Trending topics and influential ideas that shaped the industry in 2018

Thomas Wilk says it’s time to look backward a bit in order to look ahead.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

What do you think of at the end of the year? Holidays? Cold and snowy weather? Vacations in warm places?

One of my favorite signs of winter is the explosion of year-end Top 10 lists – so much so that we’re now into our fourth year of assembling our own version, the now-annual Best of Plant Services. Which types of articles and blog posts did you engage with the most? 

1. Reliability. If there is one topic of conversation in our pages this year that attracted the most attention from readers, this is it. What is reliability? Who owns it? How do you measure it? How do you find people who specialize in it? And then, once found, how do you keep those people?

Interest in this topic heated up right away in the first three months of the year and simmered through summer and into fall. In January, John Cray indicated that a fair assessment of reliability at your plant had to include the perspectives of people who were not always part of the maintenance or reliability function: operators, tradespeople, and storeroom staff. This was echoed the next month by Joe Anderson, who argued that “reliability is owned by everyone in the organization” – a shared responsibility that often snaps into focus once the sources of production losses are better understood.

This focus peaked in August with a cover story by Victor Foster, a reliability engineer and CMRP at Lucite, who laid out his four-point strategy for building a reliability program from scratch. “One of the big challenges in trying to deliver success as a reliability team is that it is difficult to show an organization the value of reliability,” he writes. “It isn’t enough to just get reliability right; successful teams advertise their accomplishments.”

2. Cultural change. The results from our 2018 Workforce Survey were revealed in June, bookended by hot takes from columnists Doc Palmer, David Berger, and Tom Moriarty on culture and leadership. Doc observed that “being weak on craft skills makes it more difficult to gain the respect of the craftpersons,” and Tom argued that leaders earn respect by attending as much to how team members feel as to what they know.

3. Catching small problems before they grow larger. The topic of predictive maintenance is a perennial favorite in this regard. However, readers this year widened the scope of their engagement to include articles on blockchain, cybersecurity, water management, and gender equity while remaining interested in core technical areas such as compressors, bearings, motors and drives, and cloud- and IIoT-based technologies.

The full Best of PS roundup includes the most-read posts of the year from our popular blog “Plant Nexus,” a collection of fun, strange, and fascinating projects that has proved to be popular with craft hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers. (The belt-sander drag race was my personal favorite from that blog this year.)

Here’s to a terrific 2019!

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