Reliability professionals such as Ramesh Gulati, a recognized expert in the field, have experienced one of the most dramatic slowdowns in the history of business and industry since the pandemic began in early 2020. Now Gulati is one of many evaluating how maintenance and reliability units can help lead their companies safely into recovery.
Gulati is an asset management and reliability specialist with Jacobs Asset Management Group in Tullahoma, Tenn., and is known in the industry as “Reliability Sherpa.” In May, Ramesh joined the Fluke Reliability Best Practice webinar series to discuss “Lessons from the pandemic to help maintenance and reliability pros be more effective.” Gulati addresses several key questions, including: How have the practices, goals, and framework of reliability engineering and maintenance been changed and what will be the norms going forward? You can listen to the replay on Accelix.com.
Gulati starts by addressing the human impact of the quarantine, which has many people working from home or not working at all. It is best to be aware of the stresses around us, rather than brushing them away, he advises. The impact on us is profound, even if not always obvious. He suggests taking time to note the positives, from cleaner air because of fewer cars on the road to people spending more time with family.
When it comes to our workplaces, it could be tempting to focus on just one’s M&R team, building, or industry. But Gulati encourages us to consider the broader impact of the slowdown. Failing to account for the interdependencies between regional economies, vendors and suppliers, and market dynamics and fluctuations can undermine even the best-led team.
“We must implement new ways of doing business,” he advises. From personal safety to team, plant, and remote work processes, the considerations include:
Gulati cited the Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen as early leaders in adjusting their workflows to account for social distancing and other COVID-19 safety practices.
Ford, for example, has issued all employees a digital band to alert them if they come closer than six feet to another person. Volkswagen has rolled out more than 100 workplace changes, including having workers pass materials by setting items down, not hand-to-hand, and requiring employees to enter factory gates in single-file lines to keep six-feet of distance at all times.
Many workplaces have instituted temperature checkpoints or employee health screenings (as demonstrated in Figure 1) and have closed down break rooms and smoking areas to prevent employees from congregating in one spot.
“The overall (change) is so exhaustive, staff will have to take extra time to absorb the new rules,” Volkswagen union officials stated in an article that Gulati referenced.
What about changes specific to reliability engineering? What should a reliability engineer or maintenance technician expect?
Most facilities are increasing digitalization efforts and plan to do more with their EAM and CMMS platforms. Yes, many maintenance and reliability teams had already been updating and digitalizing their core systems and workflows over the last couple of years. Now, this current situation is increasing the speed of digital workflow adoption, such as:
Most importantly: Extending the use of technology and online learning to everyone on the team.
Accepting this degree of change is not going to be easy, especially with the ongoing degree of uncertainty we all face, Gulati notes. During the webinar, he offers coaching on how to help people accept change. “Change is here, this is the new normal. Let us accept this change, think how we can make it better, and make a plan.”