Partners at last

The signs are encouraging. After several decades, it's finally happening. Maintenance is taking its rightful place as a true business partner in the industrial enterprise. I've come to this conclusion by what I've witnessed over the past few years.


The signs are encouraging. After several decades, it's finally happening. Maintenance is taking its rightful place as a true business partner in the industrial enterprise. I've come to this conclusion by what I've witnessed over the past few years.

Check, for example, this issue's focus panel on "Foundations for Maintenance Excellence." Our panel members were universal in their opinions that maintenance had to be aligned with their plants' business strategies.

Over the years, this alignment has been a problem from several standpoints. Most obvious was the maintenance department's blind insistence that maintenance was important for its own sake, even though the business case for maintenance was poorly defined. Lacking any convincing business case, operations and financial people treated maintenance as a necessary evil with little relevance to productivity or profitability.

But all parties are beginning to understand that maintenance is not just a necessary cost of business, it's an opportunity to reduce life-cycle costs, ensure capacity, and even provide a competitive edge. In short, it's a partner in business improvement.

A strong indicator of the shift taking place is the repositioning going on in the industrial software business. A decade ago, software developers weren't much interested in trying to integrate CMMS data with the other systems plants were using - like financial systems, MRP programs, and manufacturing automation. Now, that integration is at the top of their lists of features.

Large companies are finding it valuable to bring together their maintenance people from all their plants to share ideas and practices. These meetings are typically multiday proprietary technical conferences, complete with concurrent sessions, general sessions, and an occasional outside speaker.

Some plants these days will even send maintenance personnel to work with customers to help solve their machinery and production problems. Both parties gain from the shared experience and knowledge.

These are all good signs and good practices. The door is finally opening to the maintenance function as a full partner in optimizing the plant's business.

So now there's a new challenge to maintenance to make good on the opportunity and to expand it's influence. The need for proven performance and excellence in maintenance has never been greater.

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
The future of electrical safety; Four keys to RPM success; Picking the right weld fume option
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
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This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
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