Reliability Staffing—Key to Protecting Plant Assets

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Reliability Staffing—Key to Protecting Plant Assets

Training, skills development processes must keep pace with technology

CLAREMORE, Okla. — With new equipment and production systems escalating in cost and complexity, keeping your equipment running productively for many years is more important than ever before.  

Historically, equipment maintenance was more “mechanically” focused with control systems utilizing simple relay technology. Gone are the days of keeping equipment running with “baling wire and duct tape”!  

Today’s machine designs are more complex in electronics and controls, and this requires us to move beyond the “simple” into the “advanced” technologies when it comes to equipment maintenance skills, training and techniques.

While it is still feasible for our industry to utilize largely multi-craft technicians in our reliability teams, we must pivot in the training and skills development processes to keep pace with technology.  

Let’s review just a few of the opportunities there are for building top-notch reliability teams:

Build the job descriptions and skills requirements properly. Having the requirements written into the job description will give your hiring managers the proper checklist to follow in a screening interview.  

Identifying and quantifying the necessary skills and assuring there are complementary skills among multiple technicians on your team will provide for proper hiring and development planning.  

Simply put, if a person being interviewed does not meet the requirements, don’t hire them. If an employee already on your team doesn’t meet the requirement, build their training and development plan to address those deficiencies.

Utilize training opportunities provided by equipment manufacturers. It’s obviously important that your techs understand the equipment they are tasked with maintaining. For equipment-specific training, one of the best sources for training is the equipment manufacturer.  

This assumes your techs have the basic skills—and then factory training can help them understand how each onboard system works with the other systems to make the machine function properly. Troubleshooting should be a primary topic covered in the factory training.

Identify ongoing skills training opportunities. To continue to add value to the multi-craft technician’s role on your team, consider signing up with online training systems.  

Numerous entities offer technical training opportunities online, in a self-paced environment, and may even offer CEU credits that can be applied to a degree.  

Costs for these programs are generally minimal and the training is invaluable but be sure to provide your teams time each week for learning. This is a less-structured method, so frequent follow-up may be needed.

Recruit aggressively and endlessly. The war for talent has come in full force to our doorsteps. Creative recruiting methods must be utilized to keep the pipeline filled with candidates.  

Working with local or regional technical training schools, attending their job fairs and getting in front of these students in their classrooms will get your message out there and help you identify good candidates for future openings.  

Consider inviting some of these classes of students to tour your facility and set up a workshop for them in real-world maintenance and reliability work.  

One organization that represents multiple technical training schools is FAME—the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education. More info on FAME can be found on their site at             

Create a career path for your techs. No one wants to be stuck in the same job, the same role and in the same pay grade for a career. Building a career path for your tech teams is important to help them see there is a way to improve their lot in life.  

Consider various levels of roles, from entry-level to intermediate to advanced-level techs, each with increasing responsibilities and compensation, but be sure to have increasing requirements to go along with the earning of the advanced roles.

The Bottom Line: Reliability leadership and stability is critically built around having the right people on your team.  

Without a solid team of technicians that are skilled, continuing to learn and being taken good care of, your plant will struggle to produce reliably and effectively.  

Focusing on proper staffing, training and continuing development will provide a foundation for your plant to be successful.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].