Developing a Maintenance Training Plan

Alejandro Trujillo

Developing a Maintenance Training Plan

We've all experienced the frustration that comes when a piece of equipment breaks down unexpectedly, leading to lost productivity and increased costs. This is why developing a maintenance training plan is crucial for any organization that relies on machinery to function efficiently. A comprehensive training program can help prevent equipment breakdowns, prolong the lifespan of machinery, and ensure safe working conditions.

But why do we need to develop a training plan at all? Because of human error. Human error is universal and inevitable, and it's essential to acknowledge that errors are consequences, not causes.

Did You Know?

80% of all maintenance errors are due to human factors.
Source: Federal Aviation Administration

In this article, we will explore the importance of developing a maintenance training plan that addresses human error, providing insights and tips to help you establish an effective program that will improve your operations and keep your equipment running smoothly.

The Human Factor

One of the major causes of human error is knowledge related. These errors commonly occur when people perform tasks without sufficient information to judge if the task is being completed correctly. The two most common types of deficits that lead to human error are:

  • Lack of Knowledge:The task was not completed successfully due to a lack of knowledge or skill from the team member performing the task.
  • Lack of Judgement:The equipment was returned to service after a high-risk maintenance task without the repair having been properly inspected or tested.

An organization’s strategies and plans are completely reliant upon its people, and the people can only do as much as their skillset and knowledge will allow. With the widening skills gap that’s occurring in every industry, this lack of training could mean:

  • Added stress
  • Reduced work quality
  • Unfulfilled business objectives
  • Reduced employee productivity
  • Workforce disengagement
  • Increased turnover rates

Training is the best way to prevent these negative outcomes and reduce the human error element at your facility.

What Is a Training Plan?

A training plan, according to the CDC, is “a formal document that communicates to management and stakeholders the details of the proposed training program.” Once a training plan is approved, the project team lead is authorized to use physical and monetary resources to aid in the “development, implementation and execution” of the training program.

The document should outline critical information about the training program, such as:

  • Motives and objectives
  • Curriculum
  • Attendees
  • Requirements
  • Strategies
  • Schedules
  • Resources and materials

Common Implementation Obstacles

Training programs are commonly seen as an avoidable cost, both in time and resources, especially when it comes to maintenance and reliability, which are commonly known for always needing to be ready for action.

By being aware of the roadblocks you might face, you can better prepare your plan to mitigate many of these complaints. Some obstacles you might face when presenting your training plan to management include:  

  • Lack of Time:Planning for a technical team to be unavailable for work is one of the biggest complications you will face when planning a maintenance program.
  • Poor Understanding of Maintenance and Its Impact:Higher levels and other areas outside of maintenance can become overwhelmed by the technical jargon and maintenance tactics, making it hard to understand why training in specific areas would benefit the business.
  • Lack of Knowledge on How to Train:The world of maintenance and reliability is vast; topics range from high-level strategies to incredibly specialized tasks. Even maintenance experts still find themselves surprised by new details and facts. Not having a well-defined plan of what will be taught and why can cause management to become overwhelmed.
  • Fear of Turnover:With a large majority of the workplace approaching retirement, the newer generations of workers are coming into the industry lacking the necessary skills and knowledge. This would make them ideal candidates for training, but upper management may have concerns about the turnover rate. They fear training someone who will leave for another job.

Did You Know?

90% of employees would stay with a company longer if there was an investment in training and continued education.
Source: University of San Diego

Listed below are a few solutions for overcoming these common obstacles:

Creating a Sustainable and Successful Training Program

Each training plan will be unique depending on its goals and objectives, but all of them will try to drive business value. There are three steps to achieve this, which can be applied to any training plan.

Step 1: Define Why You Need a Training Plan

Creating a new employee training plan can be challenging, or even overwhelming. To reduce this, we need to understand why we need a training plan and what we want to achieve through it.

The first step is to create a list of objectives and training needs. To help you get started, listed below are four key categories that may be reasons why you need a training plan, as well as some examples of the appropriate training that would be required to fix the issue.  

Defining why we need to train will facilitate fragmenting the training plan into more manageable parts, as well as ensure that the training outcomes are clear and measurable.  

Step 2: Align Training Plan to Drive Business Value

When training plans fail, it’s usually because the stakeholders don’t have an aligned vision or enough motivation to sustain the program and make it successful. To do this, we need to align our training plan to drive business value. After all, training must generate value for your company. Below is a flow chart of how a plan can directly correlate to business value. 

When our training plan is translated into understandable objectives, it’s easier to get the backing and involvement we need from other stakeholders.

This also helps us to prioritize the different aspects of our plan. It’s not possible to focus on everything right away, but by prioritizing what is most important, we can create visible changes that directly benefit the company and help continue to drive the plan forward.

Step 3: Define the Training Program Curriculum

Once we have a clear purpose and priorities that align with business values, we can define the basis of our training plan. This involves asking yourself what topics need to be covered in a given training program.

Listing all of the topics in maintenance, reliability and asset management is a daunting project, and there’s no need to do this. Several organizations and professional associations have already tackled this job for you, and there are hundreds of frameworks and articles that outline this complex web of information.

Although this information is available on the web, it is still extensive and can easily become overwhelming. Before you start your research, it’s a good idea to write out the job roles that you know need to receive training and what aspects of maintenance and reliability they are responsible for. This will help you narrow down your search to more specific categories later.

Training Program Evaluation

Once your training program has been designed, and before you submit it for final approval, give your plan an in-depth evaluation to make sure nothing was overlooked.

Start by evaluating the skills that are required by the position you’re training. Does your program help address any of these key areas and enhance them by providing value in some way? To do this, break down the position into the abilities, hard skills, and knowledge needed to perform the job appropriately. How many does your plan cover? Are there any others that you didn’t cover in your plan that are needed additions to help make a well-rounded program?

Below is an example of what this chart might look like for a specific job position.

Finally, evaluate the quality of each of the components of your program as if you were a team member who just took the course. Get into their shoes and see it from their perspective.

The quality of learning can be expressed in four main components. Evaluating each of these components will provide a holistic view of your program’s quality and effectiveness.

Developing a maintenance training plan is critical for companies that rely on complex machinery and equipment. By investing in the skills and knowledge of your maintenance professionals, you can unlock the full potential of your machinery and equipment, which can drive business value in the form of increased efficiency, decreased costs, and improved customer satisfaction.

It's important to tailor your training program to your organization's unique needs and challenges, and to evaluate its effectiveness and ensure ongoing improvement continually. With the right training plan in place, your maintenance professionals will be better equipped to meet the demands of your business while driving its long-term success.

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