Develop a Corporate Education Master Plan

Jim Fitch, Noria Corporation

Reliability and lubrication excellence are behavioral sciences. Bearings don’t just die; they’re murdered by people. What can change behavior? It requires awareness and know-how.

Imagine two fishermen using fly rods in a trout stream. One is a professional middle-aged man decked out with all the latest gear. He has a flashy, new high-tech rod and reel. He wears the latest fashion-forward chest waders and a fishing vest sporting pockets bulging with every gizmo and gadget on the market. His fly box is well-stocked and neatly organized with hundreds of store-bought flies. Hanging “at the ready” down his back is his landing net. While he looks good and fishes hard, he does not catch any fish.

The second fisherman is a young country boy. His fly rod is simple and worn with age. He moves through the stream wearing boots and cargo shorts. He carries limited gear in a small waist-pouch consisting mostly of an assortment of nymphs and flies he tied himself. His rod is rigged with a basic system of line, leader and tippet. He selects, ties and casts his flies with the skill of an artist. He works the runs and riffles as he stalks his prey. Although his tools are simple, his technique is masterful. He also fishes hard, but in contrast to the first fisherman, he catches many trout.

The reason I tell this story is because I was the first fisherman. I was humbled and in awe of the young country boy as he worked the stream and showed off his skill. His advantage was not his tools, his desire, his natural ability or even luck. His gift was know-how gained from years of practice. Know-how enables skillful execution. Those with know-how exude confidence and take initiative. It’s the secret sauce that can turn an ordinary company into a world-class organization.

Like fly fishing, reliability requires a keen skill. You may have all the latest technology tools and can talk a good game, but there is no substitute for knowledge and skill. Like your lubricants and machines, know-how ages over time, too. Methods and techniques become stale and need to be refreshed. Training and education are the cornerstones of a reliability culture.

Sadly, training in most organizations seems to be a patchwork of activities originating from various groups and individuals. These initiatives typically lack focus, alignment, goals and, most importantly, clear purpose. The cost and time required can be enormous, as are the opportunities if successful. It would be irresponsible to move forward without a defined direction, strategy and end game.

What’s in it for the organization? It’s about shareholder value, but how does a corporate education master plan enable enhanced value? Is it just a myth? Numerous case studies suggest the opposite. Here are a few benefits:

  • Education is the foundation of good reliability. People want to do the right things right but need to know how.
  • Education builds confidence. People are afraid to act and take initiative if they think they might make a mistake.
  • Education enhances job satisfaction and strengthens staff retention.
  • Education drives proactive initiatives that reduce costs and downtime while steering the organization away from the circle of despair known as breakdown maintenance.
  • Education reduces mistakes and behavior as a cause of machine failure.

What’s in it for the employees? They are humans with basic needs and often want the following:

  • Greater job security
  • More pay (after all, they are guardians of machine reliability)
  • A dignified position or title (an oil can is an oiler, but a lubrication technician is a person)
  • A career path for advancement
  • Recognition of skill competency (e.g., certification)

Add Knowledge Cohesiveness to Your Master Plan

Make education and job competency a big deal. Knowledge and skill should be appreciated, respected, celebrated and reinforced. Education and training must be a constant mantra. Don’t create knowledge islands. Use education as a team-building tool to bring people together with shared goals and create opportunities for coaching.

Teams work best when they synergistically combine skills and talents for the collective good. Motivate people to develop unique skills where there are voids. Give them access to training tools, resources and education programs that advance these skills. Include a library of books, DVDs, posters, charts, software and trade publications. Allow participation at trade shows, association meetings, technical conferences, seminars, webinar events, and learning and networking activities.

Establish an intranet site for knowledge sharing to be used between plants and reliability stakeholders. Share best practices, tips and case studies. Develop an organized mentoring and coaching program. Set up in-house workshops and hands-on training events. The list of opportunities to enhance a cohesive training culture goes on and on. Finally, make it fun.

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About the Author

Jim Fitch, a founder and CEO of Noria Corporation, has a wealth of experience in lubrication, oil analysis, and machinery failure investigations. He has advise...