The future of SMRP ¬ Upgrading the skill sets of maintenance and reliability professionals

SMRP is building industry partnerships to improve training and certification

Dec. 4, 2023
"We don't just want to provide professional certification. We want to provide knowledge."

Rick Baldrige, CMRP, CAMA, has worked at Cargill for over 40 years, most recently as the company's Global Reliability Leader. He has also served as chair of the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP). Before retiring, Rick spoke with Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk at the SMRP Annual Conference. The pair talked about the future of SMRP, where the organization and the conference is headed, and SMRP's aproach to training and certification.

Listen to Rick Baldrige on The Tool Belt Podcast

PS: Beyond the new online modules, you mentioned there's some other activities going on too with new Middle Eastern affiliates, and also the MOUs with other organizational partners.

RB: Yeah, another focus of ours this year because of our international growth –right now we have 7,400 members, and of that membership about 52% of them reside outside of the United States. And so our thoughts are, how can we better connect with our membership outside of the United States? We have created some very focused MOUs, it took us some time to really, really talk that through, and where would be the biggest advantages and what we can provide.

The Middle East is one of those interesting, I've been pretty involved with that MOU, and what I'm seeing is a tremendous, tremendous pull and participation from the Middle East. Now, for us is to continue being very involved with them to around these five pillars, because they have such a pull, but the interest over there is very, very significant. 

Another one is with ABRAMAN, which is a maintenance and reliability society somewhat similar to SMRP in Brazil. There's work that we're doing with them; we’ve got a symposium coming up working with them, again, to bring a closer relationship with them. And then the third big one that we have focused on is PEMAC, the Canadian maintenance and reliability society similar to SMRP. Their focus is on even additional certification, and certification/education, and professional certification with them. We see leveraging both them with us and us with them moving forward. 

For all three of these, a lot of work is happening in these areas, and we see it being a very mutual benefit between all the affiliates and us.

PS: One thing I've noticed in the program for the event this year is the higher number of presenters from say Saudi Aramco, probably resulting from this partnership. I think there were at least two yesterday on the calendar, there's definitely one today that I'm looking forward to seeing, and it's great to see that group come all the way over here from the Middle East, and share what they're learning.

RB: Yeah, it's really interesting, the international people from outside of the United States who come here to the conference, that’s always very exciting. You mentioned Saudi Aramco, which is an organization with very, very high standards, and always looking for additional knowledge, always looking to advance themselves. They have been a big participant within our MOU with that affiliate.

PS: Right, I've seen presentations from them at other, more user-group events like Emerson Exchange. So again, it's just super exciting to see them attending SMRP. Especially in the Canadian side too, you mentioned that there's an affiliation going on there. You've got an MOU with the Institute for Asset Management. But I was talking with someone who was from Canada last night, and something which I wasn't fully previously aware of: the CMRP as a certification does not rollover automatically into other countries’ organized institutions. So you mentioning, there's an effort to get these different associations talking is really interesting to me. I'm sure there's a lot of comparisons going on from certification to certification on what rolls over, what aligns and what doesn't.

RB: Those kinds of discussions really begin during the initial engagements when working on MOUs, and seeing the values: What's the values of SMRP? What's the values of PEMAC, in this case? And then us continuing to work together on that level of recognition to our membership and the level of recognition of their membership, to understand each other's capabilities, and what our certification offerings provide.

PS: There's one more on my list I wanted to ask you about which is the partnership with GFMAM and WPiAM. Can you talk to us about the nature of those new efforts?

RB: Yeah, the WPiAM (World Partners in Asset Management) is very focused on asset management, and maintenance and reliability. In fact, I'll say “maintenance, comma, reliability,” they are just pieces into overall asset management as would be defined by ISO 55000. And WPiAM is very focused on asset management, so it's very important for us to ensure that our membership has the opportunities to grow in asset management. In fact, our members become members of the WPiAM and then that happens for them with SMRP. And then discounted rates for certification exams, such as the CAMA, and other things like that. 

And then there's the Global Forum on Maintenance & Asset Management (GFMAM), we are very involved with them as well. That's a conglomerate of societies around the world, like PEMAC, SMRP, ABRAMAN and other similar organizations come together. And that's the Global Forum.

PS: My overall takeaway is that there's a lot of effort being put rightly so towards extending the international connections of SMRP.

RB: Yeah, that's driven largely, though by the pull. There's several countries around the world where having professional certification is a requirement of employment. And, of course, that brings a big pull, but at the same time, we don't just want to provide professional certification. We want to provide knowledge. And we want other countries to understand the wealth of our body of knowledge and take advantage of it, of the understanding and learning, which comes back to our five-pillar training session that we have right now.

PS: I was listening closely to your presentation on day one of the conference. Of the things that you walked through in that presentation, what haven't we covered yet that SMRP is also doing?

RB: Yeah, we will continue working on the conference in making it better every year. That's very, very important to us. Also the opportunities for membership that can attend the conference. And so what we work on is putting together symposiums. We have a symposium coming up with a large focus on the west of the Mississippi River. A lot of our United States membership is on the east side of the Mississippi River. Well, there's industry groups on the western side that are not on the eastern side. I mean, we're already involved with so many industry groups already, with the pursuance of more visibility on the west. We do have a symposium that we are putting together right now in Phoenix, and again it's a big opportunity for members that can't come to Orlando for a conference. It's an opportunity for them.

PS: You know, I'm remembering the last symposium in Phoenix, I was able to attend that one. And I still tell the story that the keynote speaker for Freeport-McMoRan told about the IoT solution that they used on their fleets. The initial driver of the project was to reduce CapEx by restoring and refurbishing the equipment. And he said, ironically enough, the real money driver was the improved throughput they got, because once they figured out that their vehicles were not at fault when they picked up sensor vibrations, they figured it was road flaws, and they improved the road out from the mine. What began as a fleet initiative became a throughput story. It's that kind of mining example from the West that I agree it's so valuable to get those associations involved in presenting and sharing the knowledge. To this day, it's the first IoT story I think of when I think of what happens when you put datasets together, and draw insights from them.

RB: That's actually the real key. We want to continue doing early detection, elimination of defects. And in most MMI and other type visualization, you see these individual data points that you're looking at and you're monitoring. We’ll always want to do that, it's early detection and elimination of defects. But what happens when you combine that data together, it tells you and entirely different story, and that was the message that he was trying to deliver.

PS: It was powerful, and it's the story that I tell first when people ask, “What can IoT do for condition monitoring initiatives?”

RB: It's the new gold rush.

PS: I'm noticing too at this conference, this is the first one where artificial intelligence and machine learning have matured enough where it's comprising a significant portion of the presentations. And not just as a preview of what might be coming. People are starting to deliver results on what's happening, either from vendors like IBM offering new products, to stories of condition monitoring technicians combining these datasets and using artificial intelligence to wade through the data.

RB: You will continue to see that grow exponentially. The past five years, you've seen a significant growth in that. Wait until the next five years.

PS: This is going to become the artificial intelligence conference.

RB: I think the only thing that I would like to add is why someone should join SMRP, as can be evidenced here at the conference. I think that's always a first step for anybody: come to a conference, and really take advantage of the of the learning. You're not going to leave here being a subject matter expert in any of the areas, but all of the tracks and all of the sessions that you have at your fingertips to choose upon, what you want to go see, is going to be learning. I think what happens then, is that they’re like seeds that are planted, then those seeds let you know that there's more to learn and go do that. 

Secondary is the wealth of networking. What I mean by that is, usually people come here in groups, they come here in pairs, they come here in threes to a group. And I always say, don't stay with your group. Maybe at some points of the day you guys get together and really talk about what you learned. But take advantage of the people that are around here because those people you'll find have the same challenges that you have, and you'll hear different ways to overcome some of those challenges that you might have. You'll learn as much with that as you will go into the sessions.

PS: On my way in, I was walking behind someone who was clearly here alone, and he had a very distinctive backpack, it had a couple of patches (I'm a science fiction guy, and there were Star Wars patches on there). And I've watched as he has made connections with people, clearly arriving alone and now starting to interact and get those kinds of networking benefits.

RB: My hat's off to that individual, because that takes courage, it takes a lot of courage. And the result of that, the prize of that is going to be a wealth of knowledge. Excellent.

PS: Let me ask a question about membership. Beyond this immediate event, what are some of the benefits that people can get by joining up with SMRP as formal members?

RB: Well, the primary benefit is the wealth of knowledge, of course, and the opportunity to do networking. But you also have a benefit of reduced rates or discounts with our CMRP exam, which I think everybody should take. In my company, it has not just been reliability practitioners that have taken that exam. It's been operations leaders that have taken that exam, because you can take advantage of all of the benefits of the five pillars of knowledge. And of course, we have knowledge transfer, we have the symposiums, we have a forum. As a member, you can actually type a question into the forum, and somebody within our membership of our 7,400 members will answer that, several people will answer that. And you'll get answers, probably different perspectives. Those are benefits of being an SMRP member.

PS: Excellent. I love the forum elements where you turn that potential for networking into a very simple reality. If someone needs help, they know where to go. And you've got all these certified professionals who can offer their thoughts on what's going on.

RB: The real key thing you said was a simple reality. You'll get practical answers. It's not something that you're going to find out of a book. It's something that has been translated and localized into reality.

PS: Well, let me close by saying thank you for the past year of service. You’re the outgoing chair, I know there's new one incoming in is going to steer next year's convention. And also you mentioned you're a few weeks away from retirement, so congratulations on the next step!

RB: After 44 years I'm going to miss it. A lot of people ask me if I’m ready for it? I have to answer to all of those, I don't know. I've got things planned, but I don't know. But I'm ready.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

Sponsored Recommendations

Arc Flash Prevention: What You Need to Know

March 28, 2024
Download to learn: how an arc flash forms and common causes, safety recommendations to help prevent arc flash exposure (including the use of lockout tagout and energy isolating...

Reduce engineering time by 50%

March 28, 2024
Learn how smart value chain applications are made possible by moving from manually-intensive CAD-based drafting packages to modern CAE software.

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...