What Keeps the Fire Burning

I ran into an old friend at a conference recently and after we chatted about the things going on in each of our lives he asked me a series of questions that caught me a bit off guard.

How much longer do you plan to work?

Don’t you get sick of the travel?

You’ve been teaching and facilitating Reliability Centered Maintenance for over twenty years, doesn’t doing the same thing all the time get boring?

Have you ever thought about teaching other courses just to change it up a bit?

What motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing?

 

While some might be offended by this line of questioning, I sensed from the start my friend searching for the answer to questions he had been asking himself.

While the life of a consultant looks like a sweet deal, it doesn’t take long to understand that life on the road isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. A hotel room isn’t home, the bed isn’t your own, and sight seeing out and out sucks when you don’t have someone to enjoy it with. Spend a few years traveling the world and you too will begin entertaining the thought of finding a 9 to 5 somewhere close to home.

Answering his questions in reverse, success is what motivates me and please don’t confuse this with money. I’m motivated by those who attend my RCM classes and participate in RCM analyses. My job is sharing information I have studied and my experience in working with and helping hundreds of customers over the last twenty years. I have worked in the field of manufacturing maintenance nearly forty years and when I meet with a new group that walks in expecting to be introduced to the latest program of the month, it’s my job to instill the belief that they themselves have the knowledge and experience it takes to make things change.

I’ve told people for years now, there’s nothing magical about RCM, it simply a process that adds structure and discipline to the chaos that occurs in every manufacturing plant around the world. The only difference between my successful clients and the clients who allowed RCM to become a program of the month is the one or two people at each site who had the drive to step up, take ownership and lead.

I’ve told every team I have ever worked with that RCM is their opportunity to prove once and for all the things I know they have been saying in the lunch room and break room for their entire careers. “If our managers would just listen to us, we could help make this place run better and become a better place to work.” RCM doesn’t work without your knowledge and experience in working with the equipment and the consultants who believe they can build an effective maintenance strategy without your input don’t last long in this business. This class, this analysis is your chance to prove what you have been saying all along is true. We simply need some leaders.

It’s those people who step up to lead that motivate me. Their success energizes me to continue to instruct and share. Initiating that change is powerful, having someone come back and tell you that you changed their life and career is priceless.

 

I’ve always thought about teaching other topics and tools that relate to improving reliability. I have in fact created several courses over the years and when customers ask if I could teach a different course or lead a different problem-solving effort in most cases I have done so. I don’t advertise those courses because I don’t need to RCM alone keeps me busy. With that said, I continue to read articles and books on tools and technologies. This is what inspired me to start writing the book “Clean, Green and Reliable” and I have two others I have been slowly working on the last few years.

 

Instructing and facilitating RCM has never been boring. Learning how we manufacture, cars, trucks, dishwashers, beer, energy, gasoline, dog food, airplanes, salad dressing and motorcycles fascinates me. The process of how each company manages their work, the conditions of their plants, the importance they may or may not put on formal apprentice programs changes at every company I work with. I’ve been to slaughter houses where lines of people stand side by side cutting meat with knives sharper than anything you have in your kitchen and listened to the workers chatting and laughing about their kids soccer game and watched in amazement as a gigantic robot lifted and tilted the entire chassis of a mini van so another robot could install parts on the underside. I’ve been to offshore oil platforms, and was given the details and reports on why an oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico when I facilitated a RCM analysis on blow out preventer. In all this time, I have yet to be bored. And, while each of these plants were interesting, it’s the people that make my work exciting.

 

Travel stinks! My wife will tell you there are days I have cried before I left home. I’m human and I’m lucky to have a family where love is always present. But those weeks where you find out your missing the first band performance, sporting event or awards night are brutal. In the end we still have to provide and I’m thankful for cellphone video and facetime!

 

My dad retired at 51 years old. He is presently 84 and has now been retired for as many years as he worked. I have been jealous of that for several years now. When I was 55 I seriously considered retiring and then had a chat with my accountant. When I told him my plans he responded, “I remember when I started doing your taxes you were a Pipefitter, your hands were callused and strong, You had burns on your forearms and wore steel toed work shoes to my office. That was  hard work wasn’t it? Now, you talk for a living…..”

I might never retire. I’ll slow down for sure but being honest, I talk for a living.

 

After answering all his questions, my friend looked at me smiled and replied, “You were just the person I needed to run into today, you told me exactly what I needed to hear.” We said our goodbyes and I couldn’t help but smile as he walked away.

Once again, I have been energized!

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