Changing workforce requires changes in asset management

A customer with a strong maintenance department lost 90% of its experienced people in the last two years. They were now struggling to re-learn everything this team had already learned over the last 10 years. A reliability and maintenance consulting services company based in the United States told us that 80% of their clients indicate an attrition rate among their maintenance craft personnel of ...


A customer with a strong maintenance department lost 90% of its experienced people in the last two years. They were now struggling to re-learn everything this team had already learned over the last 10 years. A reliability and maintenance consulting services company based in the United States told us that 80% of their clients indicate an attrition rate among their maintenance craft personnel of between 40% and 60% in the next five to seven years. Only 10% of these clients have a good apprentice program or plans for retaining skills.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of industrial mechanics and maintenance workers is projected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. Many mechanics are expected to retire in coming years, and employers have reported difficulty in recruiting young workers with the necessary skills to be industrial machinery mechanics. Most job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons.


In addition, many people who have entered the job market in the past 10 to 20 years have focused on new technology markets, and left the older traditional industrial jobs to a much smaller group. The number of people entering the maintenance field as well as the operations field is smaller than the number of people retiring, resulting in a shrinking work force.


Due to the changing workforce, taking the next step in asset management is not going to be accomplished by working harder, but instead by working smarter. To retain and use the company’s knowledge and experience, a new attitude will need to be fostered and the company culture will need to evolve to embrace new technology.


Changing the culture


The most critical aspect of the improvement process is the culture change. Culture is something that cannot be simply mandated into the organization. The culture for change must be owned by the organization and believed in at the very top level of management %%MDASSML%% a new management attitude.


With the right attitude and culture, technology can be put in place. That begins with organizing the knowledge required to go to the next smart step in asset management. This knowledge organization begins by automating the decision process using asset knowledge science, or intellectual capital. An additional benefit of capturing the inherent shop floor knowledge is that the automation provides staff more time to spend on tasks that require a higher skill level and have the potential to bring a much larger return on investment.


With asset management knowledge organized, a Decision Support System is used to analyze maintenance and operational data and present it in a way that allows maintenance technicians to make business decisions more easily. A DSS is an interactive, flexible and adaptable computer-based information system developed to facilitate knowledge-based decision making.


By integrating data from multiple sources into one easy-to-use software application, a DDS applies a structured approach to facilitate consistent and reliable decision making, enabling personnel to act quickly based on meaningful data and a predetermined set of procedures and priorities. The system replaces labor-intensive data collection and analysis with automatic analysis, fault resolution and even work-order notification.


The DDS also includes the ability to add physical information about plant assets including lists of faults and symptoms, activity history and document management folders. The information is organized and readily accessible according to its criticality %%MDASSML%% specifically relative to production, safety or environment.


The DSS uses data, provides easy-to-use interfaces and allows for the decision maker’s own insights. It is the confluences of intellectual capital with the capabilities of the computer to improve the quality of decisions and maximize workforce effectiveness.


A robust Decision Support System allows employees to document what they know about their operational and maintenance processes, and capture this knowledge for more effective asset management. This intellectual capital can then be placed online to diagnose plant issues as they occur in real-time.



Author Information

Scott Brady is director of product marketing for SKF Reliability Systems. He began his career with Palomar Technology International in San Diego. Most recently, he was responsible for developing the SKF @ptitude decision support system that automates the reliability maintenance decision-making process. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.


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