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In our book, ‘Machinery Failure Analysis and Troubleshooting’ (now in its 4th edition), Fred Geitner and I explore competing approaches to such troubleshooting. One of them is the “Mr. Machinery Approach,” whereby sole responsibility for a facility’s equipment-asset fate rests on a single person: Mr./Ms. Machinery. His/her batting average is usually good. He/she can make the trouble go away. Accustomed to calling the shots, this person is very valuable to your organization.

Unfortunately, there can be a downside to over-dependence on Mr./Ms. Machinery. While you thought some constraints had been placed on this person’s excessive independence by asking him/her to be part of the Reliability Team, he/she is still known to “go it alone.” Furthermore, his/her presence at the team’s meetings stifles the contributions of others. And you, of course, know that machinery-failure analysis and troubleshooting (FA/TS) must be a cooperative or team effort.

Note that because the three principal job functions represented at a plant (Operations, Maintenance-Mechanical, and Reliability-Project/Technical) are likely to influence equipment reliability in equal measure, all three must share in the plant’s FA/TS efforts. Moreover, for plant reliability and profitability to be maximized, continuity of effort must be assured. Others need to be trained and experts should not be burdened with tasks that can be performed by less-experienced personnel. In light of those facts, perhaps it’s time to insist on delegation of responsibilities. 

The record shows that delegation of authority already existed in the late bronze age, some 3,500 years ago. At one point, Moses (of the Bible’s Old Testament) took it upon himself to single-handedly judge the people entrusted to him. That prompted his father-in-law to declare, “It is not good the way you are doing. You will surely wear out, both you and this people who are with you, because this business is too big a load for you. You are unable to do it by yourself.” Well spoken, back then, when the man had to deal with an unruly crowd.

Within down-sized and reshuffled modern process plants that are also being burdened with the vicissitudes of a pandemic, many reliability professionals may be trying to accomplish more than is reasonable or prudent. It would be in everybody’s best interest if they would get help by learning to delegate. Indeed, a person who does not delegate is a poor organizer.

Delegation of responsibility allows reliability professional and responsible managers to achieve several important goals. First, when Mr./Ms. Machinery or a functional equivalent in other areas of the plant is absent, this person’s delegates will act in his/her place, and necessary work will not grind to a halt. Second, since actions speak louder than words, the resourcefulness and abilities of the stand-in can be observed. Third, the expert gives his/her delegates an opportunity to gain much-needed experience. An insightful organization or industrial enterprise recognizes the need for continuity of expertise. This continuity requires the training of potential successors.

Engineers may fear that by delegating they risk losing control. Others may be disinclined to delegate because they feel they can do the job quicker themselves. While this may be true, a thoughtful professional will see much value in training others. Of course, the professional in charge can tactfully make it clear that he/she plans to exercise an appropriate degree of oversight or monitoring of the stand-in’s progress. In any event, there is ample evidence that organizations that practice delegation will often prosper and expand at rates that outperform the competition.

Delegating also means getting help with necessary details. An example of this would be to put trainee in charge of relevant records, such as equipment-failure histories, among others. Doing so would help the trainee expand his/her knowledge and experience through exposure to a wealth of valuable insights on equipment vulnerabilities, maintenance practices, repair costs, and a host of other reliability issues. That said, in my next article, I will be outlining a proven “Four-Step Approach to Delegating.TRR

Editor’s Note: Click Here To Download A Complete List Of Heinz Bloch’s 22 Books

Heinz Bloch’s long professional career included assignments as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the United States. A recognized subject-matter-expert on plant equipment and failure avoidance, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and continues to present at technical conferences around the world. Bloch holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and is an ASME Life Fellow. These days, he’s based near Houston, TX. Email him at heinzpbloch@gmail.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, professional development