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The world has been revolutionized in the past decade by technology. From satellite TV to DVDs, many luxuries we take for granted today have in fact been commercially available only for a short time. Perhaps the biggest contributing factor to this technical revolution is the Internet.
As a frequent traveler, working with colleagues who literally live and work around the world, the ability to search and book travel online, while sharing files and data with people who are many thousands of miles away, either from my office or a hotel room, has enabled me to work more efficiently and effectively.
In fact, even as recently as five years ago, I may not have been able to do my job as effectively as I can now, without the Internet and other related tools.
Over the past decade, I have been personally exposed to the Internet revolution. As a researcher back in 1990, I distinctly remember a new service called a computer-assisted citation search the university library was offering.
What once took many hours of tedious work, poring over many large scientific tomes could now be achieved in a matter of days, by submitting a written request to the library’s information technology (IT) department and receiving a list of relevant references to the particular topic I was researching. This service used an early precursor to the World Wide Web (WWW) which provided a list of scientific research papers and articles online.
Of course now all I need do is type a few key words into GoogleTM or whichever search engine I choose, and in a fraction of a second, I receive a list of relevant articles to read - and perhaps a few I don’t care to read!
Today, e-commerce is the buzz word. Employees in every industry are able to search online product catalogs, order new supplies, pay for purchases and find technical details without ever leaving their desktop computer. It is no surprise, therefore, that education is starting to pick up on the advantages the Internet has to offer. From single courses to complete MBA programs, educational institutions are offering distance education courses to students.
Online distance education takes two forms - live or recorded. In the live model, a presenter is linked to his students via a live video or audio feed. Depending on the media chosen, students can listen and/or watch the presentation in real time, ask questions - either verbally or by e-mail/Internet chat - and receive and complete assignments. While this offers great advantages in allowing students from multiple locations, perhaps in different countries and time zones, to all “attend” the presentation, there is also a downside to this model.
First, it requires that the whole class and the instructor be available at the same time. Having taught more than 25 classes in the last year, I can attest to the logistical nightmare of trying to get everyone in the same place at the same time. Now multiply that headache by 25 locations and see how easy planning becomes!
Secondly, while online training is certainly a valuable tool, in some instances the lack of personal interaction between student and instructor can make the presentation of complex concepts difficult. Nevertheless, online training - both live and recorded - is here to stay.
When discussing instruction, it’s important to differentiate between education and training. Education is the presentation of factual information to increase the knowledge of individuals, without thought as to how that knowledge might be used. Noria has been providing education on lubrication and oil analysis best practices for years. Training on the other hand, is geared more toward providing skill-based instruction on how to apply factual information in a real situation.
Take for example the act of regreasing a bearing. An educational course provides the factual material on what factors influence regreasing a bearing. A training course, however, might provide the specific procedural steps required to effectively perform this task. To take advantage of all the Internet has to offer, Noria has focused its efforts on providing value-added online training and education, with some margin of success. Here’s how it worked for one Canadian forest products company.
NorskeCanada is a western Canadian forestry company that operates four paper and pulp mills in British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. Like most paper and pulp manufacturers, NorskeCanada is faced with remaining profitable in the increasingly competitive global paper and pulp market. NorskeCanada’s approach to this problem was to form a senior management task force called the Maintenance, Materials Management and Engineering Group (MMME).
“MMME’s mandate was to look at all aspects of our business and determine where the opportunities for reliability improvements lie” said Miles Stacey, NorskeCanada’s Crofton Division maintenance reliability supervisor. “At our mill, lubrication was found to be one of the single biggest opportunities to improve our bottom line.”
At NorskeCanada’s Powell River Division, a similar conclusion was reached. “Our people, both operations and maintenance, started to realize that oil is the lifeblood of our equipment and that we must do a better job of ensuring the overall quality of lubricants in the plant,” said Derek Cole, Power River Division predictive reliability supervisor. As a result of this mandate, the company developed a reliability improvement group, spearheaded by a team leader at each division.
“Drawing on the knowledge gained both from our collective years of experience, together with a number of training courses we’d all attended, the team as a whole was able to recognize the opportunities precision lubrication offers in obtaining and maintaining world-class equipment reliability,” said Matt Neild, the Port Alberni Division team leader.
However, having management support was only the first step in the process. The divisions quickly realized they could not succeed in developing a world-class lubrication program without the support of a well-trained, motivated crew of lubrication technicians.
“For years, our mill took the approach that lubrication is simply about adding or changing oil, or greasing bearings,” said Mike Johnson at the Campbell River Division. “So we set about developing an action plan to provide some fundamental knowledge-based education to the lubrication teams at each division, to provide them with the skills necessary to pick-up and run with the new initiatives we plan to introduce.”
The divisions decided to use the advantages offered by online training to develop a training curriculum for providing fundamental lubrication-based knowledge for those involved in lubrication. However, the plan did not simply stop with lubrication technicians. The divisions decided to also include supervisors and reliability engineers in the same training. “The message we’re trying to convey is that precision lubrication is important to the mills, and that responsibility rests on everyone’s shoulders, not just the guys in the lube shack,” said Dave Anderson, the Elk Falls Division lubrication supervisor.
The biggest concern NorskeCanada had at the outset of this planning process was the logistics of training close to 80 people across all four divisions, without taking people away from their daily jobs for too long or spending significant amounts of money sending people off-site, or bringing a training course to each mill site.
“We wanted to pace the learning experience so that guys had time to learn a few facts or concepts at a time, and could then put those facts into use to solidify their newfound knowledge,” said Mike Johnson. At the same time, the divisions wanted a way of ensuring that those individuals who completed the training had learned and comprehended the information. After discussions with ICML, NorskeCanada agreed that the ICML Machinery Lubrication Technician (MLT) Level I body of knowledge covered all the essential areas of importance to a modern paper and pulp operation.
To prepare the lubrication techs for the MLT Level I certification exam, NorskeCanada decided to use Noria’s Best Practices for Machinery Lubrication course. Ordinarily set for three full days or 24 hours of instructional time, Norske broke the course into 12, two-hour modules (see sidebar on page 30 for outline of course content). “Each module covers one specific area, so the guys can learn one topic without being overwhelmed with too much information all at once,” said Mike Johnson.
At the same time, each participant was given a series of supporting textbooks, subscriptions to Machinery Lubrication and Practicing Oil Analysis magazines, and an e-mail subscription to LubeTips, so they could learn what others in their industry are doing. The team felt this was important because they wanted to emphasize that the solutions being recommended were based not on textbook theory alone, but on real practical solutions that have worked in other plants.
The program details include:
Two-hour live modules, once every month for 12 months (total of 24 hours of instruction)
An onsite one-day “cram session” every six months to review the material covered so far
Bimonthly issues of Machinery Lubrication and Practicing Oil Analysis magazines
LubeTips weekly e-mail newsletter
Textbooks that provide practical advice on lubrication and oil analysis best practices
Optional MLT Level I exam once the program is completed
One item important to the divisions was the flexibility that allowed personnel to review each monthly live module at a later date. This offered those individuals who had already sat through the live presentation the option of reviewing the material in preparation for the MLT exam.
This is important because often not all the people involved can attend the live presentation at the same time due to vacations, sick time or specific situations at their facility, which require lube techs to be on the shop floor instead of in the classroom. However, with a recording of the live online presentation - similar to setting the VCR to record your favorite TV show - those who cannot attend a specific session are able to go back and cover the material in a specific module.
In addition to lubrication training, the divisions have also enlisted assistance from other suppliers to help the lubrication techs learn. With support from their lubricant supplier, filter supplier and oil analysis lab, the team plans to provide fundamental knowledge-based education on these important aspects of lubrication.
Likewise, the divisions plan, where appropriate, to provide task-specific training, either online or in person, for specific lubrication tasks, such as regreasing bearings using ultrasonics or onsite oil analysis instrumentation, in which some of the divisions have invested.
“Our ultimate goal is to effect a cultural change in our respective divisions,” said Derek Cole. “Instead of performing lubrication tasks the way we always have, we want to transition over the next few years into a world-class organization whose practices are considered to be truly focused on precision lubrication,” he added.
With a dedicated team of reliability leaders at each division, strong and conspicuous management support and an experienced team of lubrication techs, the online training is the last piece in the puzzle. The chances of success at NorskeCanada are high, and it is all thanks to the Internet!
NorskeCanada’s Online Training Course Outline
The Role of Lubrication in Machine Reliability