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You cannot lose with training

My name is John Lambert, my company is Benchmark Maintenance Services Inc. We specialize in training mechanics/millwrights etc., on how to correctly install equipment. Before I talk about that however, I would like to tell you why I think training is such a positive thing.

Before starting my own company I worked for a large manufacturing plant. During my tenure there (18 years) I held many positions mainly in maintenance supervision. At one point I was the Training Coordinator for the Maintenance group. We were heavily committed to training because we knew one of our company's best assets was in the staff that we already had and by educating (training) them, we would be improving these assets. To do this we had to make sure that the appropriate training was available to them, so that they were better equipped to do the work for which they were hired.

With the right kind of training you can expect an employee to have less accidents (safety), make better decisions (leadership) communicate those decisions (team work), or shutting down production when they think it's necessary (process control). Whatever the issue is, training will make your staff more productive. Having better educated employees leads to challenging questions being asked of management e.g. Why do we do it this way? If management is smart and does not take it as a threat, it will look into it's procedures to see if there is a better way. And so the cycle continues in many ways through communication, process control, health and safety, cross functional teams etc. What could be better than to have a happy productive group that is challenged to improve the way it performs its task. And this is what you get if you train properly.

However the best benefit I think that you get from training is from the strong unspoken message that you send to your employees when you commit to training them. Its a message that says.

We believe in you. We want to see you do better. We want to see you succeed as an individual. That's the message you send to your employees. They don't jump up as one to acknowledge this, mainly because it has never been in the North America working culture to do so. But given the right opportunity they will. That opportunity presents itself right after a successful training course. You will get feedback, and depending on the current relations in your organization you may get it loud and clear or may have to listen hard for it, but it will be there if the program you chose was a success.

The company that I was working for was very proactive with training. At that time they had a mandate of 40 hrs of training, per person, per year. This was not always easy to achieve. There were times when we had to implement large programs such as WHIMS, or the Total Quality Management program that took up a lot of time, but by and large we were always on the lookout for more training. Yes, we could always give them safety training, but too much of this is as bad as to little. And the last thing we wanted is for people to get blasé about safety. We had also had our share of duds. Prior to TQM we had a training program on communications. This was a very expensive course that wasn't up to standard. It was immediately labeled A Charm School by the participants and thought of as a joke. This obviously had a very negative effect on training.

So what do you give them ? Well obviously you have to meet the requirements of your customer. So you should first of all ask them what it is they think they need. If you are still looking for ideas for your maintenance group, I would recommend that it is something hands on. Your group will be technical in nature but that doesn't mean you can just give them anything that is Hi-Tech and it will work. On the contrary, your young guys will want to boot it up and your old guys will want to boot it out. You need something that they can see and touch. The reason for this is your people will probably be at different levels on the technology scale. However, they will most likely have one thing in common, they will all be very practical, "Let's do it" type guys. People who need to see if something works and can do it themselves.

Maintenance groups are quite often the most challenging members of your staff to train. I see it each time I start a new training course, they all sit back with what I call the Show me look on their faces. But they are also the most rewarding to teach, because when they see something that works they warm to it very quickly. One way I see this is when I show skilled tradesmen how to graph the position of two machines that we need to move into alignment with each other. We could do the math but I would turn off and tune out over half the participants in the room who haven't done that kind of math in twenty years or more. When they see how simple it is to do graph work they soak it up like a sponge. Within a very short time they are racing to see can finish first and be within a 0.001", because they, like most groups are also competitive.

Where should the training be done?

Offsite locally: One location to do your training is offsite, maybe a room at a college or hotel. The benefit of this is you won't have any distractions. Also the participants stay together, nobody goes wondering off. Breaks and lunch times are easer to control, they even arrive with a different attitude, they seem to be ready to learn. The down side is you won't feel comfortable putting too many through the course at once. You won't want to be short back at the plant. If it is an in-house training program you will have set up with your equipment which takes time.

In-house: Another location is in-house, in case of an emergency you could pull out some, if not all, of your staff. And lets face it, emergencies do happen. You may like to sit in on the training yourself but remain available, or it maybe quite simply the best way to keep the cost down. The down side of this is you risk losing the full impact of the training if there are to many disruptions.

Offsite out of town: Cost is a factor especially when sending people out of town for training, which includes an over night stay. It can get very expensive, so you have to make sure that it's a worthwhile course. I admit that I have sent people on training courses knowing that it would be more of a social meeting than anything else usually as a reward. But you have to make sure what it is you are trying to achieve before sending people out of town.

The instructor: Some cost you cannot avoid, such as when choosing who will be the instructor. Someone from the outside, sends out the message that you are serious. An in-house instructor, unless they are very well trained and respected by all, will have to cope with the in-house politics and personal jealousies. Unfortunately they are quite often domed before they start. I believe that every plant should have an in-house champion in regards to training, but that doesn't mean they have to be the instructor of all as well.

I personally like to train in-house, it makes the participants feel more comfortable and quite often they like to take me out into the plant so I can see what they have to work on. I have been on many training courses, some of the ones I enjoyed were; A two hour training program, given by a gentleman named Norman Clegg, on Fasteners (nuts & bolts) I didn't think anyone could keep my interest for two hours on nuts and bolts, but he did. A three day course on Reliability Centered Maintenance which was very informative and a one day safety program on Rigging and Hoisting, which had a lot of hands on work. There have been many more, some good and some bad but I quite honestly believe I learned something from them all.

I have a very simple approach to maintenance. I know maintenance from the Reactive mode right though to the Proactive mode. I think we have over complicated many of these maintenance strategies, to me the best results are still in Preventative Maintenance. Preventative Maintenance is based on routine inspections and by using very simple instruments to measure and trend equipment, you can react to any changes. However, the cornerstone of Preventive Maintenance is in the installation of your equipment. I am not just talking about shaft to shaft alignment for your coupled driven machine units I mean all your equipment. Cylinders suffer from soft foot problems just the same as your motors do. V Belts will last a lot longer if the sheaves are installed properly and also aligned within a tolerance. You have to compensate for thermal growth and make sure that the run out is acceptable otherwise your equipment is doomed to failure. ( It has been documented that 50% of all rotating machines in North America will fail prematurely due to misalignment)

Our Core Business is training. We started out teaching Shaft to Shaft alignment using dial sets in either Rim and Face or Reverse Dial procedures. It is now developing into a complete installation course. It is designed to be very practical, hands on, nuts and bolts approach to training. We also sell Dial Sets and the most economical Laser Systems in North America. The Easy Laser. I'm pleased to say it's our strong background in training that makes the difference for us in Laser sales. We can show the end user what's behind a laser system, what technology is being used. This leads to a clear understanding of what is being done whether an alignment or a flatness check. With the Geometric System we customize the training to suit the customers equipment. What we are trying to do with all our training, is change the mind set from one that says, "that's close enough", to one that says "it has to be done right the first and only time".

I'm still trying to learn myself. I even listen to training cassette tapes while driving. I would highly recommend Steve Covey's "Seven Habits" to anyone. But just recently I bought a tape in the learning for dummies series, and yes I was a dummy for buying it. (I did learn something?)

Whatever materials you choose to learn with, remember you can't lose.

Thank you for reading this article, and good luck to you all.

John Lambert, Benchmark Maintenance Services Inc.

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