Fix It Forward All Stars tackle the Maintenance Crisis

Joel Leonard recognizes industry leaders and organizers who are nurturing the next generation of talent.

By Joel Leonard, contributing editor

What we glorify is what we get, right? Just look at the explosion of poker players after being featured on numerous TV shows. So the purpose of this column is to shine the light on the innovators and pioneers of maintenance and reliability technologies by announcing this year’s selection of Fix It Forward All Stars.

With the recent passing of Steve Jobs and numerous other lesser-known but very important M&R industry leaders, such as John Moubray, author of “RCM2,” and Willard Moore, the first Fix It Forward lifetime achievement honoree, and with millions in industry retiring, there’s even more need to support leaders and organizations who are leading major initiatives to fix it forward and nurture the next generation of talent to innovate, improve, and advance our industry by overcoming stereotypes, obstacles, budget limitations, and societal negative perceptions that inhibit our performance.

Have you heard of Carl Peters of Lincoln Electric (www.lincolnelectric.com)? SkillTV interviewed him three years ago when the technology was in its infancy. His team of innovators has been working to expand, upgrade, and mass produce Lincoln’s virtual welding systems to accelerate the learning process so more talent pools are developed to weld. Visit www.skilltv.net to see more videos on this new method to make welding accessible, fun, and interesting to all ages. If you are fortunate enough to have an educational outlet to possess or acquire such a system, encourage them not to leave it locked up in a classroom, but carefully take it to the shopping malls, community festivals, PTA meetings, industry conferences, tradeshows, and high schools so that the masses will discover its capabilities. Hopefully corporate resources may also be engaged to provide scholarships, jobs, and perhaps mentoring programs to foster more budding talent.

University of Cincinnati Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems’ (www.imscenter.net) director, Dr. Jay Lee, hosted the 2011 World Congress of Engineering Asset Management (www.wceam.com). His work to push the envelope of lithium batteries and develop smart hoses for electric vehicles will help us transition to more reliable vehicles with alternative fuel sources. These are just a couple of the dozens of applications he and his cadre of very capable graduate students are developing, along with software, algorithms, and other advanced technology that will help propel the next generation of M&R products.

Shine the light on the innovators and pioneers of maintenance and reliability technologies.

Have you heard of Deborah Wince-Smith, CEO of the Council on Competitiveness (www.compete.org)? She is a regular fixture on CNBC and other business, national, and international news outlets. She recently spoke at the Sustainable Manufacturing Mini-Summit and the 13th U.S.-Brazil Innovation Learning Laboratory, where government officials, business leaders, academics, and labor leaders participated in a lively exchange of ideas to advance sustainable business practices and energy initiatives and uncover suggestions to address the population boom, as we will need the resources of 2.5 planets to meet the world’s growth needs. Wince-Smith’s team just hosted a national manufacturing summit and published recommendations on how to advance U.S. manufacturing.

Gene Holder, NIM metals instructor at Weaver Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina, deserves special recognition too. This passionate educator has been in the trenches battling stereotypes, attitudes, and budget cuts and working with parents, administrators, employers, and even congressional leaders to fight to keep his program funded and to convert traditionally “dud” students into scholarship winners, high-earning employees, and future M&R leaders.

Do you remember watching “The Jetsons” and dreaming of one day being able to transport via a personal jet plane locally and to galaxies beyond? Well, perhaps the FAA, NASA, and other regulatory agencies, along with technology shortfalls, have grounded capability for now; however, the innovation and vision of Bill James, founder of JPods (www.jpods.com), will provide a stepping stone, if given enough green lights to proceed. He is working to create ski-lift-type monorail systems that run on self-powering electricity via the solar panels above the track to transport people, parcels, or even refuse throughout a network on systems that are much more fuel efficient. West Point, Duke University, and cities in Saudi Arabia and China are in the process of exploring pilot projects.

If more U.S. regions provide green lights, projects such as this new transport system and others will stimulate thousands of engineering, construction, and maintenance jobs. Know of others that need to be included in the Fix it Forward All Stars? Let me know.

Email Joel Leonard at joel@skilltv.net.

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