4  FM quick reads on training

1. Managers Should Protect Training Funds


As the budgets of maintenance and engineering departments continue to shrink, managers might have no higher priority than protecting funds for technician training.

Managers have a big enough challenge finding sufficient funds to cover a department's needs when economic times are good. But when times get tough, the challenge can seem overwhelming. The natural tendency is to protect traditional core needs — labor to do the work, and the essential tools to support the work. Anything beyond that seems like fair game for managers forced to make tough budget choices.

But just for a minute, consider the importance of technician training in keeping up with maintenance needs. Technicians with outdated skills will be hard-pressed to properly carry out effective maintenance and engineering duties. Only those familiar with new-generation technologies have any chance of being able to efficiently test, inspect, maintain, and operate them.

Managers have several sources of free training. Most manufacturers include training with the purchase of a new product or system. Another type of free training — cross-training — might be the best friend a manager has. It lifts the department's overall skill level and offers a hedge against staffing cuts. Whatever the source or cost, the goal is training that results in more efficient, cost-effective maintenance.


2.  Factors to Consider When Choosing a Boiler and Water Heating Training Program

Just as there is a range of training formats available for boilers and water heaters, managers have options when it comes to program providers. Determining the most suitable provider for the facility depends on the manager's goals. For example, a number of different providers, such as those who conduct seminars or have online programs, can handle refresher training on the basics of boiler and water heater operations.

More specific training, such as would be required to learn the details of operating and maintaining an advanced boiler-control system, is often best handled by training representatives from the manufacturer.

Managers can start the selection process by getting a list of references from the prospective vendor or provider and talking with people who actually went through the training to better understand their experiences.

For each program being evaluated, managers must consider a number of factors. If the program is held at a remote location, what are the travel costs? Can people attend different sessions, or will all operators and maintenance personnel have to attend the same sessions? How often does the provider offer the program?

If the program is to be held in the facility, what does it cost to bring in the trainers? Does the facility have the necessary space and equipment? Can managers honestly expect operators and maintenance personnel to attend the sessions without interruption or being called away for an emergency?

3.  Find the best mix of training resources for staff

Setting a funding target based on training needs can be difficult and depends on the size and complexity of the facilities involved. The target might depend on the amount of time workers can afford to spend in training. For some managers, about 2 percent of available work hours annually is a reasonable standard to cover required basic training accomplished. Others' benchmarks will be slightly different.

Managers then must determine the best mix of training resources that will help workers acquire the skills and knowledge they need. Free obviously is better these days. That's why in-house training from safety specialists, for example, and vendor training on specific products and systems are appealing. Online training also can hold down costs by eliminating travel.

Finally, managers need to determine the mix of subjects. Staffs need up-to-date training in core safety issues, including lockout/tagout, confined entry, bloodborne pathogens, right-to-know issues for material safety data sheets, and lift safety, to name just a few. They also need more general training related to diversity and sexual harassment and abuse. Finally, they require education on specific products and technology they work with daily, including HVAC, electrical, lighting and plumbing systems.

Supervisors and managers also need opportunities to attend regional or national conferences to stay abreast of technology advances, budgeting, project planning, personnel management and similar issues.

There is one final point to be made about the need for training in maintenance and engineering departments: morale. Departments are so overworked that managers would be smart to get people off site to recharge, network, and gain new perspectives. Technicians, supervisors and managers who avoid isolating themselves in their daily routines can benefit their departments and organizations in ways that go far beyond the number of hours and dollars spent.

4.  Lubricate Key Door Components Regularly

At some point in their performance lives, most door-hardware components require maintenance, due to general wear and tear from regular use, and sometimes abuse. Common types of repairs for door-hardware components include lubrication, adjustment, alignment and weather sealing.

Technicians should lubricate key components once every six months to a year, depending on the type of door and its level of use. Hinges and door closers might require a few drops of penetrating oil at the top so it runs down into the wearing surface between the pin and the housing. Technicians can use dry graphite from a spout-type bottle on lock mechanisms requiring lubricant.

This step prevents freezing of door hardware in cold weather, besides simply providing lubrication. The best time to schedule lubrication is just before cold weather starts. One caveat: Technicians should not lubricate electronic locks because graphite is an insulator, so it will interfere with the current flowing through the contacts.

The two parts of a door that most often require adjustments are hinges and closers. While lubricating door hardware components, technicians should ensure that hinge screws are tight. In time, wood doorframes can dry out, and screw holes can open up to allow the screw to continue turning. If this happens, technicians should fill the hole with a hardening filler, redrill the hole, and replace the screw or place a screw insert in the hole, then replace the screw.


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