How much are you worth?


It's one of the oldest questions in plant engineering and maintenance: How do you put a value on prevention? How much money and effort are needed to make sure something doesn't happen? And if something doesn't happen, how much did your effort contribute to its prevention?

It's relatively easy to put a value on what does happen. When something breaks, there's a measurable cost to fix it. When production stops, it's not that hard to compute a value for the lost production. It's easy to say that maintenance costs so much per hour or so much per year. But what is the value of that maintenance, and how is it measured?

When a breakdown happens, it's often easy to show that a lack of maintenance was responsible. But the opposite does not necessarily follow. When breakdowns don't happen, it's not easy to show that maintenance prevented them.

Much of what plant engineers do is making sure that negative events don't happen. It might even be said that the most successful plant engineering and maintenance operation is the one that doesn't appear to be needed. Thus, the question of the value of prevention goes to the very heart of the plant engineering function. And it runs the gamut from small, day-to-day decisions to strategic concerns of plant organization, capability, and capacity.

Plant engineers, therefore, become like medical doctors. Just as dietary habits or lifestyles can be shown statistically to have positive or negative effects, those factors may or may not affect certain individuals in specific ways. So, too, the industrial plant "doctor" -- the plant engineer -- finds himself dealing with probabilities and trends as indicators of the value of prevention.

All of this is not to say that it's futile to attempt measuring the value of prevention. Every plant must continually evaluate its programs and make adjustments. But closing in on the optimum level of investment is likely to involve a great deal of trial and error, benchmarking, and informed opinion.

This situation is one of the reasons I advocate that every plant should have a chief plant officer -- someone at the highest level of plant management whose experience, knowledge, integrity, and professionalism are trusted to result in the best decisions for that plant. Often, the value of an individual decision can be neither proved nor disproved, so confidence in the person making it is prime.

I like to think a good plant engineer is worth his weight in gold. The trouble is I'm not sure how to prove that.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.