Looking back on a life in maintenance

Oct. 7, 2022
In this Big Picture Interview, our good friend Mike Macsisak has the next phase of his life in view, and looks back at how he got here.

Plant Services met veteran millwright and newly minted predictive maintenance technician Michael Macsisak close to a decade ago at a conference session showcasing plant workers who made the leap from reactive maintenance modes to proactive. Mike has checked in occasionally ever since, as his career evolved from process manufacturing to metals and mining, and then back to manufacturing to finish out a lengthy career. In this final interview, Mike looks back at some of his favorite maintenance wins and looks forward to life beyond asset care and reliability.

PS: When did you know that you were ready to end this chapter of your work life?

MM: I’ve tried to retire two or three times before and I wasn’t ready, but this time I know I’m ready. My desire is waning, you know what I mean? I spoke at conventions, I wrote magazine articles for Plant Services, and in general spread my knowledge across the board. I reached all my goals and plateaus and now it’s time to pass the baton and to enjoy life. I gave up a lot of fun to get where I got, and now it’s time to make up.

PS: How is the work of a millwright or a maintenance tech different now than when you started? And do you think those changes are everywhere, or just at plants that sort of get it?

MM: I started in maintenance 42 years ago, and I’ve seen changes that are unbelievable with technology and the big emphasis on safety. When I started out doing this, safety was whatever. Now it’s safety orientated, and with all the technology today, what’s state of the art this year is now obsolete next year, so you just have to keep catching up and keep going. There’s no limit to how far to reach.

PS: What are some of the projects that you’re proudest of?

MM: I redesigned some machines, and I’ve changed bearing styles and chain drives. On two of my machines that I did eight years ago, the same bearings are still on and the same chains still on with no wear. The bearings and chains haven’t even worn off the sprockets yet. They’re still on there.

So I’ve learned it’s not about price, it’s about putting on the right piece for the right piece of equipment for the job it does, and if you do it right and maintain it, it’ll last for a very long time.

PS: Tell me again about your big win in the mine.

MM: When I got to the mine, I went through everything above ground and below ground. On one particular machine that was vital to the mine, I caught the bearings and misalignment, and it was just about a total failure mode. Failure probably would have closed the mine for at least a week or two. I never really figured out how much money the savings were, but it was huge.

People wonder, how can there be production in a mine? And I’m like, well, for the time you get the rock until you get it to the mill, if anything breaks down in-between, the whole process shuts down. When people are crying for material, we have to do our best to get it to them.

PS: What advice do you have for people who are just starting out in this field?

MM: If you’re starting out, you stay with it. Get all the schooling you can because you need to have paper to move forward. And never give up. That’s what I’ve done. When I switched over to PdM I was late in my career, and I just thought about it and that was the best thing I ever did. It made me learn so much more and advance so much more that it was unbelievable.

PS: Is that the same thing you would say to people who are also, like you said, in sort of a middle or late stage of their career? Who feel like they’re in a rut, or they just want to like mark time to retirement?

MM: Yes. You’ve got to keep moving forward. Accept change, change with technology, never look back, and expand and expand and expand. Everything you learn will never hurt you at all. It’ll only make you better.

Oh, and I want to thank everybody that I worked with over all the years that helped me advance my career and helped me with PdM. As a last note, before I head into retirement, thank you all.

This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

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