As I’m a controls engineer, I have been to a lot of manufacturing facilities for a lot of different companies — food & beverage companies, pharmaceutical firms, mills, and printing plants. Even though these are all different industries, they almost all have one thing in common: some piece of equipment has been there for a long, long time.
The controls on that old equipment should be in the Smithsonian Institution!! And, of course, all documentation and schematics are long lost or gone…turned to dust, or so saturated with oil they’re unreadable. But what I have come to notice is for every old manufacturing line or piece of equipment, there is “the guy” — the electrician or system engineer who knows everything about it. Not only that, ”the guy” is the only one who knows anything about it. And the only reason “the guy” knows is that he or she has been there a long time.
I was just at a flour mill where the customer said to me, “Yeah, there is only one guy in the United States who can service this thing, and he is about to retire”.
I was almost caught off guard and speechless, and I thought to myself, “Wow, you are screwed”. But in reality, this situation illustrates a serious issue and a concern that every plant should address before it’s too late. I can think of three plants right now, all about to lose two or three team members to retirement. A wealth of knowledge is about to be lost.
What are you going to do when your “guy” is no longer there? Sure. there are thousands of system integrators out there that will gladly upgrade the equipment and hardware for you, but as we all know, that is not always economically justifiable.
All “the guy’s” knowledge may not be salvageable, but whatever you can get is better than nothing. Plan ahead and engage other employees with that piece of old equipment. Don’t call “the guy” right away. Even if there is just a small project related to that piece of equipment, engage an integrator. Maybe just pay someone to pull the knowledge out of “the guy’s” brain and rebuild the documentation. And do it now, before the guy gets on that sailboat and retires to the islands.
Small investments now could save you a ton in the future.
For more information about how Avanceon can help you plan for contingencies, click here.
Image Source: Freepik