For this month’s column I was trying to think of a metaphor that would capture my overall impressions from the 2022 Plant Services PdM Survey.
This year two themes stood out. The first was the surprising level of continuity between much of the data from 2020 through to this year, despite the massive trauma and business disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The second was that this year’s survey results were different enough that they genuinely had their own flavor and personality compared to those from previous years.
Now, if you know me, you know that I am a massive fan of Doctor Who, the long-running sci-fi adventure TV show. The program got its start in 1963 on BBC1, which was three years before Star Trek premiered in the U.S., and features a character called the Doctor who travels the universe in a space and time machine (a ship that is bigger on the inside), fighting monsters and righting wrongs with the help of a rotating cast of companions.
Many fans my age got their start with this show in the late ’70s or early ’80s, when we discovered it on our local PBS station, and for eight years I’ve managed to keep my passion for Doctor Who from spilling over too much into these editor’s notes. However, the concept and metaphor of regeneration as featured on the show is appropriate in this case.
Back in 1966, when the lead actor on the show declared his intent to leave the role, the show’s producers developed a concept that would maintain continuity while refreshing further stories: they decided that the Doctor had the ability to regenerate both body and personality while retaining all previous memories. In short, a new lead actor could be cast as needed while keeping a profitable show both fresh and on the air.
The funny thing about regenerations, at least according to Doctor Who story logic, is that it is not immediately apparent when one is on the horizon. The adventure begins like always, with something small being out of place, and then expands in scope until both Doctor and companions are wrapped in a cosmic struggle. The only way out is for the Doctor to “die” and become a new person with an ever growing body of memory.
This year’s Plant Services PdM Survey feels very much like the other side of an industry-wide regeneration, with the last survey having been conducted in a pre-COVID world. Over the past 30 months there may have been changes to your team and your plant, or to your approach to maintenance (reactive vs. proactive, on-site vs. remote, etc.), or to your personal job title and responsibilities.
Yet here we are in 2022, with this year’s survey showing a remarkable consistency in industry’s attitude toward PdM. Most people continue to be mildly satisfied or dis-satisfied with their programs. Most people wish they had more skilled workers on-site who know their way around PdM tools. But most realize they’re here for the long haul and are ready for the next regeneration, whenever it comes to pass.
See you at the next regeneration.
This story originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.