How continuous education can augment your maintenance practices

February 2nd, 2017

Staff and management alike will tell you that they value more training and education at work – but how do you get the most from these programs, while keeping costs in line? The best organizations employ continuous training procedures with a strong focus on practical implementation and retaining key concepts.

One major area to note when building or purchasing a training program is how long it takes to complete. With education, as with most things, the law of diminishing returns absolutely applies. In many cases, shorter modules focused on more specific topics will be more effective than longer, more comprehensive efforts. Especially when they're introduced as part of a workplace rather than an academic setting, with lots of other distractions and tasks at hand, it can be difficult to get training subjects to retain information from longer lectures.

It's also important to break up the relevant education modules themselves. Research within academia – general chemistry classes, specifically – found that mixing up actual lecture periods with question-and-answer sessions, demonstrations, and interactive components significantly decreased students' attention drift. We've all been to talks, lectures, and training sessions that just comprise endless slide decks and dry lectures about what's on screen. By reaching out and engaging your training audience, you stand a better chance of really bringing home the right lessons about predictive maintenance, continuous improvement, and reliability engineering.

Create incentives for education – and for staying part of the team

Sometimes, it can be difficult to motivate people to begin or engage with training and educational initiatives in the first place. You can try to make certain trainings mandatory, which is definitely important when it comes to mission-critical safety and reliability efforts. However, to go beyond that, it's very helpful to create incentives for people to *want* to improve. 

By linking career advancement with training and education, you incentivize team members to seek out and engage with training of their own accord. People tend to be more enthusiastic about activities they feel will benefit them – and their career – directly.

By linking career advancement with training and education, you incentivize team members to seek out and engage with training of their own accord.

There's one part of this that demands caution. When managing a team, there's always the risk that lots of training, certification, and education can create workers who find it easier to seek out new positions or receive new offers. Better-qualified employees help your team. They also represent a more tempting target for recruiters. Make sure that, when you implement a training regimen, you also consider how to motivate your employees to stay on board and continue helping you, instead of the competition.

Apply the lessons in the real world

Application is where the rubber meets the road for continuous maintenance training. All the theory in the world goes to waste if it is never implemented, or implemented incorrectly, on the facility floor. 

In a 2014 blog post, Reliability Now writes that

"Once a student has seen a new way to do something in the training environment they must apply the skills nearly immediately. This helps with the previous topic of retention but it also creates success and real world examples that can be used to continue the change process. We use project based learning where each student has a charter with goals and metrics that they drive by applying what they have learned and generating success and a return on our training effort."

Anyone who's spent a significant amount of time in training sessions knows that once muscle memory and practice get involved, it's far easier to retain critical information. After all, have you ever been more engaged by a PowerPoint presentation than by getting your hands dirty?

Check up regularly after establishing regimens

In the first week or month of a new inspection or reliability regimen, people tend to be more on the ball. The information and procedures are fresh in everyone's minds, most are eager to make a good impression, and enthusiasm runs high, generally speaking.

It's in the following weeks and months that we tend to see problems. Daily routines slip to weekly, weekly ones go monthly. Checks are skipped or postponed in favor of more pressing crises. It's only human – just look at gym memberships and attendance from New Year's Day through to February 1, March 1…you get the idea.

In order to hang on to your improvements, it's important to keep the continuous in continuous maintenance. Random check-ups and inspections can keep a team on their toes. Regrouping periodically after some time has elapsed since training occurred will bring lessons back up and make them fresh again. 

Continuous education and training, like the courses offered by UE Systems, can help your maintenance team keep its edge and stay ahead of safety and reliability challenges in your facility. Just keep in mind that such a process is ongoing, and can't simply proceed along set-it-and-forget-it lines.

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