The Quest for Ideal Maintenance Worker

By Mark Delfunt, Director, Knowledge Management, InSource Solutions

Maintenance teams are foundational members of the up-time cadence in industrial facilities. We depend on them to have the knowledge and skills to quickly assess an issue and resolve it in minimal time to minimize downtime.  While engineering a modern industrial automation system is critical, learning how to keep one going is a different skill altogether.

Often, maintenance workers do not receive the training they need to deal with today’s highly integrated systems.  They are often forced to get their knowledge second hand from training material intended for others – such as IT or engineering, where architecting, designing, and developing is the key emphasis.  This type of content is excellent for the intended audience but is likely not ideal for those interested in the specifics of troubleshooting and repair, not design.

Further, keeping complex automation and industrial IT systems highly available is not the same as troubleshooting a 3-phase motor or finding a bad output card inside control hardware.  A maintenance worker in today’s industrial world must know much more to be effective. Although they are not architecting, maintenance must be cognizant of how systems are designed and put together. They must understand the system design and be able to navigate and identify the root cause of failures and devise solutions or temporary workarounds. It’s normal today for an industrial facility to have multi-vendor control systems, multi-vendor supervisory controls or HMIs, in addition to other systems like variable speed drives, scales, analytic instrumentation, etc., each with unique and complex communication drivers, interconnections, and interdependencies.

As a result, the automation maintenance worker must know some information about a lot of different systems – but not waste time training on subjects that are not required. I compare this to a good auto mechanic who has the training and skill to listen to an engine, connect the engine scanner to determine if there are any trouble codes, and interpret those codes to determine if number 6 cylinder has an injector misfiring. To be good and keep me on the road, the mechanic doesn’t need detailed training on designing injectors or programming the engine control module (ECM) to achieve optimal firing of all 6 cylinders. Although knowing such information is great and may be the next step for the mechanic, it’s typically not required to do the core job efficiently, i.e. identify which cylinder is misfiring and replace it in 2 hours or less.

InSource has developed two maintenance classes for the very popular InTouch and System Platform applications. Both classes provide the maintenance team with the fundamentals to identify and resolve issues that maximize up-time without wasting their valuable time teaching concepts they do not need for the core job function. Additionally, we took the number one issue from our technical support hotline (device communication) and created a special class to cover that topic in greater detail since it may be the single most common cause of systems not working as designed.

The initial demand from our client’s maintenance teams for onsite and InSource training facility classes has been tremendous.  As a result, we added the option for classes to be customized to your specific needs.  The quest to create that ideal maintenance worker is ON!

If you are interested in learning more, you can see the details in the links below.