2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Industry Pulse

2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Industry Pulse

Dec. 21, 2023
In this year-end wrap-up, we highlight Adrian Messer's most-read think pieces.

Industry Pulse is a monthly column that covers a wide range of maintenance and reliability topics with a regular focus on workforce and careers in industry. In this column, Adrian Messer, who has worked in the maintenance and reliability field for nearly 20 years and is currently Manager of U.S. Operations at SDT Ultrasound Solutions, shares his insight on improving asset reliability through improved condition monitoring and much more. In this year-end wrap-up, we highlight Adrian's most-read think pieces.

Reach decision-makers on training and development investment

If you’re trying to sell the need for additional training to your decision makers, it may help to create a business case. A business case is really just a form of a gap analysis. It should describe (1) your issue, (2) the current status, and (3) the desired results. The results desired should be centered around your organization’s goals and objectives: how reliability will be improved, if there are any safety issues that can be avoided because of having the training, and how any possible product and efficiency improvements can be gained. 

Your problem statement should be concise and specific, keeping to no more than one paragraph. For background information, include specific information regarding cost and budgeting, as well as what would be required to resolve the skills deficiency that the training will address. Also describe the current situation, and again mention specifics such as results from a skills gap analysis, or a change in equipment or assets where needed skills and experience will help to maintain and troubleshoot the new equipment. Consider using metrics such as Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) as a way to identify what skills or training may be necessary. 

For estimating costs for budgeting purposes, consider using the Maintenance Training Cost metric, which is commonly represented as a percentage of the employee’s annual wage. The metric was developed to determine what the industry standard is for how much training maintenance employees are to receive per year. Since this metric varies due to annual wage, the range can be between 1.65% to 4.4%. Another possible metric to use is training hours per maintenance employee, and best-in-class is 80 hours per employee per year.

The importance of culture in your safety message

the question to be asked is, what kind of environment are you creating in your facility? Most days are started with a safety briefing or safety share. Safety has become ingrained into your mission statement and your culture, but what are you doing each day to promote safety, awareness, and reliability? I mention reliability because many of the same behaviors found in safety are some of the same behaviors associated with cultures with high reliability. Studies have also shown that as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) increases, worker injuries go down. 

In addition to creating a culture of safety, awareness, and reliability, do the people in your facility suffer from “alarm fatigue”? This is a term that is heard commonly in the medical industry, but can also be within our industry. Alarm fatigue happens when workers become desensitized and then have a delayed response to constant alerts to machine and system malfunctions. Alarms don’t just sound for no reason. Whether they are false alarms or constant alarms, both should be looked into with the same diligence in order to prevent the occurrence of alarm fatigue in your facility. 

When errors become failures, and failures become catastrophes, please don’t let the blame be on overworked and poorly staffed employees who have been sounding the alarm on unsafe conditions for years. Humans are our most valuable asset. Listen to them, listen to their concerns, and don’t put them in unsafe conditions without being trained in the best way possible. Give them what they need to do their jobs effectively and safely. Examine your staffing issues such as workload, work hours, and worker absences, all of which can be indicators of worker fatigue.

Nine things you can do to land the right maintenance and reliability job

  1. Stay updated on industry trends.
  2. Update your skills.
  3. Network strategically.
  4. Tailor your resume and cover letter.
  5. Be proactive in your job search.
  6. Prepare for interviews.
  7. Showcase your soft skills.
  8. Be flexible.
  9. Stay positive and persistent.

Using the Power of Marginal Gains to improve maintenance and reliability at your facility

Improvements happen gradually, and small-scale improvements start to compound on the previous day’s accomplishments. If you get better at something by just 1% per day for 1 year, you’ll be 37 times better by the end of the year. It’s the Power of Marginal Gains, the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do to achieve a significant increase when you put them all together. 

To begin, conduct a thorough assessment of your facility's current maintenance practices. Identify areas of improvement, potential bottlenecks, and equipment that requires immediate attention. Engage with maintenance personnel and gather insights from their experiences to gain a comprehensive understanding of existing challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Preventive maintenance plays a vital role in minimizing unexpected breakdowns and extending the lifespan of equipment. Consider creating a preventive maintenance (PM) schedule that outlines routine inspections, calibration, lubrication, and replacements. Each PM must be a task that can identify potential failures early, and procedures for action should be taken when things aren’t in check with the assets. Leverage data from your computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to track and schedule maintenance tasks, ensuring they are performed on time.

Calculating the true cost of unfilled maintenance and reliability jobs

Unfilled positions can lead to increased workloads for existing staff, contributing to burnout and diminished morale. When employees are tasked with covering the responsibilities of vacant maintenance and reliability positions, it can divert their attention from their core roles, impacting their job satisfaction and productivity. This, in turn, can lead to higher turnover rates, further exacerbating the talent gap. Because of the increased workload and low morale, the likelihood of higher turnover increases. To mitigate the adverse effects of unfilled maintenance and reliability positions, industrial manufacturers must adopt more proactive strategies:

  • Invest in training: Developing a skilled workforce through training and upskilling programs can
  • Prioritize preventive maintenance: Emphasizing preventive maintenance over reactive approaches can help prevent major breakdowns and costly repairs.
  • Leverage technology: Implementing predictive maintenance technologies can provide insights into machinery health and optimize maintenance schedules.
  • Collaborate with other industry professionals: Networking with other professionals in the same industry or manufacturing in general can lead to collaboration. Benchmarking against what some of the best in the industry are doing can also help to give organizations who are struggling ideas on how they can improve. 

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