Australia pitches in to fight the Maintenance Crisis

Sept. 13, 2010
Joel Leonard, contributing editor, is getting more people to take a stand and fight the Maintenance Crisis.

The Australian Asset Management Council (AMC) stumbled across a technique that had its conference attendees buzzing, chuckling, and pitching in to fight the Maintenance Crisis.

You might not believe this, but during the ICOMS Conference in Adelaide, South Australia, the Australian Asset Management Council asked me to kick off a “find our theme song” competition in hopes of fostering more pride and passion for our profession. After a brief disclaimer that I wasn’t an American Idol or even good enough to be classified as a hack singer, I gave it my best.

First, I played the Maintenance Crisis Song video and then sang “Find Me a Maintenance Woman.” Music is, after all, such a powerful tool at influencing attitudes, perceptions, and future decisions. Some songs have started major movements and changes in society. Even though my tonal quality might not be ready for prime time, it inspired a quartet of engineers to write their own clever version.


This group of top-level engineers loved it and helped fill a void in the normally dry engineering conference by adding fun, or, as John Hardwick, the chairman of the AMC said, “pizzazz.” I’ve never tried to portray myself as a quality singer, but all of the attendees whooped, hollered, and chuckled over the lyrics and video. They gave me a standing ovation. Several approached me afterward and offered sage advice — “Hey mate, don’t give up your day job.”

The next day, during my keynote address on fighting the Maintenance Crisis, they heard what I do on my day job - supporting the economic transformation underway in an 11-county region surrounding Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They agreed that the interactive three-dimensional technology being used for technical skill development will serve as a valuable bridge that improves the skills and performance of a future workforce.

In fact, several consulting and contract maintenance companies are helping me contact the leaders of P3I, the public-private partnership for innovation based in Fayetteville, N.C. I had participated in a panel discussion titled “Strategic Asset Management — A Concept or Reality?” with Hardwick, Anne Howe, CEO of South Australia Water Authority (SAWA), and Penny Burns, principal director, AMQ International. All agreed that organizations might be on varying levels in their journey to implementing this strategy. When asked if anyone’s company had a formalized mentorship process or succession plans, no one raised a hand.

This conference had some wonderful speakers. One explained that every second, across the world, we lose one ton of steel to corrosion. Another said that Western Australia University is incorporating engineering courses in its business curriculum. The objective is to give future executives a grounding in advanced engineering strategies to better manage assets instead of believing the traditional fallacy that maintenance and engineering are costs, not value contributors to profitability and performance. Perhaps more U.S. schools will implement similar programs.

The frighteningly common situation at engineering conferences is that only a few new engineers are in the audience each year. Most attendees were either practicing or masters with one foot into full-time retirement.

After witnessing the quality and depth of knowledge represented, I hope more efforts are implemented to recruit new engineers to attend this dynamic event. I love the Australian culture. As a smart aleck, I fit in and enjoyed some clever repartee with the attendees.

And even though Australians’ most popular expression is “No worries, mate, she’ll be alright,” some of the trends underway are cause for great concern if action isn’t taken to replenish and develop current and future workers. The challenges are vast and deep, but if more of us confront the issues head-on, we’ll make serious progress at mitigating more preventable problems.

Check the Skill TV blog if you like to join me during my fall conference schedule. I’ll be keynoting the Facilities Decisions Conference at Facilities America in Las Vegas and plan to attend the SMRP conference in Milwaukee.

E-mail Contributing Editor Joel Leonard at [email protected].