Now's the time for maintenance innovation

Contributing Editor Joel Leonard says now is our chance to fix it forward.

By Joel Leonard, contributing editor

The silver lining of an economic downturn is that the status quo is moved aside and there is room for discovery and innovation. With a new U.S. administration entering office this month with promises to invest in U.S. infrastructure, I’m hopeful that our enormous deferred maintenance backlog can be worked down before it is beyond repair.

To uncover new approaches and solutions, and to challenge organizations that are already working to fix these problems to do more, I’m now traveling around the world and just returned from Amsterdam and Milan.

During my speech at the Salteco 60th Anniversary Celebration in Milan on Nov. 24, 2008, I said, “Despite this joyous occasion, I must deliver some somber news: We are in the midst of a major maintenance crisis and innovative companies like yours can and must address these issues. Perhaps with advances in nanotech and biotech, applications to affordably preserve the vestiges of our past can be developed while also moving forward and implementing new reliability systems for tomorrow.”

This was the right time, the right crowd to challenge and the right location to deliver this message. Believe it or not, I was standing beneath beautiful 500-year-old Italian frescoes whose pigments are now fading, flaking and deteriorating. This destruction is caused by water damage from recent roof leaks in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology.

The Italian Renaissance was an era of reawakening that sparked a rebirth in craftsmanship and implementing the latest technologies. It also paid homage to the best of Greek and Roman cultural advances. We need another rebirth like that to awaken the public to a Maintenance and Reliability Renaissance.

And the right crowd, more than 150 technicians, engineers, scientists and other business leaders, were in attendance under the stewardship of Stefano Salvetti, CEO of Salteco Corp. This company was founded in the rubble of World War II and has become a major multinational industrial supplier and innovator in robotic welding and maintenance support services. Salvetti has led numerous efforts in Italy and throughout Europe to upgrade maintenance performance standards. He also has founded the Salvetti Foundation, which provides significant cash awards for the best maintenance presentations at European maintenance conferences.

The week before, I had the wonderful opportunity to contribute at an EAM conference produced by the Marcus Evans Co. in the Amsterdam Hilton. More than 16 reliability presentations and several panel discussions were delivered to an audience of engineers, technicians and managers from numerous European countries, including Finland, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Croatia, England, Ireland and others. Selected PowerPoint slides from that event are posted on my Skill TV blog (http://skilltvtechnutia.blogspot.com/).

It was wonderful event. Sadly, there were only a few production workers and no one from finance or upper management was in attendance. With performance increases and advances, it’s a shame that only engineering leaders heard these sessions. Wim Vancauwenberghe, executive director of BEMAS.org, shared survey results polled from 40 major European companies. About 60% of the respondents thought there was a significant gap between operations and top executive leadership.

But that’s about to change, too, if another maintenance evangelist has his way. John Woodhouse, president of the Institute of Asset Management, officially launched Publicly Accepted Standard 55 (PAS55) on Nov. 25, 2008, so more executives aren’t measured simply by the short-term pressures of quarterly stock results, but also encouraged and held accountable to implement better asset-care strategies and reliability systems to ensure sustainable business performance tomorrow. Woodhouse hopes to encourage more executives to avoid being ignorant or apathetic of the challenges faced in their business operations. PAS55 can be a key step to help lawmakers craft legislation to remove the inefficiency gap separating the board room from the boiler room. For more information on PAS55, check PAS55.net and for more details of my trips, check the SkillTV Blog at SkillTV.net.

E-mail Contributing Editor Joel Leonard at joel@skilltv.com.

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