I had a very interesting discussion with a fleet manager recently about maintenance management and the reasons why they found it almost impossible to make any step changes in improvement. If I may somewhat précis the discussion, there were a number of key issues that seemed to prevail.
• Crew competence – The engineering officers are well trained but the general training methodology is out of date. Reliability management is not taught and often any detailed fixes are either beyond scope, or require the services of the manufacturer and his ‘laptop’ diagnostic tool.
• Succession planning – This has failed due to fewer new engineers coming into the fleet, those already placed are having to be promoted earlier, thus placing less experienced engineers in higher level positions. To compensate for this effect superintendents are taking on some of these roles and as such moving from a planning and support role to one of direct support. Like a set of dominoes the process moves up the ranks and the gap that is created falls at the strategic level.
• Increased demand upon engineering and deck officers to complete an ever increasing number of regulatory documents - The company in question is now considering hiring a clerk to sail with each vessel to remove this time consuming but important task to allow the officers to do the core role they for which they are employed.
This is only one company’s view on their background reluctance to embrace opportunities for improvement and it may not be typical, though I expect their experiences to be mirrored elsewhere. This seems to me to be an example of a company who does not deal with change well, though to be fair, change management is possibly the most difficult aspect of modern life to routinely manage well.
Managing wisely, using the best intelligence you can afford, and responding to changes in an effective manner to optimise performance are statements that are used daily in the offices of business leaders, yet these messages are not reflected on the ‘shop floor’ or at the ‘coal face’ of a lot of our clients. If this were to happen then it is argued that there would be some significant meaning. This is definitely an opportunity for us to meet our mission and develop meaningful relationships.
We are looking to position Lloyd’s Register as the society of choice for world class maintainers, but in order to ensure we are ready to take up this challenge we have to make sure we have the infrastructure to do so, as the most constant aspect of our business in the 21st Century is change; we have to make change work positively for us!