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Bob Williamson Comments on Final Day of MARCON 2015: Snow Subsides But Maintenance and Reliability Hot Topics Abound

Bob Williamson | February 26, 2015

What’s been happening at MARCON 2015? Reporting from the final day of the conference in Knoxville, TN, Contributing Editor Bob Williamson noted that like the first day, there was plenty of valuable information to be gleaned by the 300+ maintenance and reliability pros who battled unusually harsh winter conditions to attend this seminal industry event .

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 — Today was the final day of the regular-conference program at MARCON 2015. The snow finally subsided and the event continued showcasing an excellent assortment of hot-topic presentations for the world of maintenance and reliability. Among Thursday’s many highlights:Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 1.30.40 PM

Scott Piech, Division Manager of USA Maintenance for ArcelorMittal explained how his organization implemented “reliability-based equipment maintenance to improve the bottom line of its $5 billion plant in nine months.” As a preface to his presentation, Scott showed a video that ArcelorMittal developed to introduce high school and tech school students to careers as maintenance technicians. In the video, six technicians told their stories, showed what they do and discussed how math and science and working with tools and computers helped them succeed in their jobs. This video is an ideal tool for getting the word out about rewarding careers in maintenance and reliability.

Jeremy Smith of LUDECA conducted a Thursday session entitled “Cultural Alignment.” While I had understood the basics of shaft alignment and LUDECA’s laser tools, I was curious about the “cultural” aspects of alignment. Jeremy was clear about them. He pointed to the fact that precision alignment involves much more than the tools. All too often, he said, the PEOPLE (or CULTURE) and PROCEDURES (or PROCESSES) are left out of the equation–or under-emphasized. That’s a big mistake. He detailed the importance of procedures, specification, tolerances and careful inspections. On the people/culture-side, though, he stressed the importance of core values, competency, care, training, transparency, documentation and communications. We should all thank Jeremy for reminding us of how critical to the workplace the “people-side” of innovation is  workplace.

Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 — More than 300 people braved snow and cold here in Knoxville, TN, to attend today’s opening sessions of the 19th annual Maintenance and Reliability Conference (MARCON), presented by the University of Tennessee’s Reliability and Maintainability Center (UT-RMC). The theme of this year’s program is “R&M Implementation… From Start to Winning.”

Terry O’Hanlon kicked off the regular-conference portion of MARCON 2015 with this morning’s presentation on “Reliability Leadership — Why It Is Broke & How To Fix It.” Among the key takeaways:

• Leaders desiring reliability improvement often fail to engage those closest to the needed change.
• Organizational culture is the single biggest obstacle to reliability.
• Leadership, from top management to plant floor, drive the organization culture, status quo or new directions.

Terry Jarret, Global Reliability Director for Koch Industries, was up next. He delivered today’s Keynote address entitled “Successful and Sustainable Reliability Improvements?…The Right Answer is Not Enough!” Jarret emphasized a number of points for the audience, including:

• Sponsorship, visible and effective, is the most important part of change.
• Ineffective sponsorship is the biggest obstacle to successful change management.

The rest of today’s regular conference program was filled with great presentations and discussions regarding on-shoring of manufacturing, manufacturing resurgence and establishing a skilled workforce pipeline. Several sessions with a common theme of developing skilled workers for industry were real eye openers for attendees. Among them:

Roane State Community College (based in Harriman, TN) showed how its participation in a U.S. Department of Labor-funded “STEM Consortium” program is helping train and develop skilled workers. Roane State’s one-year certificate program will be growing into a two-year associate degree program this fall (2015). The curriculum includes CAD, engineering drafting, 3D printing and robotics, as well as the basics of mechanical and electrical systems, PLCs, hydraulics, pneumatics, and then brings it all together in the study of “mechatronics.”

According to Bob Gatton, Director of this program at Roane State, there are growing opportunities for experienced and retired maintenance and reliability leaders to serve as instructors. “Finding qualified instructors,” he said, “is our [the program’s] biggest problem.” Two people in the audience raised their hands to offer their services.

Another in the impressive lineup of Day 1 MARCON presentations involved Nissan and the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AM TEC), which partnered to share their experiences in “Establishing a Skilled Workforce Pipeline of Maintenance Technicians.” Nissan’s successful model in Tennessee helped reduce a six-year apprenticeship program to three years, and clearly improved the skills and knowledge of the automaker’s maintenance workforce.

Features of the Nissan- AM TEC initiative include a Monday-through-Thursday class schedule that allows students to work Friday through Sunday as interns in the Nissan plant. This gives the facility additional help and provides the students with substantial real-world experiences as they work along-side skilled Nissan maintenance team members.

Kevin Smith and Craig Hopkins shared this success story, starting with the program’s developmental stages and culminating with an account of it first graduating class of 22 participants. A second class of 24 individuals has recently embarked upon the journey to become skilled maintenance technicians.

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Bob Williamson

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