.

What are the benefits of participation?

1. Maintenance process assessment: Completing the application facilitates an internal audit of strengths and opportunities for improvement. 2. Competitive awareness: Entering the award program increases the participants’ awareness of their maintenance process and reflects favorably on their commitment to utilize maintenance as a competitive advantage. 3. Goal setting: This helps sites establish priorities and competitive performance goals based on standards of maintenance excellence. 4. Feedback for continuous improvement: Participants are provided valuable benchmarking comparison data to support their continuous improvement. 5. Increased cooperation: Participating in the NAME Award program builds a sense of site teamwork and emphasizes the value of interfunctional support.

What are the areas of evaluation?

1. Organization in the areas of operations and maintenance team development, effective human-resource utilization, employee development and training, and progressive employee involvement. 2. Work processes, which includes Maintenance Execution, Planning and Scheduling, Reliability and Continuous Improvement HSE, business planning, performance measurement and reporting, and fixed asset/capital project management. 3. Materials Management, including Storeroom Customer Service Levels and Inventory Control, Procurement activities and Supplier Alliances, and Strategic and Operational Storeroom Materials Planning.

Is there a screening process to help prospective participants understand if their sites have a good chance of winning?

Yes. Go to our Website and submit a “Quick Check,” a two-page questionnaire designed to allow a potential award candidate to investigate its site’s readiness to apply. The questionnaire is designed to explore industry Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Once completed, it is forwarded to the NAME Board of Directors, which reviews it and assigns a score, thus helping the candidate determine if the site is ready for the full award application. This service is provided free of charge.

What is the timing?

Each year’s applications must be completed by June 30. The NAME Board reviews them by mid-August, at which time the applicant is deemed eligible for a final site examination. Others are notified with our feedback. The site examination occurs in the September-to-October time frame, followed by a decision and notification in November. The NAME Award is publicly presented at the MARTS Conference in Chicago, typically in March.

For further information, please visit www.nameaward.comMT&AP

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6:00 am
January 20, 2014
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My Take: The True Cost of Lost In-House Expertise

newjaneresizeBy Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor

Finding myself unexpectedly alone in an unusually quiet house the morning of New Year’s Eve, I did something that always makes me smile: I checked in with process-industry veteran Heinz Bloch. Wishing an old friend a prosperous 2014 wasn’t the only reason for my call. I also wanted to discuss issues raised in his recent Viewpoint column on how “tradition will fail you” (pg. 80, MT&AP, December 2013).

In that editorial, Heinz had decried what apparently has become an all-too-common equipment-reliability strategy in today’s plants: rejecting Best Practices and clinging to old specifications because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” As he alluded, if nothing is done to counter this approach—which he links to diminishing numbers of readers, learners and thinkers in industrial operations—the asset-management capabilities of many facilities will continue on a downward slide toward calamity. Eager to know more about these problems, I asked him to provide some real-world examples. I was especially interested in the disappearance of in-house intellectual muscle and expertise from sites.

Heinz gets lots of feedback regarding his opinions (published and otherwise). Writing articles, presenting to standing-room-only audiences or simply engaging in small talk, he consistently strikes chords with reliability-focused end-users—some of whom later reach out to him with personal horror stories. I knew that he would have several to share. Here’s just one of them:

Two career automation specialists in the refining/petrochemical sector described the aftermath of several wholesale downsizings in their operations over the last 40 years. Those downsizings, they said, “had been justified by manager-executives who placed little value on bench-strength expertise in what they considered a mature industry.”That ill-advised overemphasis on the bottom line took off like a runaway train. As a consequence, entire in-house engineering divisions at the site vaporized. In the operating plant, contract employees became common in engineering, advanced process control, maintenance and laboratory services. The latter were outsourced, as were machine-shop tasks. Today, solid in-house subject matter experts (SMEs) are virtually non-existent around this company.

Hearing all this, I had to ask: When’s a bargain not a bargain? It’s a question industry should ask.

According to Heinz, the shortfall of in-house subject matter experts began to be felt around 1990. Since then, the grooming of SMEs hasn’t been viewed as a high priority by new generations of managers. Therein lies a big part of the problem.

Heinz acknowledges the availability of excellent contractors and consultants and the fact that hiring them may be attractive from a financial perspective. But he also believes financial decisions that put critical plant functions completely in the hands of outside resources often fail to take into account another important value proposition. It involves the significant returns that can be generated by synergies among knowledgeable, experienced, dedicated employees who are thinking and acting in solidarity with a company.

In his opinion, the bottom line is quite simple: “Best-in-Class companies got there with the help of SMEs. Any expectations to become Best-in-Class performers without SMEs are so unrealistic as to not even merit discussion.”

The risk of catastrophic failure, he concluded, will go up exponentially until industry returns to what he calls “square zero.” “That,” he said, “can only be achieved by reintroducing SME development and retention concepts in place 30 years ago.”

Having told you what Heinz thinks, I’ll now invite you to share your own opinions and/or stories with me. I look forward to your emailsMT&AP

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