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UT-RMC: Training Tomorrow’s Workers

Apr 8, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

The Univ. of Tennessee RMC works closely with industry partners to equip students with skills that lead companies to top-quartile status.


The Univ. of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center (RMC) is an industry-university association dedicated to improving industrial productivity, efficiency, safety, quality, and profitability through advanced reliability and maintainability best practices, technologies, and leadership principles. We are implementation and ROI (return on investment) focused.        

Most understand the importance of proper planning before implementing projects, maintenance, and root-cause analyses. At the end of the day, it’s what you are able to implement that matters.

That is one of the reasons the UT-Reliability Certification is implementation focused. The RMC is an engineering research center within the Tickle College of Engineering (TCE) at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville. The R&M Center has more than 60 supporting industry members and exists to advance reliability and maintenance education and practices within the academic and industrial communities

The Center has a training factory, laboratory (for dashboards, best-practice metrics, and technology software), and training rooms. We sponsor multiple senior design projects each year (with College of Engineering departments such as Industrial, Mechanical, and Electrical), focusing on reliability and maintenance methodologies, all predictive/condition-based maintenance technologies, and incorporating it into the training factory and Industry 4.0 transition.

The training factory is primarily used to develop industry participants, while involving engineering students to do continuous improvements. The university was the first institution in the U. S. to offer a Reliability and Maintenance Engineering minor that can be added to Engineering degrees. We’re also one of the first institutions to offer a master’s degree in RME (in-person or on-line). Students do R&M-related summer internships.

In addition, we offer a Reliability and Maintainability Implementation Certification (RMIC) to industry, administering more than 30 classes at the RMC’s main office in Knoxville and many more with our training partners across North America. Some examples of topics include Strategic Implementation in R&M, Transitioning Your Workforce to Industry 4.0, Leading Change, FMEAs and PM Optimization, Root Cause Analysis, Essential Craft-Skills (Bearings & Lubrication), Technician Core Concepts, Shutdown Turnaround Optimization, SAP for Maintenance Planners, Planning & Scheduling, and Maintenance Storeroom/Materials Management. Certifications are also available in technologies such as ultrasound, vibration analysis, thermography, oil analysis, electric-motor testing, and motion amplification, with support from our many training partners. Classes requiring plant-floor skills are as much as 50% hands-on.

About 70% of the factory assets are mobile to accommodate specific class needs. More than 100 classes are available.

The Training Factory focuses on:

• Practical, affordable, and implementable solutions

• Professional-development training and certification (RMIC) for industry and government

• Applied research, innovation, and proof-of-concept

• Preparation of industry participants and College of Engineering students with the fundamental knowledge and ability to enable R&M best practices and readiness for Industry 4.0 and beyond

As organizations move into 2024, there will be more emphasis on transitioning the workforce to Industry 4.0 and leading change. Successful technology implementation is more at risk due to culture and instilling best practices. To address this, courses in each have been added.

Some examples of the most frequent plant-floor observations/opportunities that I see during assessments are:

• Workforce not engaged.
• No robust continuous improvement.
Lack of clear processes and roles.
Processes exist but are not understood.
Lack of a culture of discipline (follow standardized work) in daily practices.
Some are fortunate to have good processes, engineers that understand simulation and reliability growth, excellent analytical skills, but don’t trust the plant floor data enough to make the tough decisions.
Some have a relatively happy workforce, but people aren’t being held accountable.

You need a good culture and discipline to follow best practices and enable top-quartile reliability and maintenance for best operational performance results. As I often say, “The soft stuff is the hard stuff, and without the soft stuff, sustainable best practices on reliability and maintenance are not possible. So maybe the soft stuff should be called the sustainability stuff.”

The fast-paced bombardment of digital everything causes a high level of stress on a plant-floor workforce that already struggles to keep up with current computer skills. The consequence of this incoming (never-ending) digital stress shows up as human error, lower productivity, absenteeism, job burnout, and employee turnover.

The National Skills Coalition, Washington (, reported in 2020 that, although many workers have serious digital skills gaps, they are employed in jobs that require such digital skills. This is further amplified by persons with the needed digital skills going elsewhere. About two thirds are now going to areas such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and data science/data analytics.

Regardless of how you get your reliability and maintainability training, it’s important that it’s relevant, understandable/believable, and easily put into practice. Understand your current workforce readiness for change so you know where to meet them to start or support your digital journey.

Klaus M. Blache | March 6, 2024

The post "UT-RMC: Training Tomorrow’s Workers" appeared first on Efficient Plant


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