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You “Gotta” Have Friends…

My friend the HR manager

Change is inevitable in any organization. Unfortunately change requires moving people to a new way of thinking and acting. Having spent twenty years in a manufacturing environment I was amazed at the resistance that was met with change in policy or job responsibility. The key to handling change is to build a relationship with the human resource manager. Spend the necessary time with your HR manager to clearly communicate and develop the vision of a successful maintenance program. Talk through different scenarios relative to the new way of doing things. Your HR manager can give you good insight into the battles you should fight and those you should avoid. Like a lawyer, they can keep you out of contract violations and costly arbitration. A good HR manager can also help keep you from making a sweeping policy decision that is based on emotions rather than one that is consistent with the company and maintenance vision. In addition, your HR manager can keep you up-to-date on new labor laws and emerging trends as well as current healthcare and retirement benefits. Developing this relationship will allow you to quickly and accurately answer your staff's questions pertaining to these issues and gain their respect, which will help ease the transition in policy changes or job responsibilities. Also a good HR manager can give you access to federal or state grant money for skills training of your staff. However, access to these programs usually requires quite a bit of effort and paperwork, an area your HR manager can help with.

My friend the Accountant

Mark Twain once said the bible was the most owned and least used book in the world. The same may be said of the accountants in your organization. They may be one of the most valuable sources of business information and the least utilized. They can help you receive funding for capital improvements or equipment. They speak the universal It is a lot easier to present dollars and cents than technically to management. As you develop a friendship with the accountant there are a few key points you should know. First, respect their profession. Their job consists more than just counting numbers. Secondly, make them feel as part of the team. When was the last time you took your accountant on a tour of the facility? When your equipment becomes real to the accountant and not just a cost center or asset description you will be well on your way to having a valuable ally and getting approval for funds you need from management.

My Friend the Maintenance Engineer

A few months ago, I developed a sinus infection but I could not get to the doctors office. Since my primary care physician has known me for years and knows my tendency toward this ailment, he called in a prescription to my local pharmacy. A few days later I was as good as new. This situation was resolved for a few reasons. I was knowledgeable enough to know that I was sick and my doctor had enough data and personal knowledge of my overall physical health to prescribe a remedy over the phone.

As a result of downsizing in many industries, staff maintenance engineers have been phased out. Because of this situation, it is critical to develop a relationship with a source of maintenance engineering expertise. For the relationship to yield benefits, an investment of time and money must be made to give the engineer a clear understanding of your company's production process, overall equipment condition and general maintenance culture. Since a great deal of equipment is similar across different industries, these individuals can give insight to speed up the diagnostic and improvement process. Just as my physician gave me a prescription so too can the maintenance engineer recommend inspection methods and intervals that will extend the life of your assets. The maintenance engineering profession is quickly developing into a network of specialized reliability professionals. This culture allows new diagnostic technologies to be utilized in a manufacturing facility on an as needed basis without the burden of the maintenance department purchasing the equipment. Oil analysis, infrared thermography, and ultrasonic technologies have matured and will certainly become even more advanced in the coming years. Software platforms are available that link these technologies together and allow the data to talk with your computerized maintenance management system.

A friendship with a Maintenance Engineer can be best utilized in the following manner:

  • Audits of existing equipment condition and downtime data with gap analysis and improvement action plan
  • Development of essential care monitoring techniques and routes for your personnel
  • Train your personnel on operating and maintenance best practices
  • Facilitate structured troubleshooting and problem analysis meeting and train key personnel in these techniques

These are tasks that any maintenance professional would do if they had the time, but since they don't they must seek professional help from a friend.


In the early 1900's street vendors would play portable crank organs while a monkey on a leash would carry a tin cup for tips. While the organ grinder played in the background the monkey would go from person to person soliciting coins for the enjoyment of the crowd. The organ grinder and monkey trust each other in the area of their expertise to be successful, we must do the same with our human relations mangers, accountants, and maintenance engineers. They are the key to cultivating a successful maintenance program.

Article submitted by:  By Jim Hudson, Director of Engineering Services, Trico Corp.

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