Shortly after my January editorial on "Walking the Talk" was published, I received an e-mail from Dave Larson, chief maintenance manager for a multiplant food processing company in the Midwest. He had a number of observations about the state of maintenance in the United States.
His thoughts on mechanic skill sets complement the management skill sets we discussed in our February issue. Here is what he had to say:
"Maintenance is no longer a repair function where the tool box and a knowledge of a trade is all you need to get by. These are part of what is needed; however, the modern day mechanic must be better equipped."
He listed the following skills:
Computer skills: Computer literate and keyboard trained; able to do light CAD/CAM drawings; spreadsheet, word processor, and CMMS capable
Financial skills: Understands budgeting; able to do a cost analysis for a repair effectively; understands long-term planning and capital planning
Interpersonal skills: Deals effectively with all levels of management; able to write effectively; able to take constructive criticism without complaint; peer-to-peer communication is a must
Work skills: Electrical skills a must, plus another trade; trade school trained; MUST be able to adapt
Analytical skills: Root problem analysis; determine what needs to be done first and then implement
Reader Larson says he is not all that impressed with America's maintenance capability and suggests that we have allowed our skill levels to degenerate. "That is our fault," he declares. "Blame management, Blame the union. Blame, Blame, Blame. That does nothing to help. We need to Train, Train, Train," he charges.
He notes that most mechanics come from the trades or from the military and that the military source is drying up so the trade schools need to pick up the slack. His solution: get into the high schools and push the trade schools. We agree.
Reliability and maintenance organizations must get involved in training young people and actively support trade schools. It is the responsible thing to do because it will help to strengthen the nation's industrial position. It is also the smart thing to do because the organizations that are involved with the schools will get to know the young people and have an inside track on hiring and keeping the best new talent.
If you are not involved in training, who are you going to blame. MT