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The path to maintenance knowledge has traditionally included a mix of college and “hands-on” learning through either an apprenticeship or university program. The quality and effectiveness of the education depended greatly on the student’s level of engagement and tolerance and ability of teachers to pass on the required skills and knowledge. At the end of the four-year indenture, the trade ticket or degree is granted (in most cases) and a paper-qualified maintainer/engineer is allowed into the industrial work world to make his or her mark.

As rigorous as such programs are, they don’t guarantee that students will understand the meaning and value everything taught to them. Many licensed practitioners never learn to question their training and education and may be averse to new methods and “thinking outside the box.” Some believe, mistakenly, that their educational program taught them all they need to know. Thus, they haven’t purchased or read maintenance textbooks or subscribed to relevant industry publications since they were licensed.

I have always been troubled by the minimalistic nature of the training trades and engineers receive with regard to precision maintenance, particularly in the areas of lubrication and fasteners, which contribute greatly to the reliability, availability, and life cycle of all fixed and moving assets. The precision-maintenance training I conduct is often the most rewarding in terms of positive student reactions as they discover and understand, for the first time, how valuable the simple act of lubricating or fastening correctly is. If a teacher is never taught the meaning, value and consequence of an action, how are they passing it on to their student? As my father constantly impressed upon me, “Be curious. Always question ‘why’ until you understand the value of something. You never know what you don’t know until you know it.”

For the curious, the Internet has placed knowledge at the fingertips of all who seek it. Most information on the web, though, leaves it up to the information seeker to determine if selected material is safe, ethical, and of real value. If you know how to determine what’s meaningful and authentic, you’ll find a plethora of quality educational content and open doorways to respected content sources online. 

People seek out instructional learning for different reasons, however. If you are one who seeks better understanding and/or wants to become more accomplished in your field, there’s an easy way to build a knowledge-acquisition roadmap.

In recent years, there’s been a growth of new educational and standardization organizations whose purpose is to further the maintenance profession and serve as knowledge centers and certifying bodies for those who wish to excel in their field. Consider, for example, the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP), The Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC), the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML), and the Institute of Asset Management (IAM).

All of those organizations provide their membership with variety of toolkits aimed at licensed practitioners. Each offers a series of professional-designation programs whose examinations are based on a published body of knowledge (BOK) and domain of knowledge (DOK).

An organization’s body of knowledge outlines, in detail, all of the concepts required for each level of certification, and is the starting point for understanding our respective knowledge levels and help identify gaps in our learning and understanding. To close those gaps, the accompanying domain of knowledge lists a vetted set of qualitative reference books used to build the examination question set. Those books can then be purchased (or, in most cases, borrowed from a library) for self-study. Once an individual has been exposed to the full body of knowledge, he or she is ready to take one of the many examination-preparedness training courses where any questions can be answered prior to the certification exam.

Embarking on this type of self-discovery journey will provide reference material and guidance that, when coupled with on-the-job experience, will allow a maintenance practitioner to better understand and advocate the true value of his or her profession.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 kbannister@theramreview.com.

Tags: reliability, maintenance, availability, RAM, precision maintenance, workforce issues, professional certification, SMRP, PEMAC, ICML, IAM