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We Were Younger Then…

In the early 1970s, when the Vietnam War was winding down, I was ordered from my Depot Level Maintenance Mechanic Job in the US Army to a place far away in Bindlach, Germany where I was assigned to Bravo Troop, I/2nd Armored Calvary Regiment (Border Patrol).

At the time all I thought was that going to Germany would be one ‘awesome experience'. Little did I know how it would shape my life forever! Bravo Troop was a US Army Calvary Unit with the sole mission of identifying when the Soviet Union (known as Russia today) and their Eastern Block Partners were coming across the border. At the time, I had no idea why was I sent to this peaceful place as a Maintenance Mechanic to maintain Personnel Carriers and M551 Sheridan Tanks.


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I was, what we called at the "tip of the spear", I had no idea my training and experience in maintaining a high level of Equipment Reliability for the US Army would establish my Maintenance foundation for the rest of my life. While in the US Army Maintenance School some very clear principles were taught to me that I have carried with me through the rest of my life.

1. Effective Preventive Maintenance Procedures and following a tight compliance window to execute must be followed if you expect certain results.

2. Having and following good repair procedures was critical. I wondered why we had very few spare parts available and yet equipment reliability was high. Oil analysis of our engines and transmissions allowed us time to order a new engine or transmission far enough in advances before our key assets (M551 Sheridan Tank) failed. I think back now about and understanding the P-F Curve and Condition Monitoring was a key element to our success.

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3. Having the discipline to not question known best maintenance practices was also a critical principle I learned and it stuck with me to this day.

Our tanks could be on patrol, maneuvers, or other assignments for as long as 90 days without stop and never fail. Following known best practices in Condition Monitoring was critical to high equipment reliability. When oil analysis detected a defect we knew we had to wait three weeks for a replacement engine or transmission to arrive, upon arrival neither rain or snow stopped us from replacing it to a specified standard. Our motor sergeant and platoon leader would identify a time and location when a motor or transmission would be replaced and our job was to be on time and execute the change out to a specific standard (30 minutes of less). Discipline was the key to our success.
Today, many people think discipline has a negative connotation in the work place, I disagree. If the equipment must run when it is expected to run then discipline is a requirement and not an option. If consequences of a failure are high then there is only one option: to follow the basic principles of Maintenance: "to maintain, keep in existing condition"
Based on my experiences, my recommendations are simple:

  • Go back to following the basics principles of maintenance,
  • Have discipline in order to be successful,
  • Following Effective Procedures is critical to optimal reliability,
  • Do not question good data.

Maintenance is not a process to be taken lightly. If you expect specific results insure your maintenance process is in place and followed. It is easier to change a process than trying to change the way people think. If you want maintenance to provide the results management is expecting then it is time to focus on the end result, maintainability equals optimal reliability.

If you have questions or comments send them to me at rsmith@gpallied.com.

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