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Maintenance Goes a Lot Further Than Equipment

The first reason for not performing preventative maintenance on people is ignorance. A common assumption is that as long as a person is getting paid and has benefits that everything is fine. This assumption cannot be further from the truth. Personal and professional growth are important factors in the well being of personnel. Everyone wants to succeed without exception. Employers miss the mark in a lot of cases because they do not understand or know how to read the signs of an employee who needs maintenance. In some even scarier cases employers expect Human Resources to be taking care of the issues and reading the signs of the employee. That would be like telling a maintenance technician to monitor equipment condition from the confines of the office and determine when maintenance needs to be performed.

The cultural norms of our society have also been an inhibitor to the preventative maintenance process. Cell phones, notebooks, and PDA's have tied us to the workplace 24/7 without relief. We have created a fear that if someone takes a vacation they could possibly be replaced upon return because someone else is willing to work that week. Also, overtime has been a burden on society by creating an environment that is not healthy for family life. In the beginning, the extra money looks great and helps people to live a little better possession wise, but eventually it breaks down the family unit. There are hidden quality and productivity issues lurking in the overtime problem.

Similar to equipment some people need more maintenance than others. Without the proper maintenance the people will fail. Some employees need more time off than others, some more pats on the back, and some employees need promotions. There is not one universal item that satisfies all employees. There are cases that employer loyalty is the key attribute that keeps the employee there. In the last decade there have been major movements to improve quality of life issues in the workforce. Movements in the quality of life area can lead to increased productivity, decreased turnover, increased reliability, and increased quality.

The supervisors and managers should write themselves a maintenance schedule for the people who work for them. The six month or one year reviews are not enough. Management needs to be out on the floor assessing the condition of the employees and not just the equipment. Waiting for someone to come forward with a problem means the failure has already happened. It is similar to when the bearing temp skyrockets and the bearing starts to squeal. Assessing the condition of personnel every six months opens the management up to a whole myriad of corrective maintenance issues including the fallout of someone having a poor review. I am amazed with how many technicians have never been aware of the failure. Kind of like the bearing failure the equipment doesn't know it has failed so it keeps running possibly breaking other items.

The final thought is the proper assessment of the condition of the personnel. People trust people who are straight forward about problems. Managers sometimes get bombarded with the question "How am I doing?" This is like the assembly line that keeps tripping because of a misaligned photo-eye or limit switch. If you do not fix the system it is going to keep tripping. The people asking that question are trying to get feedback so they can improve. If they are told they are doing well every time with nothing else they will probably keep doing the same thing. If there is room for improvement that can be identified it will probably be too late after telling them countless times that they are doing well. The small and skinny of it is that ignoring problems won't cause them to fix themselves. Maintenance on personnel is just as important as the equipment.

Robert Apelgren is a Reliability Engineer with Anteon. He received his BS in Industrial Technology from Roger Williams University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. He is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional. He has 13 years of maintenance experience as a technician, supervisor, coordinator, consultant, and trainer.

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