Let's open a can-do of maintenance excellence

June 15, 2010
Joel Leonard, contributing editor, is taking it to the bayous.

Wow! I wish that you could have joined me in my travels during the past several weeks. Accompanied by continual reminders on the news channels of the modern-day engineering challenges stumping the United States and BP, major developments are happening worldwide regarding the maintenance crisis. Businesses, associations and whole countries are working hard to address the causes and mitigate the effects of inadequate skills.

Maintenance supporters have been calling and e-mailing, telling me that the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster has made us look like geniuses, as we have been fighting the battle to balance safety, prevention and workforce development for almost 10 years.

Sadly, it appears that our new national pastime is watching and griping about BP’s or the government’s lack or wrong response to this situation. So, here is my two cents. We’ve won wars and battles in the past not because of centralized control, but because we allowed leaders in the field to improvise and respond to the circumstances and terrain. Despite what Washington might think, lawyers, government hearings and press conferences won’t fix this problem. Workers and innovative engineers will.

Why don’t we make this into a contest, recognize the coastline parishes or counties that marshal the best efforts to put in defense systems and cleanup processes, and have BP reward them with millions of dollars?


This way, those who would benefit are the ones empowered and motivated to fight this disaster with adequate resources and support, rather than just sit back and let it happen. After all, that appears to be very un-American. We are the can-do country that inspired the world. We need to continue to lead and work to become the Reliability Nation where major infrastructure and engineering systems work better than any other place in the world.

We have lots of work to do to catch up and move ahead. I was impressed with many of the international engineers I met at the recent Verona, Italy EuroMaintenance Conference, where more than 40 countries shared and discussed best maintenance and reliability practices. Some of the highlights of this wonderful event:

  • Formation of GFMAM: Dignitaries from Middle East, South America, Australia, United States and Europe formed a collaborative support organization for asset and maintenance management associations worldwide.
  • Little country, big results: Maintenance Valley in the Netherlands continues to lead the world in maintenance performance. This little country can’t add more urban sprawl, so it realized its future depends on extending the life of current assets and buildings, and implementing new maintenance processes to keep costs down and retain existing employers. It even have invested in interactive 3-D (i3d) applications to teach future technicians online before touching real equipment.
  • Going MAD: To elevate the industry, society needs to recognize past and current professionals. So the official industry Maintenance Appreciation Day was conceived and special events will be rolled out in years to come.
  • Predictive uses for 3-D scanning: A pharmaceutical engineer shared with me that he’s using 3-D scanners as a predictive maintenance tool. He scanned both used and new parts and then did side-by-side comparisons to perform wear trend analyses. With the costs of scanners coming down, more companies may want to implement this process.

 I capturted numerous other experiences on video and will soon post the material on www.SkillTV.net. Meanwhile, pencil in a plan to join me in Belgrade, Serbia, on May 24-26, 2012 for the next EuroMaintenance Conference.

On my return from DC, I’ll departing for Phoenix to attend the Honeywell User Group conference, then I’m going Down Under to hear how real southerners speak at the ICOMS Conference in Adelaide, Australia.

I had the privilege of kicking off the EuroMaintenance Conference by providing a maintenance toast. I might seem trivial, but evidently my slogan struck a chord as several attendees recited it back to me on the bus ride to the airport: “It is better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent.”

If you don’t believe me, ask a BP exec.

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

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