A closer look into the lack of applied Essential Craft Skills and how re-building can power real, sustainable improvements

Reliable Manufacturing®…The Goal

Reliable Manufacturing® is a strategic goal for all industry; whether you have rotating, reciprocating or static assets within the manufacturing process. Reliable Manufacturing® is achieved when systems and assets start upon demand, operate as intended for the desired period of time,in an efficient and effective manner to produce aquantity of product that meets predefined quality standards and exceeds customer’s expectations.

Barriers and Constraints…The Skills Gap

Industrial and manufacturing sites throughout North America are facing a serious skills dilemma. They are discovering that their historical workforce are retiring at staggering numbers, while new hires lack the “essential” craft hard-skills needed to properly repair, maintain and service tens of millions of dollars of critical plant equipment. Possessing and applying correct “essential” skills in daily activities and “improvement work” (aimed at reducing “bad actors”), will more effectively start an industrial site on the road to Reliable Manufacturing®. “Bad Actors” are machines that have been re-worked, taken apart, fixed after breakdown, operated improperly, run-to-failure and re-assembled incorrectly, over and over again. There is a right and wrong way to perform this maintenance work however, and a significant amount of highly skilled journeyman and master mechanics have exited the workforce due to retirement, attrition and sometimes promotion.

The Problem…

What was discovered in a 20+ year study by Reliability Solutions co-founders Ian McKinnon and Tim Dortch, included the observation and intrusive disassemble of countless failed and broken-down equipment.One of the key elements revealed was the presence of multiple installation and assembly errors that were continuously reintroduced into the system during repair, service and operation. These errors result in high vibration and temperatures that increase frictional/unproductive loads. These loads drastically reduce the equipment’s Resistance to Failure (R2F), and life cycle time resulting in uncontrollable loss of profit and massive reduction in reliability. In the truest sense of the term; this is the root cause of “reactive maintenance.” Over the years there have been many advancements in the reliability market: CMMS software, RCM processes, predictive technologies such as, vibration analysis, oil analysis, ultrasonics, thermography, high tech laser tools, non-destructive testing methods and procedures.

These investigative tools enable technicians to see, hear and clearly identify defects in advance of functional failure so that corrective action can be taken to avoid breakdown. All of these technologies are aimed at work identification, execution and management. A key element and opportunity is to understand that “remove and replace” may not be as advantageous as “repair in place”. Additionally, today’s workflow process may be such that the technician receives the job at the beginning of their day. The result is the loss of several hours of key work time, attempts to “fix” machinery that actually shorten asset life and the generation of trade’s technicians who become firefighters. Hence, firefighting never allows for identification and correction of the root issues. The “quality of work” fails to meet expectations leading to “infant mortality” and random failures. Herein lies the “circle of despair”, where personnel relentlessly focus on the “basics” during “emergency” driven work orders but they do not know or are not allowed to transition the “essentials” into the work quality. This approach creates enormous amounts of “re-work” leaving equipment at risk to repeatedly fail while operating at reduced performance. As a result, the organization fights a losing battle, only to produce unnecessary loss of hard earned money every single day. Operating an industrial site with this kind of manufacturing strategy is a poor investment, margins become slim, and hard earned profits are squandered due to the relentless strife to keep equipment running at all costs. Why is it that we have time and money to fix-it-when-it-breaks but no time and money to do-it-right the first time?

The Solution…Missing Link

There is a more effective way; it starts by addressing the true root of the problem.What are the required hands on hard skill-sets of your craft technicians for the future? Reliability Solutions has formulated a skills improvement “Roadmap” that when followed, can build the workforce skill-sets needed to deliver compelling “profitable results”. The curriculum was born from real craft knowledge applied during a “20+ year study” to find solutionsfor repetitive machinery failures that resulted in unscheduled downtime, increased re-work, and emergencies that increased the risk of injury and uncontrollable loss of profit. Failed equipment was forensically analyzed, bad actors were investigated and countless hours of mining failure data revealed what we know as Precision Maintenance®; the application of the Essential Craft Skills (ECS). Today, it’s the teaching, learning and application of these essential skills that are helping companies discover a more effective improvement solution by “training the industrial workforce of the future” and accomplishing the results from within.

Interestingly, the awareness of the skills gap and how to solve it are still uncharted waters for most. However, those that have recognized the strategic value skilled workers are to Reliable Manufacturing® have implemented a defensible and sensible plan to start that journey and are forging a competitive advantage. This equipment, the very life-blood of the process, entrusted to skilled crafts can productively increase the velocity of the “value stream” and drive all things good financially. How then are craft skill levels determined and what can be done to train our industrial workforce to learn and apply these essential skills?

Where Do You Start … The Right Training

An effective starting point is to quantify the skills levels of your craft team. This can be accomplished by conducting a Craft or Trades Skills Assessment, with the intent of formulating a training implementation “Roadmap”. This Roadmap is designed to transform the workforce into a highly skilled “delta team” who are prepared and able to place equipment into a precise state and effectively “maintain” a fleet of reliable machines that deliver profitable results to the site – a valueadded investment.

The skills assessment is not a test but an indicator of what is known and more importantly, what is not known. It validates the need for hands on training and indicates the correct starting point for each craftsman; either Field Prep, to learn the core proficiencies or, move directly into the Essential Craft Skills course: ECS 1, Machinery Installation and Assembly (See Figure 1).

Conducted on-line, the craft skills assessment contains thought-provoking questions centered on two main categories containing 26 topics: See Figure 2

  • Core Proficiencies (highlighted yellow in Figure 2, the ECS prerequisite): Here the “basic” mechanical trades knowledge and applied skills are gauged.
  • Essential Craft Skills (ECS): are the skills needed to repair, install and assemble equipment into the precise state needed to operate efficiently, effectively and reliably.

A study of over 1000 skills assessments conducted throughout North America reveals the following results:

  • Less than 5% score at or above core proficiency
  • A 75+% score indicates knowledge of the core proficiencies
  • Average Core Proficiency score: 58%

Figure 3 shows a site’s group statistics for all mechanical trades and indicates proficiency in only 1 out of 26 categories.

Moving Forward …

The skills gap in manufacturing sites throughout North America will not fix itself.To accomplish this, skills gaps must be addressed and corrected in order to empower craft/trades personnel to precisely install, assemble and care for equipment in such a way that all assets become reliable. This is a requirement to achieve and sustain Reliable Manufacturing® and a competitive advantage needed to win in the global market.

Reliability Solution’s mission is to assist our partner-base in the implementation of Reliable Manufacturing® processes and train the industrial workforce of the future to increase manufacturing profitable performance. Simply stated, there are no other standardized and series of integrated courses of these types, applying essential precision techniques, with measured positive results anywhere else in the world. We invite you to discover more!

Contact Us for more information.

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