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Featured Reliability Leader: Jack Nicholas, Jr.

Asset Condition Monitoring Navigator


Sitting in the back of a crowded room at a conference of 300+ motor testing professionals in the mid-90s, I listened to an impressive presentation from a former submariner who served on the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine in the U.S. Navy fleet. That man was Jack Nicholas, Jr. 

Out of nowhere, I heard him discuss a unique approach to developing a reliability strategy using a blended approach to reliability-centered maintenance (RCM). That may not seem significant in 2019, however, to put it in context, the mid-90s was the time of what I like to call “the RCM wars,” where people were usually very devoted to one specific approach to RCM and there was only one approach to RCM. As a frustrated student of reliability-centered maintenance, I could not find one approach that fit every situation. Through that presentation, Jack provided the navigational beacon I needed to point me in the direction that opened a world of possibilities for me. What is common practice now was uncommon then. Jack, like other navigators, lit a path that might still be dark without the beacon he shone. 

Jack Nicholas, Jr., is not only a navigator, he is a friend, leader, guru, teacher, mentor, creator and practitioner of so many aspects of modern reliability approaches that it is difficult to fully describe his life’s work to date. He was applying early principles of reliability-centered maintenance in the U.S. Navy submarine fleet before the discipline had a name.

He embraced the earliest forms of asset condition monitoring and brought an entire category, motor circuit analysis, into being, which led to the creation and start-up of PdMA, a global leader in motor condition monitoring.

Jack has been a frequent contributor to Reliabilityweb.com® and Uptime® magazine from our first day of operation. He did a lot of the heavy lifting, creating lasting programs, such as the Uptime Awards, the Reliability-Centered Maintenance Project Manager’s Guide (originally the RCM Scorecard) and so much more, including SMRP’s Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) exam.

He was front and center as a navigator and contributor to the Uptime Award winning Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, setting what I consider to be a new benchmark for modern reliability programs, along with Anthony “Mac” Smith, Tim Allen, Sam Paske, John Fortin, Biju George, Richard “Doc” Palmer and John Shinn. I often wonder if there will ever be another reliability “A-Team” like that anywhere.

Jack’s books and related workshops have literally advanced the thinking of a generation of condition monitoring professionals, reliability leaders and asset managers 10 to 20 years beyond where it would be without him.

He seems busier in retirement than he was in his working life, with his nonstop research and projects, including keynote speaking, workshops and video productions.

If you wonder where he gets his inspiration, you do not have to look far to see his constant companion and wife, Dorothy. Together since childhood, Dorothy is the embodiment of “behind every great man, there is a GREAT woman.”

If I were looking for Jack, all I need to do is locate this perfect storm and he would be in the center of the eye working on his next project!

So, as digital twins, the Internet of Things, predictive analytics, cloud computing, wireless technology and better, faster, cheaper low power sensors meet traditional condition monitoring and nondestructive testing, we can all use a navigator to get our minds right so we can leverage this perfect storm of new technology to achieve our organizational objectives. 

I am grateful he is a navigator in my life.

Terrence O’Hanlon,
CEO & Publisher, Reliabilityweb.com®,
and Uptime® Magazine

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