This time of year has always been a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous year, and look ahead to the new year. For many, it’s a time to make resolutions about breaking bad habits to make way for good ones or just to simply resolve to make changes to improve your way of life. Managing your habits is much better than making resolutions, and it’s always good to break bad habits and build good ones.
With everything that has been going on in our world over the last three years, one can’t help but think about what the New Year will bring, and what will the challenges be for people in manufacturing and industry? To kick off the new year, I set up a poll on LinkedIn to find out what people in our industry thought were the greatest maintenance and reliability challenges heading into 2023. Participants were given four choices, and nearly 100 votes were cast from other M&R professionals.
This first Industry Pulse column walks through the results of the poll, offering guidance on how you and your teams might tackle each of these challenges.
Training new M&R personnel (31%)
Training current and new personnel has always been a top issue for manufacturing and industry. If this is your top challenge, start with a Skills Gap Analysis to determine what skills are in need of improvement. Consider ranking the top skills needed for your personnel and make efforts to train according to the greatest needs.
Also, for too long, education has been blamed for not providing skilled trades education, so if public education isn’t offering those types of classes, it’s time for industry to stand up and fill in the gap. Use references and best practice training metrics from sources like the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) to help gauge the effectiveness and need for training and to help build the business case for your training needs. For example, SMRP has a best practice metric of 80 hours per maintenance employee per year. In addition, benchmarking with other companies can also be a great way to collaborate and to see what others are doing when it comes to training and developing new maintenance personnel.
Continued supply chain issues (30%)
Dealing with supply chain issues will still be a challenge in 2023. One thing that this problem has forced us to do is to look to reshoring manufacturing back to the U.S., especially for critical needs and supplies.
Don’t be quick to invest in expensive capital projects though, start with small projects that can create some quick wins and momentum to help and buy in for future improvements. Diversifying your relationships with suppliers could also help, instead of relying on one sole source supplier for your parts and supplies.
If you haven’t done so yet, 2023 would be a great year to look inside of your own MRO storeroom for opportunities to optimize spare parts storage and to improve the efficiency of spare parts, critical spares, and consumables. Much data can be analyzed and metrics put in place to monitor, just within the MRO storeroom.
M&R labor shortages (26%)
One thing about maintenance and reliability labor shortages is that people are there, you just have to know how and where to find them. Using outdated hiring practices when courting a potential hire to come to your company will not work with today’s modern industrial worker.
We all know the definition of chaos, so if you’re struggling with outdated hiring and recruiting methods, 2023 needs to be a year of change for you. Consider starting with one critical role that has been vacant with no success in even remotely finding the right candidate. Enlist the help of a proven and reputable company that specializes in the talent you’re looking for, and let them do the work. Make sure that they understand your organization’s maintenance strategy, goals, and culture. For someone who understands all aspects of the job you’re looking to fill along with the company’s culture and initiatives, in today’s job market, they should be able to present at least two vetted and qualified candidates within two weeks of working on the candidate search.
Maintenance debt/backlog (14%)
For many, daily issues with maintenance debt and backlog create lots of unnecessary stress from the beginning of the day. If everything is a priority, then nothing is really a priority. Some of these issues often relate to putting people in bad situations, such as taking your best mechanic or operator and making them the so-called Planner or Scheduler without giving them much instruction or training.
Simply implementing the latest, greatest, and shiniest new technology at foundational reactive problems is not always the right fix either. Remember, it’s not always a product problem, or a people problem, but a lot of times, it’s a procedure problem (or lack thereof).
Another way to help fight maintenance debt lies in bringing in skilled craft who only require some initial onboarding to help get you caught back up. In most cases, these folks can be brought in under an opportunity to hire contract. This way, if you find a superstar and someone who fits into your organization, you have the opportunity to hire that person full-time. This approach can also be taken with more critical roles such as bringing in a subject matter expert on a contract basis to train and mentor your own personnel like your Planner, Scheduler, or MRO Storeroom Manager.