20 May, 2024

Train to maintain

25 February, 2016

As fluid power and motion control equipment becomes more sophisticated one might think that a need for a suitably advanced level of staff training is a non-negotiable. In the case of maintenance, for example, if a company doesn’t have the personnel to keep equipment in tip-top working condition it can hardly be surprised when it suffers costly and inconvenient periods of unpredicted downtime.

Nevertheless, it would seem that all is not quite as it should be. Bosch Rexroth is calling on industry to invest more in maintenance training following the results of a recent study that appear to point to a less than wholly committed attitude to training.

The survey conducted among 300 engineers by Bosch Rexroth, in conjunction with The Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET), suggests that more than 50 per cent of engineers receive only five days training or less each year. A mere 12 per cent said they were entitled to 10 or more training days. One of the key issues, backed by approximately 75 per cent of respondents, highlighted the rise in increasingly complex equipment, with maintenance teams struggling to keep up. Despite this increase in complexity, more than half confirmed training budgets had stagnated or decreased.

“It seems like a simple equation that training should intensify as manufacturing technology advances, but this is something easier said than done,” said Richard Chamberlain, UK service manager at Bosch Rexroth. He added that it is crucial that those responsible for machine uptime remain up-to-speed with new technologies. However, with a chronic shortage of skilled technicians, he makes the point that the stigma that training takes engineers away from their core responsibility is still a legitimate problem.

On page 86 of this edition of Hydraulics & Pneumatics, John Savage, director, the National Fluid Power Centre (NFPC), comments that as technology has advanced into the use of electronics and control, a large void exists in which many highly experienced competent fluid power personnel are being moved out of their comfort zone. He emphasises that electronics and control are now providing in conjunction with hydraulics and pneumatics and integrated system far beyond what they could have achieved purely as fluid power.

Because of this, Savage stresses that the NFPC sees its prime role in educating and training fluid power personnel and moving them into the world of integrated systems engineering. The NFPC concentrates much of its regime on practical hands-on training and workshops with a view to maximising the effectiveness of its training while moving personnel back into their comfort zone.

Surveying the Bosch Rexroth report, it is at least encouraging to see that nearly half of respondents considered e-learning courses as key tools in their training. Indeed, as Chamberlain points out, these are likely to increase as machines get increasingly interconnected. “It’s essential that effective training is in place to support engineers; by remaining up-to-speed with advancing technology this will in turn ensure machines run as smoothly and efficiently as possible,” he remarked.

As Savage states, “the success of any company depends very much upon the capability of its workforce at every level”. A detailed analysis of the Bosch Rexroth survey has been compiled into a paper. ‘What you don’t repair you destroy – A report into maintenance practices in UK Industry’ can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/RexrothMaintenance. Putting training higher on the agenda has to make sense in a sector that now demands an increasingly advanced level of technical knowledge and competence. If this is something you feel could be improved within your own company, this really should be something to focus on at the next board meeting.

Ed Holden

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