Signs that efforts to revitalize maintenance are working

July 20, 2005
Joel Leonard is attempting to successfully revitalize the maintenance profession and he lists the signs we'll see to show that his efforts are working.

Aren't we saturated with sports and entertainment? Video gaming is now a billion-dollar industry, and more than 100,000 kids tried out for American Idol.

Meanwhile, experts say we need $56 billion in bridge repairs and more than $600 million of deferred maintenance is needed in our national park system, but thousands of good-paying jobs nationwide in maintenance go unfilled. Millions of skilled workers are about to retire while Congress investigates steroids in the veins of million-dollar athletes. Businesses nationwide focus only on day-to-day changes in stock values while they add to chronic backlogs of maintenance repairs.

 For years, I felt that I was beating my head against a wall. It has been hard trying to get people to listen and understand that if we don't change where we are going, we are going to end up where we are headed, which is a not a pleasant place. Our society is so focused on fulfilling hoop dreams, gridiron dreams, and fields of dreams (if you build it they will come) that we don't even consider maintenance “pipe” dreams (if we don't fix it, everyone will leave).

 I’m elated that many in the media and some industry leaders are beginning to listen, but we have lots of work ahead of us if we’re truly going to advance our profession and thus elevate our economy.
Yesterday, a reporter asked me how I will know if our efforts to revitalize maintenance are successful. I responded by saying that if any of the activities below start to occur, then we will know we are moving forward. I beg and plead all of you to join in and help us achieve some of these pipe dreams. The world would be a better place if:

  • Maintenance was perceived as cool.
  • Maintenance truly worked with, not against, operations.
  • The decision to have no training had to be justified as vigorously as the decision to train.
  • 100% (heck, 90%) uptime was the rule and not the exception.
  • Executives spent more time in the boiler room and really knew how their businesses work.
  • Stockholders held management accountable for implementing long-term maintenance strategies.
  • Maintenance experts testified before Congress to report on the State of the Union's infrastructure.
  • Presidential candidates were questioned about their long-term maintenance strategies for the country. That is much more important than the MTV question asked in a recent election, “Do you wear boxers or briefs?”
  • A new cabinet position WAS called the Secretary of Maintenance or Reliability Czar.
  • Hollywood produced an ER-type television show on facilities engineering. (How many more cop, lawyer and doctor shows do we need?)
  • There were books about maintenance heroes.
  • There was a Maintenance Hall of Fame.
  • Everyone reading this encouraged two young people to pursue the maintenance and engineering profession.
  • Maintenance was truly understood and valued by our society.

Want to help achieve these pipe dreams? Spread the word. Pass this article on for others outside of maintenance to read. Volunteer to speak at local schools about why maintenance is actually a very cool profession to pursue. Invite your company executives for a tour of your operation. Teach your HR staff about what a maintenance professional actually needs to know, so they will know who they need to recruit and hire. Attend political events and ask candidates about their maintenance strategy.

If more of us toot our horns, others will take notice and we will then make a difference! What do you think?
E-mail Joel Leonard at [email protected]

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