Get ready for the 2015 SMRP Annual Conference!

The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) is gearing up for the start of its 23rd annual conference, taking place this week in Cincinnati. This event is an annual highlight, bringing together maintenance, reliability, and physical asset management professionals from around the world to exchange best practices and insights into what's coming next that will change the industry.

There's a lot going on, from keynotes to facility tours. The unofficial kickoff took place Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium as the Cincinnati Bengals delivered a come-from-behind overtime victory against the reigning NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks with plenty of conference-goers attending the game. Here's more of what to look forward to this week:

1. Event keynotes. Keynotes present the opportunity to tackle the big topics of the day, and this year's SMRP keynotes tackle the twin topics of leadership and workforce change.

This year's opening keynote is from Cam Marston, a the leading expert on the impact of generational change and its impact on the marketplace. As an author, columnist, blogger, and lecturer, he imparts a clear understanding of how generational demographics are changing the landscape of business, a topic that is very timely as the industrial manufacturing workforce continues to undergo rapid change.

The closing keynote is from dynamic presenter Ricky Smith, on the topic Proven Leadership Concepts Made Simple. He is known for helping people and their organizations succeed in transitioning from their current state to a proactive state, resulting in sustainable culture change, optimal asset reliability, and overall lower costs.

2. Track sessions. Each year, track leaders cover the latest trends and practices designed to improve maintenance and reliability operations. Returning this year will be a special focus in Track Six on physical asset management, as well as a wide variety of sessions that focus on the five pillars of information essential to the success of maintenance and reliability professionals. You'll probably catch me in the sessions that explore how big data is changing the way M&R professionals approach their work.

3. Workshops. There are 24 pre- and post-conference workshops available that are designed to enhance the skills of maintenance and reliability professionals. From planning and scheduling to forensic analysis of electric machine systems, from building better CBM programs to developing the next generation of leaders at your facility, do your best to take advantage of one or more of the event workshops.

4. CMRP of the Year awards. This year's winners have just been announced on the SMRP Website.

Rising Leader Award Winner: James Daniel Rader, CMRP, currently the Power Group Quality Assurance Supervisor at John Zink Hamworthy Combustion in Tulsa, OK. Rader uses his CMRP certification to dive deeper into analytics and root cause analysis in his current position, which has led to an expansion of his reliability-focused team and a greater appreciation for his education as a young engineer from veterans in the industry.

Veteran Professional Award Winner: Nezar Alshammasi, CMRP, the Director of Saudi Aramco’s Corporate Maintenance Services, where he provides strategic direction to elevate maintenance and reliability performance within the largest energy supplier to the world. He is the Chairman and one of the founding members of the Gulf Society of Maintenance Professionals (GSMP) and Vice Chairman of the Global Forum for Maintenance and Asset Management (GFMAM).

Be sure to check out Plant Services' exclusive interviews with 2014 Award Winners Mary Jo Cherney (http://www.plantservices.com/articles/2015/goal-zero-breakdowns/) and Ramesh Gulati (http://www.plantservices.com/articles/2015/big-picture-interview-reliability-is-long-term/).

5. Facility tours. From Kings Island and Great American Ballpark to MillerCoors Trenton Brewery and a tour of the FANUC Robotics Central Regional Office, the conference committee has arranged exclusive tours that run the gamut of maintenance and reliability approaches. As a Reds fan, I'm tempted to take the ballpark tour. However, whether you're interested in how to maintain thrill-park rides or would like to know how RCM is being applied at MillerCoors, these off-site tours are a great way to supplement the formal week's activities.