Archive | Training


4:14 pm
August 14, 2017
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Uptime: Manage Development of Asset-Management Skills


By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Businesses gain a significant strategic advantage by developing and deploying targeted skill sets within their organizations. It only makes sense since there is no worthwhile substitute for a competent, engaged group of people focusing on strategic improvements.

One of the biggest challenges is that of limited resources to develop and conduct training in the workplace, including staff to develop, time to deploy, and time to train. However, the lack of formal and structured training often leads to human variation and errors, resulting in unreliable equipment and work processes.

While formal training is a must-have process for assuring equipment reliability, we should also recognize that traditional approaches to training may no longer be efficient or effective. Now is the time to find ways for training on a strategic employee-qualification process—one that builds individualized workplace competence toward strategic goals. Let’s explore how training and development processes can become part of the systems approach to asset management and conform to the ISO 550001 Standard.

Competency development

Begin by thinking beyond the activity of training to the goal of training, which is to build competence. Competence can be defined as “a cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills enabling people (or organizations) to act effectively in jobs or situations.”

So, what would a systematic approach to competency-based training, education, and development look like? Start with these recommendations for six basic elements of a Competency Development System based on ISO 55001:2014 Asset Management Standard requirements. These elements aren’t sequential or linear. They’re interdependent.

Organizing for Training Management. Strategic alignment assures that training is truly focused on business goals. Components should include:

• a strategically focused training organization charter
a training- and development-systems leader
training-program and materials developer(s)
records management, document control, and change management.

Defining Development Roles & Responsibilities. Training and development activities for building asset-management competence must be directly linked to business goals and specific job-performance requirements. Actionable components should include:

• overview, i.e., job role, classification, qualifications
asset-management competencies (see “IAM Competencies Framework,” from the Institute of Asset Management)
general duties, i.e., responsibilities, accountabilities
• specific asset-management-related job-performance requirements

• duty-task analysis (duty-task list), frequency of performance, difficulty/criticality ratings
• standards, references, and resource materials, i.e., policy, procedures, job methods, work instructions, certifications, and license
• updating of asset-management-related job methods and procedures.

Establishing a Training & Qualification Process. The most intensive element is dedicated to training activities and assuring qualification of individuals completing the training. Components should include:

• skills/knowledge verification, assessment

• qualified to perform
• development opportunity.

• training and development plan/schedule

• business priorities and needs
• individual needs
training/development schedule.

• job-role instruction

• assigned instructor/trainer/coach/mentor
duty-task referenced, i.e., standards, references, and resource materials, job-task breakdown
job instruction/development, i.e., classes, on-line instruction, seminars/workshops, self-study, on-job training/development.

• on-job performance qualification

• duty-task referenced
performance demonstration
qualified/not qualified
periodic re-qualification.

• training and qualification documentation

• individual skills and qualification profiles
• individual training and development plans.

Establishing an Asset-Management Training-Program-Development Process. Training-program development is a multi-faceted process designed to assure consistent and standardized approaches, coupled with strategic alignment. Components in this element that drive various components in Training & Qualification Processes include:

• alignment with asset-management-system requirements, i.e., asset-management organization structure, Strategic Asset Management Plan, business priorities, individual roles and responsibilities (new employee, experienced employee, contractor, vendor, supplier)

• alignment with asset management life-cycle organization requirements, i.e., design engineering, procurement, construction, installation, startup, commissioning, operations, maintenance, decommissioning/restoration.

Recruiting & Selecting the Right People. Formal recruiting and selection is essential regardless of whether the right people are identified from within the organization or hired off the street. Components for success must include these considerations:

• job-performance-based requirements
related experience and competency demonstration
work-group and organizational-culture compatibility.

Monitoring Training & Development System Effectiveness. The systems approach to asset management requires regular reviews and audits of the effectiveness of the business and work processes. The following components are recommended:

• periodic training-and-development-system review, performance evaluation
identifying and pursuing improvement opportunities
incident investigation (failure analysis)

• qualification-requirement verification
training-and-development needs
training-and-development-improvement opportunity.

See my August ISO 55000 Asset Management column for more on applicable elements. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, focuses on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


3:53 pm
August 14, 2017
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Don’t Let Tribal Knowledge Slip Away

The loss of invaluable ‘tribal knowledge’ at a site is inevitable over time, but not insurmountable.

The loss of invaluable ‘tribal knowledge’ at a site is inevitable over time, but not insurmountable.

Tribal knowledge, i.e., unwritten rules or information not known by everyone in an organization, typically resides in the minds of long-term employees. Garnered over time through the school of hard knocks, most of this invaluable, undocumented knowledge is lost when those employees retire. While this may not have been much of problem in the past, it’s now hitting a crisis point, given the perfect skilled-workforce storm bearing down on plant maintenance departments everywhere.

Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, notes that the Millennial generation, which, so far, has tended to avoid the types of jobs that keep plants up and running, will comprise approximately 50% of the workforce in 2020. With the number of industrial-mechanic positions projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, it’s imperative for maintenance organizations to move quickly to develop adequate talent pipelines. According to Billy Hamilton, senior vice president of Human Resources for Motion Industries (Birmingham, AL), operations that aren’t proactive in this regard could find themselves facing devastating levels of production downtime.

What can you do?

“As it turns out,” Hamilton explained, “there are a number of steps a site can take to mitigate the issue at hand.” Among them:

First, partner with your human-resource department to determine if the skill sets you need now are the same ones you will need in the future. If so, sit down with your plant-maintenance personnel and determine a likely timeframe for retirements. Waiting until an employee tells you that he or she is retiring is far too late. Create a part-time program for those who think they are ready to retire. You might be able to keep them engaged for   several years.

randmIn addition to discussing retirement with maintenance-team members, start documenting processes in detail, preferably through video recordings. The cost associated with recording these processes is minimal if the data accelerates the learning curve of new employees.

Next, reach out to your already-retired maintenance personnel. Many retirees find themselves bored six months to a year after leaving the workforce. You might be surprised to find a number of highly skilled workers willing to work part-time, even if it is only a few weeks a year during a plant shutdown or major overhaul. In light of the lessons these people might pass on, a flexible work arrangement with them would be well worth having.

Finally, work with your local high school, vocational school, and/or community colleges to develop a certification program. Offer apprenticeships and help with obtaining the necessary equipment for the school. Again, there are upfront costs involved, but over the long run, they’re minimal if you develop a skilled workforce that meets your needs.

Don’t wait.

Hamilton acknowledges that there’s no silver-bullet solution for the problem of lost tribal knowledge. “But,” he said, “being proactive, flexible, and creative in your planning for this loss will certainly lessen the pain. The key is to start as early as possible.” MT

Billy Hamilton has 26 years of experience in the field of human resources, which includes his current role with Motion Industries, Birmingham, AL, and, prior to that, work with companies such as Overhead Door Corp. and Lockheed Martin. For more information on a wide range of plant-maintenance topics, visit


6:52 pm
July 12, 2017
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On The Floor: Continuing Storms Ahead for Industry

Stormy landscape background with street

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

This month’s MT Reader Panel question was sparked by Bob Williamson’s June 2017 “Uptime” column. In it, he recounted asking an audience of approximately 90 maintenance pros at an Oklahoma Predictive Maintenance User’s Group event to list the top three maintenance challenges they expected to see in the next three, to five, to 10 years. They came up with 117 challenges, which Bob discussed in detail. We wondered if our Panelists shared similar concerns. For purposes of this unscientific survey, we asked them to discuss a single “top” challenge—the most critical one in their respective views.

Q: From their perspectives as end users, consultants, or suppliers, what was the top maintenance challenge they would expect to continue nagging sites or emerge as another fact of life in industrial operations in the near future (over the next decade)?

The answers we received point to several storms rolling across the industrial landscape. Here, edited for brevity and clarity, are some of our Panelists’ thoughts.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

More testing is now tied to computers and maintenance departments use them to not only operate equipment, but to track maintenance and repairs. That means the average maintenance employee will need classroom training and hands-on experience in these technologies. On a related note, years ago, new equipment came with a user’s manual of about 20 to 50 pages. These manuals are now complete books, with as many as 500 pages (including 100 pages just on troubleshooting). Going forward, industrial maintenance or operations personnel will probably require at least a two-year associates degree. Those who used to be able to learn on the job may be left behind.

CBM Specialist, Power Generation, South…

The biggest challenge I see coming for maintenance and reliability across all industries is impending inexperience within the craft. It takes about three years for a reliability technician to become proficient in collecting good data, downloading it, analyzing it, and making good, solid recommendations. I don’t see any movement by upper management to begin incipient training in the reliability field or leverage valuable training from experienced reliability technicians that will retiring from industry within the next decade (and taking their knowledge and skills with them). This is my personal experience, knowledge, and general observation of the industry.

College Electrical Lab Manager/Instructor/Consultant, West…

Companies can’t find skilled technicians that have the values and ethics to stick to maintenance functions. Many techs don’t seem to want to learn continuously and tend to jump from one employer to another for a few dollars more.

Many colleges teach theory with little hands-on training and trouble- shooting skills. I’m 72 years old and still working. I’m educated, skilled, have degrees, licenses, all that stuff you earn after 50 years in the field. The people entering the maintenance field today want to solve everything with a computer and not get dirty.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

This is a pretty easy question to answer, using another question: How do we replace our aging tradesmen and tradeswomen? At our facility, the average age of our trades force is in the mid-fifties. Within the next five to seven years, close to two thirds of our workforce could retire. Given the lack of young people interested in skilled trades over the last two decades, we really are in a bad situation. Having to hire a retired tradesman who is in his early sixties to fill a position goes to show you how much trouble we’re in.

Maintenance Manager, Food Processing, South…

To sum up the top challenge that will be affecting industry for years to come, we’ve basically lost at least two generations of maintenance technicians. Those that we (our operations) get now are what I call “gamers.” They’ve done nothing but play video games.

When I “signed up” for maintenance, everyone knew weekend work was part of it. Most newer maintenance workers seem to be against working weekends, the time maintenance really has to do their PMs and project work.

Our turnover is very high, which has really taken a toll on experience in my department. Having lost most of the senior techs, we are finding that the younger generation takes no ownership of equipment or shows much dedication. They will call in [take off work] regardless of our plans, knowing we’ll be in a jam. What’s worse, they’ll show no concern [for putting us in a jam] when they return.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been anywhere from 10 and 12 to 20+ short in maintenance (from a 67-person total staffing). This leaves us with 20% to 30% of our workforce open, which creates a backlog of work that just keeps getting bigger, with no end in sight. About 50% of my current maintenance staff has less than three years seniority, and 75% of these have about a year to year and a half. We are challenged to say the least.

Industry Consultant, International…

Any and/or all of the points Bob Williamson discussed are of concern. As a consultant, I would say one challenge that has developed over the years involves almost all of them.

Senior management used to plan budgets with maintenance managers, plant engineers, maintenance superintendents, and others, on at least an annual-budget basis, with five-year plans furnished as estimates. These days, senior management frequently is tied to quarterly bottom-line results that tend to push quarterly financial results as a high priority.

The overall result is that maintenance asset management is often short-changed for the short-term goal of maximizing the quarterly bottom line. While this is basically a corporate management problem, it continues to interfere with good asset-management practices. MT


6:40 pm
June 16, 2017
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Uptime: Face the Giant

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

We face challenging situations every day. In many cases, dealing with short-term challenges is a maintenance organization’s normal way of life. The problem is our long-term challenges, the ones at our doorstep, or looming just over the horizon that we often put off tackling. They’re “giants” bearing down on us.

Not too long ago, I spoke to nearly 90 maintenance professionals at an Oklahoma Predictive Maintenance User’s Group (OPMUG) event. Maintenance managers, supervisors, technicians, mechanics, planners, and engineers, they came from a wide variety of industries. Regardless of their particular role or business, though, they were all actively pursuing better maintenance practices.

I asked the attendees to take a few minutes and think about the top three challenges for maintenance that they expected to see in the next three, to five, to 10 years, then record them on note cards. Let’s consider what they wrote and how their thinking mirrors yours. Based on my analysis, the 117 challenges they came up with fit in the following nine major categories (some fit in more than one):

• Skills Gaps (35)
• Culture of Reliability (35)
• Training & Qualification (27)
• Top Management (26)
• New Technology (11)
• At-Risk Assets (10)
• Parts (10)
• Knowledge Transfer (8)
• Life-Cycle Asset Management (5)

It’s about ‘people’ on the front line

When we look for a common theme among the OPMUG responses, it’s not too surprising to see that it’s “people,” i.e., the biggest variable in improving equipment maintenance, performance, and reliability. Of the nine major categories above, three of them—Skills Gaps, Training & Qualification, and Knowledge Transfer (with a combined total of 70 responses)—point to challenges on the front line of maintenance.

Many responses alluded to difficulties in finding qualified technicians and shortages of skilled trades people. A few referenced the Millennial Generation’s communication skills, work habits, and expectations. Several addressed the lack of competencies for and interests in industrial maintenance careers.

Capturing the knowledge of workers nearing retirement appeared to be a sizeable challenge for many respondents. They noted that their organizations stood the chance of losing all skills and knowledge gained from years of experience. Furthermore, there was concern that even if they could capture crucial knowledge, without a capable replacement or the mechanism to train new employees, that knowledge would be lost.

It’s about ‘people’ in top management

A second group of categories—Top Management, Culture of Reliability, and Life-Cycle Asset Management (with a combined total of 66 responses)—points to need for leadership to improve equipment maintenance, performance, and reliability. Whether it’s the pursuit of best practices, asset-management processes, or culture change, top management sets the tone and defines the culture by purposeful actions, or,       by default, through inaction.

Some responses tied the challenge of Top Management to struggles with hiring and training priorities, i.e, management’s inability to grasp the severity of skills gaps, shortages, and knowledge transfer. Several mentioned decisions to cut maintenance costs and staff, reductions in time for preventive maintenance, and misinterpretation of the reliability requirements of new equipment.

Others referred to “silo” organizations and decision making that hindered maintenance and hurt the reliability of equipment and processes. These siloed objectives and decisions lead to an organization’s inability to focus on common goals for overall business improvement.

Regarding Culture of Reliability ranking right up there with Skills Gaps as a top challenge: Leading a culture of reliability means that the line of sight between reliability best practices and the goals of the business are understood. Frequently, that line of sight is not so apparent with reliability best practices appearing as a flavor of the month.

Facing our giant

Most equipment challenges lend themselves to reliable and sustainable countermeasures, or corrective actions. The giant we face isn’t so easily addressed: human variation, inconsistency, behaviors, moods, and habits present an ever-changing reliability improvement challenge.

Our giant can be lurking among front-line crews or behind decisions and actions made by top-, mid-level and/or front-line managers. Facing it with slingshots and stones may be our only option, that is, if slingshots and stones represent maintenance fundamentals, available tools, and accepting the reality of the situation.

We can no longer manage equipment performance and reliability the way we always have. There aren’t enough talented people, or isn’t enough time or money to continue that journey.

Bottom line, the skills gaps we see today, coupled with training and knowledge-transfer problems, are primarily caused by the fact that top management and reliability and maintenance professionals still aren’t “sitting at the same table” and focusing on common business goals. That’s sad.

Looking to the future, facing our giant will require fewer hands-on people, robust condition monitoring, building reliability into critical at-risk equipment, and, most of all, getting top-level management to believe in reliability best practices. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


2:16 pm
May 18, 2017
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On The Floor: Reports from Ground Zero — Growing a Skilled Workforce

vocational student learns air conditioning repair from an experiBy Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The cover and several pages of May’s Maintenance Technology might give you the impression that we had a common theme in mind: workforce matters. It wasn’t by design; it just worked out this way. The following MT Reader Panel question fit the theme nicely, though. Our Panelists began answering early and enthusiastically. The bad news, again, is that we couldn’t include all of their responses in the print issue. The good news is that we have this expanded version of the discussion here on Here’s the question:

Q: How were their organizations (or client/customer organizations) helping to develop, empower, and enable skilled workers for today’s and tomorrow’s industries? 

The following responses have, as always, been edited for clarity and brevity.

Industry Consultant, West…

Only a couple of my clients are addressing this issue. The ones who aren’t seem to think they’ll be able to entice employees away from companies that are actually finding a way to train the workforce. Development of workers seems to be the largest challenge at this time. Workers hired out of high school have few or no skills that translate to industry, other than moderate computer abilities. Workers hired with tech-school training seem to be hit and miss. Some have valuable skills, but lack work ethics; others have neither.

One client has created a tiered system that has some similarities to previous apprenticeship programs, but the tiers are self-paced, allowing more ambitious workers to advance (and make more money) more quickly. So far this has been successful, to a degree, but a stumbling block seems to be that Millennials do not work for goals that are two or three years away, but want results in one year or less. They also seem to feel that if another employee gets a raise, they deserve one as well, no matter if they’ve completed the same requirements as the other worker. While there are exceptions to this, the situation can lead to  friction in the workforce.

Most of my clients seem to be doing well when it comes to empowering and giving all workers a voice. And most appear to be enabling their workers much better than in the past. This helps retain the long-term employees they have.

Maintenance Engineer, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

Our plant has begun retraining senior maintenance personnel to adapt to the ever-increasing automation of our production machinery. We’ve also started training some maintenance apprentices to begin refilling the pipeline to replace aging in-house staff (average age in our facility is around 50). We’re using the vocational school in our area on basic skills (welding, shop equipment use, power transmission, and electricity) for apprenticeship candidates and other technical specialists who want to participate. The program is going into its second year, and the only issue we’re working through is putting apprentices in situations where they can use their newly found knowledge in practical settings.

Maintenance Supervisor, Process Mfg, North America…  

Unfortunately, our organization is moving away from technical training for our maintenance people. It has imposed a limited budget for training across the corporation and is using it to train upper management on aspects of contract negotiations and employee interactions. I only have one technician scheduled for training on a PLC course. Nothing else has been approved. This is not an optimal situation, as technicians only buy into their jobs if they can be shown that the organization is interested in keeping equipment working and running at optimum production levels.

Reliability Specialist, Power Sector, Midwest…

Our organization participates in job fairs at the high school, trade school, and university levels. We are active members on curriculum boards at two trade schools in the state. We assist with training recommendations, and provide tools and equipment to the union-trades training facilities. Our organization has an in-house apprenticeship training program, heavily invested into continuous training of all personnel to maintain a highly skilled workforce and encourage training for future positions using in-house training and college tuition support. We also participate in high school-through-college job shadowing programs and internships.

Sr. Facilities Engineer, Discrete Mfg, Southeast…  

Our facility has become involved with Junior Achievement. A variety of our personnel spend predetermined time at local schools leading classes that focus on possible vocations, working as part of a team, and other things to help students understand more about what work will be like. We also hire summer interns, usually in some engineering position. We’ve had chemical, mechanical, and electrical majors.  This year we’ll have an environmental science student to help with some environmental updating. This will be good for us and offers good experience for the intern. The position is paid.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

We have a Civil Service System, and tradesmen/women must meet all the qualifications and experience before being interviewed. The system has drawbacks, but as a whole, our hires are very qualified. It also allows people to move to other positions by attending classes or studying until they meet the qualifications for a higher position. Some employees who started out as janitors later became laborers, then stationary firemen/women, then building engineers, even an assistant chief engineer.

Technical Supervisor, Public Utility, West…

This is a real problem for the hydro and power-generation industry. We’ve not had good luck “stealing” experienced journey-level employees from other utilities lately. We’re part of a state system, and drastic reductions in various benefits over the past decade have removed the incentive for such personnel to “jump ship” and join our organization.

We’ve developed detailed system descriptions of our project, so if we bring in personnel from the non-power industry, they have a training road map/program with lot of hands-on training.

Our experience with a somewhat expensive service that puts former military personnel into industry jobs has been varied. We’ve been bringing in student interns to support our engineering departments for several years, and have hired one full-time.

Industry Consultant, International…

Concerning this question, I have seen both short- and long-term approaches among my clients. As an example, one operation has chosen to contract out skill sets and hold down costs with a minimum of on-site crafts personnel or crafts-qualified supervisors. This tends to be a bit short-sighted but is “OK” short term.

Those taking more of a long-term approach include a major utility that has chosen to partner with local crafts unions such as IBEW, IAM, Iron Workers, etc., to develop an in-house apprenticeship program. Training is done at the local union facility for one-half day and on the company site the rest of the time, with company crafts Journeymen as mentors. Progress is monitored every six months in a formal joint union and company meeting, and raises are given for progress to a four-year Journeyman status. This type of program, which is administered by HR, works well for companies already operating in a union environment. (Non-union operations I’ve worked with have set up up similar in-house training with local colleges and trade schools, sometimes using local union Journeymen as instructors or evaluators.)

In Canada, I’ve seen several  companies join together with the First Nations Reservation groups to set up specialized schools that provide not only training in  crafts along typical apprenticeship lines, but also for special or heavy-equipment operators, miners, and staff clerical/medical personnel. These companies usually have requirements to staff with as many locals as possible. To meet this requirement, local training and personnel/crafts development is a must. In some of these remote locations, outside sourcing of competent Journeymen is difficult.

Based on personal observations, I’ve found that HR and Operations/Maintenance Management working in conjunction with local craft unions and in-house Journeymen as mentors tend to produce the best and most likely to “stay” new craftsmen, These people are already in the company and are familiar and “at home” with their local environment.

Engineer, Process Mfg, Southeast…

Our plant is a founding member of [a not-for-profit regional workforce-development alliance]. The organization engages in activities to improve the overall training and skill level of [the region’s] craft persons and trade persons and promote consistent application of skill standards in the industrial and contractor workforce. It also works to provide, develop, and implement training programs to ensure consistent skill-level designations for trade persons.   Partnering with educational institutions and others, it provides information and assistance with career and skills assessments, training programs, certification standards, and accepted credentials for skilled crafts persons and trades persons. Coordinating with local industry and employers, it assesses present and future needs for skilled workers and develops and implements initiatives that alleviate shortages.

Industry Consultant, International…

Concerning this question, I have seen both short- and long-term approaches among my clients. As an example, one operation has chosen to contract out skill sets and hold down costs with a minimum of on-site crafts personnel or crafts-qualified supervisors. This tends to be a bit short-sighted but is “OK” short term.

Those taking more of a long-term approach include a major utility that has chosen to partner with local crafts unions such as IBEW, IAM, Iron Workers, etc., to develop an in-house apprenticeship program. Training is done at the local union facility for one-half day and on the company site the rest of the time, with company crafts Journeymen as mentors. Progress is monitored every six months in a formal joint union and company meeting, and raises are given for progress to a four-year Journeyman status. This type of program, which is administered by HR, works well for companies already operating in a union environment. (Non-union operations I’ve worked with have set up up similar in-house training with local colleges and trade schools, sometimes using local union Journeymen as instructors or evaluators.)

In Canada, I’ve seen several  companies join together with the First Nations Reservation groups to set up specialized schools that provide not only training in  crafts along typical apprenticeship lines, but also for special or heavy-equipment operators, miners, and staff clerical/medical personnel. These companies usually have requirements to staff with as many locals as possible. To meet this requirement, local training and personnel/crafts development is a must. In some of these remote locations, outside sourcing of competent Journeymen is difficult.

Based on personal observations, I’ve found that HR and Operations/Maintenance Management working in conjunction with local craft unions and in-house Journeymen as mentors tend to produce the best and “most likely to stay” new craftsmen. People trained this way are already in the company and are familiar and “at home” with their local environment. MT

If you’re interested in becoming an MT Reader Panelist, email

Tip of the Month | May 2017

“Once you’ve tightened a bolt to the correct torque rating, use colored nail polish to paint a straight line across its head and onto the bolted equipment. If this straight line ever appears broken, it’s an indicator that the bolt has loosened. This extremely inexpensive vibration-monitoring technique provides an important visual cue that operators can easily detect during daily checks and, in turn, leads to fast maintenance response.”

— Tipster: Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

What about you?
Tips and tricks that you use in your work could be value-added news to other reliability and maintenance pros. Let us help you share them. 

Email your favorites to Who knows? Like this month’s featured tipster, you might see your submission(s) highlighted in this space. (Anyone can play. You don’t need to be an MT Reader Panelist.)


8:25 pm
May 15, 2017
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Uptime: Engage the New Workforce

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

I’m worried that we’re not effectively engaging younger, newer employees in our reliability-improvement initiatives,” lamented a participant in one of my workshops. “How should we be working with them?”

That type of concern and question is becoming more common in today’s older industrial facilities—and for good reason. The ways we employed, trained, and engaged previous generations of employees won’t necessarily work going forward. Now is the time to re-tool our approaches. Here are some insights into those generations and how to engage their members in the workplace.

The divide

Think about the differences in your family, i.e., your grandparents, parents, yourself, and your children. Each generation is different, based on experiences with different technologies, socio-economic conditions, educational approaches, and politics, among other things. Let’s look at four generations and various factors that formed their lives:

• Matures (born before 1945): Strong family and community ties, WWII and Pearl Harbor, post-WWII economic boom, manned space flight.

• Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964): Cold War, Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War, political assassinations, feminist movement.

• Gen X (born between 1965 and 1977): Disintegrating families, unemployment, advent of personal computers and the Internet, Space Shuttle explosion, end of the Cold War, Berlin Wall destruction, Gulf Wars.

• Gen Y, aka “Millennials” (born between 1977 and 2000): Oklahoma City bombing, 9-11 terrorist attacks, growth of school violence, global warming, increasing divorce rates, advent of smart phones and other technologies, everybody gets a trophy.

Millennials learn, and in turn, approach work much differently than past generations.

Millennials learn, and in turn, approach work much differently than past generations.

The formative years

Major generational events combine with situations in an individual’s formative years to influence their behaviors, beliefs, expectations, and interests. During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Dr. Morris Massey described three major life-shaping periods:

• Imprint Period (birth to 7 years of age): We absorb everything, accepting much of it as true, especially coming from our parents. The sense of right and wrong, good and bad is learned here.

• Modeling Period (between 8 and 13 years): We copy people, primarily our parents, and other people who impress us (community leaders and teachers, for example). We try different things to see how we feel about them.

• Socialization Period (between 13 and 21): We tend to look for ways to depart from our earlier programming and are significantly influenced by our peers. Media (social-media) messages, especially those that seem compatible with peer-group values, have a major influence.

The challenge in a workplace is how to effectively engage (and value) inherent generational differences, despite the diverse, life-shaping events and experiences of peoples’ formative years.

Focusing on Millennials

Get ready. Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, preceded by record departures of seasoned, skilled workers. The bad news is Millennials often lack the skills, knowledge, and experiences employers are seeking in replacements for their disappearing skilled personnel. While more people may make up the labor pool, it’s the skills shortages (skills gaps) that will prevent them from securing employment. According to a 2015 report titled “The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond,” from Deloitte (, New York) and The Manufacturing Institute (, Washington), in the next decade, nearly 3.5-million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. Because of the skills gap, 2 million of those jobs are expected to remain open.

Knowledge transfer and reliable training processes are rapidly becoming a more-than-compelling need in many business sectors. The traditional training model, however, is mostly inefficient, ineffective, and inconsistent with how Millennials learn. Still, the task at hand involves more than training them—it’s engaging them.

Millennial expert Christine Hassler offers some pointers on how to work with and benefit from this generation. It starts with understanding that members of this group are typically over-parented, self-expressive, optimistic, globally oriented, and wanting to make a difference. They tend to be multi-taskers, entrepreneurial thinkers who value freedom and flexibility, but believe that organizations rarely make use of their skills. According to Hassler, prospective employers can leverage these characteristics by offering what these job seekers want most:

• diverse opportunities based on individuality and creativity
• fair compensation for work that has a purpose
• a great place to work, i.e., fun and ethical
• a sense of belonging and social engagement flexibility.

Attracting Millennials can be enhanced by employers that:

• invest in technology and social media
• have a story to tell, a brand
• leverage current Millennial employees in recruiting
• embrace social and environmentally conscious practices
• re-invent the workplace environment
• address how their goals can be achieved by working here.

Hiring Millennials may require employers to overhaul their practices and:

• recruit, hire, and train for skills mastery
• look for leaders, out-of-the box thinkers, and optimists
• deploy creative application and interview processes
• upgrade employee orientation and on-boarding programs
• include Millennials in interview and selection processes.

Retaining newly hired Millennial employees can be improved by employers that try to:

• make the first day unforgettable
• offer feedback, flexibility, and transparency
• create a fun workplace with a sense of purpose.

Managing Millennials must be accomplished by leveraging their expectations:

• provide frequent feedback
• provide clear expectations with accountability
• coach, rather than direct (see the following “Situational Leadership” model)
• challenge and empower them
• inspire them (be a strategic and aspirational thinker)
• add the human element
• be open and transparent
• show respect for all people at all levels
• get to know employees on a personal level
• conduct weekly check-in
• provide interpersonal training and personal development
• provide technology platforms for feedback sharing.

Developing Millennials into leaders must go beyond traditional programs and begin early in their employment through:

• cross-functional expertise and rotational learning
• apprenticeship models with assigned mentors
• involvement with “high-ranking” executives
• intrapreneurship (defined as workplace innovation)
• ongoing training and personal development
• formal knowledge-transfer processes
• connection to the bigger “why” (beyond “what” and “how”).

Engagement is ‘situational’

Leading and empowering Millennials is where the proven principles of Ken Blanchard’s “Situational Leadership” framework for employee development can come into play. Adapting our leadership styles to fit individual employee needs will be one of the most important methods you can use to engage Millennial employees.

According to Blanchard, the four sequential leadership styles in the Situational Leadership model include directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating. These leadership styles are aligned with four sequential stages of individual employee development:

• low competence/high commitment
• some competence/low commitment
• higher competence and/or variable commitment
• high competence/high commitment.

Efforts to empower and engage employees, especially Millennials, must build on what motivates them. How we lead them to be productive members of an organization is an integral part of that motivation.  MT


Dr. Morris Massey, What You Are is Where You Were When, 1986 video program, Enterprise Media,

Christine Hassler, “Bridging the Generational Divide Attracting, Engaging, and Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce” (keynote),

“Situational Leadership” training program, The Ken Blanchard Companies,

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


5:06 pm
May 15, 2017
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Training Today’s Workforce for Tomorrow’s Needs

Just as the Internet of Things (Iot) is transforming industrial operations, maintenance roles are also being transformed.

Just as the Internet of Things (Iot) is transforming industrial operations, maintenance roles are also being transformed.

With equipment and building systems growing smarter, those who operate and maintain them must do likewise.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Although we’ve heard that the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to transform the industry, in some cases, it already has. Today, more and more businesses are implementing IoT-enabled equipment and generating an ever-growing influx of data that has the potential to transform their operations. For industry applications, the value of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is expected to continue to grow at an astounding rate. While that should come as no surprise, there is one important caveat.

According to Mohamed Shishani of Schneider Electric’s Building & IT Business (Nashville, TN,, IoT-driven data can help reduce reactive maintenance, boost preventive problem solving, and improve efficiency and productivity, but only when the workforce is prepared to use the insights to make better decisions. “It’s imperative,” he stated, “that plant operators and facility managers ensure their electrical-maintenance personnel are trained and prepared to operate and apply IoT-driven data to improve operational performance. If not, they’ll surely be left behind.”

As Schneider Electric’s “IoT 2020 Business Report” noted, operational and management professionals in buildings, factories, global supply chains, and cities must be able to turn data into actionable insights about the efficiency of machines or production lines. Collecting and analyzing this operational intelligence can help the workforce improve business strategies that drive performance and sustainability.

Shishani reports that industry is already seeing the effects of an internet-connected, internet-dependent world—and that business leaders are paying close attention to its impact on their operations. In fact, based on Schneider Electric’s research, 70% of decision makers have seen the business value of IoT through its ability to create new opportunities for their companies, improve the efficiency of their businesses, and deliver long-term business benefits.

‘Smart’ systems require a smarter workforce

Shishani pointed to circuit breakers as a good example of evolving technology. As he described the situation, “Once upon a time, a circuit breaker was just a circuit breaker, an innocuous black box that was rarely considered in the day-to-day operations of a plant or facility. Today, though, IoT-enabled circuit breakers can provide real-time and historical trending data, allowing facility managers to easily monitor their plant or building’s electrical systems.”

These smart systems provide improved visibility into operations and allow users to control everything from specific lines of equipment to the entire industrial process, locally and remotely. Proactive maintenance, based on predictive decision making, lets personnel troubleshoot and remedy issues in real time, before operations are affected. That approach reduces system downtime and opens the doors for more regularly scheduled preventive maintenance.

The collected data can provide a wealth of useful information, including circuit-breaker status, energy use, and important system notifications. With just a simple Internet connection, the information is readily available on an operator’s computer screen. Cloud-based solutions provide personnel with access to data through apps on their mobile devices, making the decision-making process even faster and more reliable than is possible with conventional systems.

Note that while IoT-enabled tools such as these offer great potential to improve a plant’s productivity, they can only be maximized if personnel are able to properly use them. As plants and facilities evolve to require constant monitoring, maintenance staff must be trained to use stationary and mobile equipment. Decisions, in turn, can be made anytime and anywhere, saving time and eliminating the need for on-site visits.

IoT-enabled-tool training

With data becoming more useful, traditional methods of performing work may no longer be relevant. The increase in data, in general, suggests the volume of it specific to electrical systems is likely to increase as well. Furthermore, just as the IoT is transforming industrial operations, the role of maintenance personnel is also being transformed.

Consider, for example, building systems that control a plant’s power, automation, safety, communication, and security. According to Shishani, the fact that such systems are becoming more integrated means electrical contractors and maintenance technicians are becoming even more pertinent to the industrial system. In his view, as their roles and responsibilities continue to expand and involve functions beyond traditional electrical work, they should be encouraged to:

• Use new skills to gather and analyze data to ensure decisions are made quickly and accurately.
• Offer solutions that take into account the energy usage of a  particular process or facility to ensure energy efficiency and sustainable operations.
• Embrace the transformation of their role as IIoT-solutions providers by expanding their knowledge of IoT and how to use the resulting data.

In light of the aging workforce, industries will be challenged to engage personnel in new technologies while training newcomers—who most likely will be Millennials—to build on existing digital skills and apply them to a new environment that is always on, constantly connected, and moving quickly.

“Whether IoT will drastically reshape the industry can no longer be questioned,” Shishani explained. “The workforce must be surrounded by the right tools and training to be able to harness all the possibilities IoT has to offer.” MT

Mohamed Shishani is go-to-market strategy and launch manager for Schneider Electric’s Building & IT Business. For more information, visit

Tools for Success

By Mohamed Shishani, Schneider Electric

Training personnel to interpret the influx of data produced by IoT technology is critical to ensure businesses are prepared for an evolving industry. As younger workers enter the workforce, businesses must evolve with the types of resources they are providing their employees. With the right training and digital tools, companies can set them up for success.

The first step is to provide employees with the knowledge they need—right at their fingertips. In the age of IoT, giving the workforce access to the right information when, where, and how it’s needed will be paramount to the entire operation’s success. Businesses are using innovative digital tools to make sure information is readily available and easily accessible. With online portals, personnel will have access to product information, training, and technical support tools designed to make the information-gathering process easier so they can get back to their jobs more quickly. Through a combination of apprentice libraries, videos, interactive technical support, training materials and up-to-date information on the latest codes and standards, the workforce will be equipped with all of the information needed to generate informed operational decisions.

In addition, design and/or implement the right types of programs to train and develop your workforce. For businesses with an eye on IoT, training programs should be deployed to keep employees on their game. It’s important that new employees be trained to leverage tools to help them interpret data. An emphasis should also be placed on providing existing employees with training on new technologies to ensure they are able to complete their jobs with the efficiency needed to keep up with IoT technology.

Finally, incorporate safety into ongoing training. When a job involves electrical equipment, it’s imperative that safety be part of the ongoing discussion. Safe electrical practices, such as how to approach a tripped circuit breaker and how to mitigate arc-flash hazards, can be the difference between a near-miss incident and harmful electrical accident. Emergency response and CPR training are also extremely relevant and important for plant and facility operations employees. OSHA and other regulatory agencies require emergency-response training for specific occupations every one to
two years.


2:55 pm
April 18, 2017
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On The Floor: Management Rapport? Thumbs Up and Down

Mechanical and electrical plant roomsBy Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

For some reason, the following question about management rapport really kicked MT Reader Panelists into high gear this month. Lots of them (more than usual) wanted to express their opinions (some in far more detail than they typically provide). The result is that we can’t include all responses on these two pages. 

Q: What was the state of rapport between their sites’ plant-floor reliability and/or maintenance teams (or their clients’/customers’ teams) and upper management, and why?

Here are a few of the responses we received. As usual, they’ve been edited for clarity and brevity.

Industry Consultant, West…
Management rapport [with maintenance and reliability teams] is one of the main indicators I use when working at a new [client] site. If there’s tension between these departments, there will be communication breakdowns—virtually every time.  Performance will suffer greatly, and each group will blame the others.

In general, I find a good, strong, open, and honest working relationship in less than 30% of my clients’ operations.  If I can resolve issues between the groups, and improve relationships, the parts of the maintenance and reliability puzzle fall into place rather easily. In the age of e-mail, texting, and voicemail, however, it’s much easier for silos to exist and not handle issues face-to-face.  In my opinion, it seems to be getting easier to let site relationships erode rather than repair them.

Maintenance Technician, Discrete Mfg, North America…
Not the greatest here (always a struggle because upper management is constantly looking to cut corners). They call it risk management, yet when something goes wrong, they panic. Some of our older equipment has been paid for many times over. Now, though, we’re into a stage where it’s hard to get parts for this equipment. We [our team] really tries to stress the importance of preventive maintenance (PMs) and taking care of things, as in “if you take care of your stuff, your stuff will take care of you.” But it becomes frustrating when that idea seems to fall on deaf ears and they [management] seem to dodge another bullet. (This opinion is based on personal experience; I’ve been working in this plant for many years.)

Industry Supplier, Southeast…
With regard to my customers, management rapport, in most cases, is still not very good. I work with a lot of plants where plant-floor staff need help, but must get upper management to buy in. Most preventive-maintenance (PM) personnel don’t have the knowledge to make their case. When I’m able to meet with both sides at the table and pitch ROI (return on investment), it seems that they begin to understand each other better, i.e., that the ROI for Management is dollars and the ROI of PM teams is reduced failures and workload.

Reliability Specialist, Power Sector, Midwest…
Our team has an excellent rapport with all levels of the organization.  The secret to good rapport is to not only talk the talk, but to walk the talk. The site’s PdM/PM program mission is to use our knowledge and appropriate technologies on the facility’s assets to provide the operating group safe, efficient, and reliable equipment.  In the same manner, we are to use our knowledge and available technologies to safely and effectively reduce the facility’s operating and maintenance costs.

Industry Supplier, Midwest…
It’s ugly (management rapport, that is)! Many of my plant-floor customers have lost budgets and been reduced to performing reactive work, as opposed to proactive maintenance. They’re dealing with plants that are already in bad shape and disrepair, and answering to management that still wants to run full production. They have no inventories, no spares, and no orders for items with extremely long lead times. It’s not a pretty picture. One ray of hope [a slight improvement] is that site management is now being forced to go to corporate for monies and also discuss why equipment was allowed to go so long without repair. The overall situation, though, leads to pain and agony for those having to do work, that, if it had been done when needed, would have been a simple fix, not a catastrophic fix.  

Industry Consultant, North America…
There’s no guarantee that upper management has a solid understanding of reliability excellence. This is especially true if no executive-level stakeholder exists. Quite often, the focus from the top is solely on cost management (not on failure prevention or defect elimination.) In my experience as a consultant, a common complaint at the working level has focused on incoherent, ongoing initiatives that aren’t solidly linked to goals. This issue could be resolved if long-range plans were created based, say, on ranking of each initiative by priority and benefit and then stretching them out over a period of time. Leadership should encourage these types of plans for excellence, and involve plant personnel in their definition.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…
As noted in some of my past Reader Panel responses, maintenance used to be the redheaded stepchild at our facility. The problem started with the fact that plant managers and senior managers seemed to come and go [change] frequently. Because of this, “flavor of the month” programs were the norm. This changed with the arrival of an outside consulting firm. When upper management listened to suggestions and our plant-floor personnel saw that their ideas were listened to, maintenance took ownership. This made a big difference with proactive versus reactive work. We’re now getting our preventive maintenance work done as well. Things are looking good.

Reliability Engineering Leader, Process Mfg, South…
If I had been asked this question a couple of years ago, I would have characterized the relationship between management and plant-floor teams as indifferent. It wasn’t adversarial, but more a matter of management viewing maintenance as a necessary evil than a competitive advantage.  That has changed significantly. Last year, leadership announced PM Completion Rate (with a target of 95%) as one of the top metrics for the company. That was a real game changer. Suddenly, everybody was interested in preventive maintenance—it had become part of their personal-performance expectations. Respect for the importance of scheduled maintenance compliance made a dramatic shift, and we exceeded our PM-completion target.  This coming year, unscheduled asset downtime is being added to the top company metrics and will be reviewed on a monthly basis by executive management. This is a clear example of how leadership from the top can really drive change. 

Industry Consultant, International
In answer to your question, this situation [management rapport problems] is brought on by local company politics, lack of training, and basic mismanagement among, other things.

While I’ve worked with various clients, including some where severe adversarial relationships existed between Maintenance and Production/ Upper Management, by coaching ALL responsible parties that state of the art reliability and maintenance saves money, increases OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), improves uptime, and increases productivity, etc. I have convinced maintenance and top management that maintenance/reliability is a business partner NOT a “ we break it/you fix it” stepchild.

After training of top-level maintenance, production and sometimes even general management personnel by professionals in reliability and maintenance management, common goals are identified and cooperation is much improved. Accountants watch the bottom line weighing these additional consultant/training costs against expense reductions and production improvements. Results are that teamwork builds and floor-operations to staff-level relationships smooth out.

“Equipment Ownership,” in selected cases, brings hourly production and maintenance crafts together and reinforces the hourly–personnel through management relationship. Although this has, at times raised, the eyebrows of union officers, they usually go along when the benefits to all are obvious.

Yes, I have seen too many operations where maintenance and production departments, which usually have the ear of top management, DO NOT have a smooth relationship. However, with the proper training and education of all concerned, this can usually be much improve to the economic and management benefit of all.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest
With regard to management rapport, for several months, maintenance (trades) forepersons at our institution have had to attend not only new-construction meetings, but even small-project meetings. The idea is that we (Maintenance) can add our concerns before, during, and after projects are completed. The problem with all this is how much time it takes. With so many projects and associated meetings [at our site] and the number of normal maintenance-type meetings we have, we almost always have at least one supervisor sitting in meetings 30 to 40 hours per week. Work for anybody attending these meetings gets pushed back and can delay repairs. It also creates more work for the people not attending.

Another problem we have is that only the person attending the meeting knows what was discussed and/or is coming up. Consequently, that individual has knowledge that other supervisors don’t. The system would work a lot better if one person could attend all the meetings and email a recap of each event so every supervisor would know where each project stands and what’s coming up, whether in his or her area/zone or not.

While most meetings cover such a wide variety of subjects that only 10% to 20% of their agendas can be devoted to individual trades, attendees must listen to everything. It would be better, if you were going to have a one-hour meeting, to break it down into four parts, i.e., plumbing, electrical, mechanical, architectural/structural. This way, a supervisor could attend only the part of the meeting during which his or her area was discussed, not the entire meeting, and, if email recaps were sent out, could still keep up with everything that transpires.

Engineer, Industry Supplier, Southeast
Management’s responsibilities are meeting production deadlines and goals while keeping operating costs to a minimum. The relationship between management and maintenance depends on how management views their maintenance program. Some management personnel look at maintenance as a cost center while others recognize it as a cost savings mechanism or in best case, the profit center. Understanding that maintenance is a part of the cost of the product being created softens the financial burden but also gives management a better perspective regarding the value their maintenance teams bring to the table.

Ours is an equipment-service operation that’s deeply involved in working with our customers to improve their PdM programs. As such we continue to invest a great deal of time educating upper management regarding the benefits of early detection of issues that will lead to premature failures as well as on-going inefficiencies. The more informed management becomes about heading off potential problems, and the tools and preventive measures available, the more they become involved with their maintenance teams. Informed managers will interact with their teams quicker and to a greater extent. Sometimes comparing the benefits of outsourcing major PdM activities is more appealing and acceptable to management personnel as it leaves their operators and technicians time to complete their daily routine assignments.

Maintenance personnel generally understand the need for planned routine maintenance. Their relationship with upper management is greatly improved when their leaders are also informed. Education is the key to improving the relationship between upper management and their maintenance teams as well as a way of improving efficiency and operational success of the facility. MT

Tip of the Month

“Add RED and GREEN colors to the face of standard pressure gauges. This allows anyone who looks at or takes readings on a single gauge (or dozens) to tell right away if a pressure is too low or too high. I’ve worked on equipment and in test labs where this little addition could have saved a lot of time and money, and helped any operator.”

Tipster: Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest (an MT Reader Panelist)

What about you?
Tips and tricks that you use in your work could be value-added news to other reliability and maintenance pros. Let us help you share them. Email your favorites to Who knows? You might see your submission(s) highlighted in this space at some point. (Anyone can play. You don’t need to be an
MT Reader Panelist.)