Most, if not all, maintenance and engineering departments feel the effects of the sustainability movement.
Some effects have shown up in the products and equipment managers buy to support their technicians' activities. Others show up in the way managers make decisions and technicians do their work each day.
The transition no doubt seems overwhelming to some managers, especially those struggling with exactly what sustainability entails and how achieving it will affect their departments. The process is vague. There is no common definition of sustainability and no single path to "green."
But for many managers, this transition probably has a familiar feel to it. Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Why? Departments have survived similar processes, and even thrived. In the 1970s, after the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, managers updated their departments' operations to improve the safety of front-line technicians. In the 1980s, many managers went through another transition, this time incorporating elements of total quality management, including greater customer involvement, into their operations.
And in the 1990s, many managers and their departments implemented elements of ISO standards — or even achieved ISO certification — that overhauled quality management practices to meet international benchmarks and improve efficiency and productivity.
Do these experiences guarantee a successful transition to sustainability? No. But they do offer managers hope the process will present them with very few things they haven't seen before. Maybe the biggest challenge managers face is learning from past mistakes and avoiding them this time around.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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