Super Techs

July 1, 2009
Pump maintenance technicians are real assets to a company. They are in fact a must if we're to succeed in today's economy.

By Robert L. Matthews

Pump maintenance technicians are real assets to a company. They are in fact a must if we're to succeed in today's economy. How exactly do we get the best possible team? Companies have used their training budgets to develop skilled workers to maintain pumps and other equipment for years. Today, building “reliability maintenance” in an economic downturn is difficult, especially with cuts in our training budgets coming first as we tighten our belts.

No more channel locks and cheater pipes
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Training costs a lot of money. There's no getting around that. The training program cost, in-class man hours cost, and loss of in-plant productive man hours add to the backlog of work. We all know when we put the pencil to it, though, that reliability doesn't cost — it pays. So, we must look for ways to save dollars where we can and still improve with pump tech skills. This moves us up the road to reliability.

“Super tech” is a phrase I've heard for years. Variations include “reliability tech” and “lead tech”. These roles are a real part of world class maintenance. Often overlooked, however, are the different ways to get there. First and foremost are the skills. Second is the documentation to ensure they last beyond any single individual's tenure.

Some companies have for years taken one or two competent pump mechanics that are self-starters and educated them with industry training excellence. These super techs, which I like to call lead techs, take charge of major tasks and training of their coworkers. These are steps for transforming company maintenance teams into a precision maintenance workforce. It also spreads the investment in that individual across the entire team.

This lead tech is the one who knows that no maintenance organization can advance without documentation. Planning, scheduling and working in a professional manner is a great help for the teams, but their task check-off sheets are the key to making sure the work is successful over the long term. Repair sheets, troubleshooting reports, vibration analysis, ultrasound history, thermography and installation procedures all become the documentation that builds greatness in maintenance.

I've seen this method work at refineries in Corpus Christi, TX; Coffeyville, KS; Superior, WI; and other places — so let it work for you. They're resulting up-time is 98%, which is huge. Look at the “total cost of ownership,” which is what you spend now for pump equipment, O&M and the man hours that go with it. What you expect to get from your investment is time, not simply the cost of maintenance man hours but increased uptime. That's increased productivity. That's increased profit. That's increased job security for you and everyone in your company.

About the Author: Reliability manager for Houston-based Royal Purple Ltd., Bob Matthews has 35+ years of pump industry experience — including hands-on supervision, in-plant maintenance management, consulting and training. He has taught advanced pump classes for Fortune 500 companies, universities, the Vibration Institute, ASME and FSA. Contact:

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