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As an asset management consultant, I help companies resolve asset-management and maintenance-related issues. Such issues can, understandably, vary greatly in scope. Invariably, though, the vast majority that I encounter are not maintenance problems: They’re people problems. True asset management is about managing people who manage assets.

Having spoken with thousands of maintenance practitioners and management personnel over several decades, it has become abundantly clear to me that skill and passion for the job is seldom the issue. Virtually all complaints involve frustration. Maintenance frustration centers around rarely being afforded the opportunity to perform a world-class repair; being judged as “band-aid’ specialists; and not being respected for what they do. On the other hand, Maintenance clients often are frustrated about repetitive failures and not being involved and consulted in the problem-resolution process.

Maintenance is a collaborative people exercise, and in the maintenance world, every failure is an opportunity. To advance our cause and improve our situation, we must learn to recognize opportunity and be in a mindset that lets us take advantage of every (perceived) negative situation. To paraphrase the great country-music artist Willie Nelson, “Wisdom is in the moments when the madness slips away and we remember the basics.”

For example, wisdom tells us that when a fire department confronts an inferno, it does so in a deliberate, planned manner: It’s fully prepared; gathers information from multiple sources before rushing into a burning structure; and uses tried and tested methods and procedures to fight the fire. Later, the department will conduct a post-fire “lessons-learned” analysis of change opportunities to improve their approach the next time..

Wisdom also tells us that regularly performing maintenance basics can prevent and predict problems and manage situations before failures occur. Maintenance basics include such things as true planning and scheduling of work; effective lubrication practices; component alignment and balancing; correct use and tightening of fasteners: and more. These practices require collaboration and teamwork, and placing the maintainer in front of the machine and its operator. This provides an opportunity to mine a wealth of intelligence about a machine’s habits under varying conditions. That intelligence can then be used to ensure failures are avoided.

Finally, wisdom tells us that when a machine does fail, we must take the time to complete a full repair, as well as perform a post-repair anlysis to understand what went wrong. Then, we must put in place and/or correct processes and procedures to ensure the next failure is an end-of-life failure and, going forward, manage all this in a proactive manner.

Bottom line: Wisdom is about understanding, recognizing, and grasping every opportunity. Grasping opportunity is truly a hallmark of a best-practice maintenance operation.TRR

Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, professional development, workforce issues, skills development