Maintenance managers face a host of well-known challenges (budgets, compliance, deferrals) – but the issue of lost institutional knowledge is taking its place as a high priority…
As long-term employees edge toward retirement, many companies are facing a shortfall when it comes to the skilled and experienced people they need. This transition from an aging workforce to a younger workforce is often known as “the great crew change”. It is perhaps one of the biggest challenges asset intensive industries face and as a result, many companies are beginning to lose irreplaceable field instincts and hands-on experience.
How does the knowledge escape?
Practical industry knowledge walks out of your office door every working day! Your supervisors and technicians carry essential data for the safe, and efficient operation of every asset and facility. Without it, your business is likely to suffer.
Experience takes time to develop, however even if you can retain quality talent in your company, eventually they will retire, taking their knowledge and expertise with them. With this sudden loss of talent and experience, you must re-learn many of the intricate details of the business at a high cost.
What can managers do?
- Identify resources. Start with supervisors and technicians who have worked in a facility the longest – they typically know the most about your asset management business processes.
- Encourage sharing. Make a successful transition to a younger and less experienced workforce by setting up mentoring and job-sharing plans that focus on sharing vital knowledge. However, be careful to manage this process as if poorly managed, the experienced resource may feel he is being prematurely replaced with a younger (and often cheaper) resource.
- Leverage new technologies. Remember that this new workforce is used to using technology and social networks for learning.
- Use process. Make it official by setting expectations, scheduling discussions and following up to assess progress.
- Launch training and development programs. Significantly increase the number of graduates that you take into the business to supplement the existing talent pool.
However, meeting these challenges is difficult for many reasons…
The often-verbal nature of many asset intensive industries is one such challenge. It creates difficulties in passing on that knowledge to the new workforce. So how do you capture it before it walks out the door? Organisations are adopting a growing reliance on technology to capture knowledge and asset management best practices from experienced employees who have developed proven workflows.
Using Maximo as a knowledge repository
Knowledge is most effectively gathered at the point of work execution. Within IBM Maximo solutions, you can store your lessons learned and tried and tested solutions in an environmental context to be used by the operations, maintenance and engineering teams. This becomes a valuable opportunity to share tacit knowledge with a new generation of workers, along with history, scenario and experience.
Asset-intensive companies who use Maximo can reinforce programs of change that provide a sustainable way to maintain the organisational knowledge necessary to operate mission-critical assets safely and productively.
Adding Watson cognitive capabilities into the mix
Cognitive capabilities can help organisations quickly capture years of practical experience and best practices, and transfer their critical skills and knowledge to other employees or automated systems. One great real world example of this is at Woodside Energy. Woodside Energy is Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company. Their workforce uses real-time data to keep things running smoothly and ensure the safety and operational efficiency of all their employees and oil rigs.
Success lies in the way they grow and empower their workforce, and the ability to scale the knowledge of engineers working in control rooms 70 miles offshore. Woodside Energy uses IBM Watson cognitive services to help facilitate this new style of learning, so that the new workers accumulate just as much industry knowledge as their predecessors, but in a different way – one that fits their generational mindset.
Combined, Maximo and Watson can be important tools for diminishing the impact of “the great crew change”. They provide vital support for industries facing productivity challenges; profitability objectives; cost controls; mergers and acquisitions; enterprise risk; and health, safety and environmental concerns.