Notes From The Road Lessons Learned From This Year's Industry Events

Notes from the road: Lessons learned from this year's industry events

June 14, 2023
Thomas Wilk shares hot tips from 2023’s MARCON, Xcelerate, and Leading Reliability events.

It’s hard to believe that the first half of the year is already coming to a close, but here we are. Kids are out of school for the summer. Family vacations are that much closer. And it’s almost time for that big summer concert you’ve had tickets for since last year.

This also marks the halfway point in the M&R event calendar, which kicked off in March with the MARCON event, hosted by The University of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center. After an unexpected delay last year (thanks Omicron!) it was terrific to see the event at capacity this year, with outstanding sessions and a week of great conversations and networking.

The main keynote was a one-on-one interview with engineer, executive, and author Ashleigh Walters, who was asked by her father-in-law to lead the revival of Onex, a 50-year-old industrial furnace service business based in Erie, PA. Throughout the interview, Walters explained how her focus was on knocking down silos between various functional groups and rebuilding trust between frontline employees and management. Walters also surprised conference attendees by revealing that one of her first decisions was to eliminate annual performance reviews in favor of rallying the company. To do this, she set one Wildly Important Goal for the organization, and worked with teams to re-prioritize their tasks to support that goal.

Her time at Onex was so successful that the company changed from losing money to earning a 12% profit, and three years ago the company transitioned to being 100% employee owned. You can read more from Walters in this issue’s Big Picture Interview (p.34), and hear her in an episode of our Tool Belt podcast.

Just a week later, Fluke Reliability held Xcelerate23, a thought leadership event that also focuses on innovations among the company’s PRUFTECHNIK, eMaint, and Fluke Connect brands. The highlight for me was the keynote presentation by industry expert Terri Lewis, an engineer and innovator who worked 31 years at Caterpillar and who now is focused on helping organizations with their digital transformation projects. In her keynote “Make Unplanned Downtime a Myth,” she reminded the audience that “not everyone is an early adopter, and it might take time” to see value from tech. She also made the point that success in eliminating downtime “depends on people, process, and technology, in that order.”

The most surprising keynote this year was delivered at the 2023 Leading Reliability event by Marc Tremblay, former president of Fluke and currently an operating partner at Arsenal Capital Partners. After revealing that many of his slides had been generated by ChatGPT based on his prompts, he noted that “often times the people who don’t ‘get it’ about ChatGPT are also the ones who are very good at their jobs…the ones who have deep knowledge, and who might dismiss ChatGPT as too basic or perhaps even wrong.” Thanks to UE Systems, Eruditio, RDI Technologies, and Acoem for hosting such a terrific event.

One last trend of note is the high number of Millennial and GenZ attendees at these events. The next generation of M&R leaders is already among us!

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

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