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Videos for Planned Maintenance

Dr. John P. Cordle, Director, Maintenance University, Huntington Ingalls Industries - Fleet Support Group
Dr. John P. Cordle, Director, Maintenance University, Huntington Ingalls Industries - Fleet Support Group

Dr. John P. Cordle, Director, Maintenance University, Huntington Ingalls Industries - Fleet Support Group

The inspiration for this article came from my wife who was laid up with a back injury for three months and wanted to occupy her mind and find a way to stay active. She decided to take up rubber stamping and card making so she took to YouTube and watched people who know the business perform their craft. In the space of three months she’s making professional cards that are nicer than anything in the stores. She uses heat guns, glue guns, embossing tape, brads and fasteners, and a vast array of (somewhat pricey!) coloring stamps and pens. 

So, what does that sound like?  A lot like the planned maintenance we perform on ships. As a professional maintenance trainer, I am always looking for ways to improve the quality of training and the delivery of experience and expertise to junior personnel. I have seen examples across industry of very complex training – computerize androids or three-dimensional exploding pictures that must cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create. That is certainly one solution, but I kept thinking there must be an easier way.  Perhaps it is “old school” but there is actually a good deal of research, and out school system bears it out, that an experienced instructor using the tools in question is one of the most effective ways to train.

Recently, when faced with a knowledge gap in the Fleet, our team collaborated with the Navy to create a short set of videos targeted on a specific piece of equipment and a single maintenance check. In most maintenance-related business, incorrect repairs can lead to lost operations, safety issues, and dramatically impact the bottom line.  In this case, with a limited time frame and budget, we fell back on what we knew.  Using nothing more than a camera and a microphone, we teamed with the Navy, chose the subject matter experts who have been doing this maintenance for years, filmed them performing the maintenance and sharing the tips that they had learned over the years, and used an editing crew to make sure that the video came out well. The results were phenomenal. The feedback from students was positive, and the training is now part of the schoolhouse. The principles behind us are fairly straightforward:

1. Leverage expertise – choose someone who knows what they’re doing.  You only have one change to show them “what right looks like”!  There is no substitute for someone who has extensive experience in a topic. A video us a lot cheaper than flying the expert all over the world, and it adds a personal touch.  Finally, the years of experience can be “preserved” and passed down to new generations.

 There are many ways to provide training, and in today’s day and age it often seems that if it is not expensive and requires a great deal of effort to produce, it is not worth pursuing.  This is in direct contrast to what we learn in our daily lives, where we turn to YouTube all the time to learn new skills or to refresh old ones 

2. Use your professional video crew. We all think we can make technically correct and professional videos with our iPhone - but we really can’t. One thing I learned from this project is that for one 3-minute video you can spend about four “man-days” of production time to get it right. There is a great deal of skill involved in cutting, editing, adding sound, text, and a professional look.  It costs money, because it pays off!

3. Have the technical experts review and approve it. You want to make sure that when you’re using training materials, they are accurate.  For the military, there is technical warrant holder for every piece of equipment and expertise on the waterfront as well.  Having the technical team involved from the start makes it much more likely to get a good product and get it approved.

4. Make it accessible. Whether posted on a company website on the Internet, on a DVD or in a classroom, the students have to be able to get to the training. Most companies have a “forward facing” website that they can control to ensure that the correct content is posted and (if necessary) control access.  Make a searchable catalog so that each video is clearly labeled and easy to find.

5. Keep it up to date. Many companies recycle training from years past that is clearly old and probably no longer accurate. Procedures change, upgrades are installed, and obsolete equipment is replaced by the newer version. Unless you are trying to be humorous, the guy with the lambchop sideburns and bell bottom trousers screams “dated”!

There are many ways to provide training, and in today’s day and age it often seems that if it is not expensive and requires a great deal of effort to produce, it is not worth pursuing.  This is in direct contrast to what we learn in our daily lives, where we turn to YouTube all the time to learn new skills or to refresh old ones. This strategy has opened doors to new opportunities to provide the best training at a reasonable cost and is a great example of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Sailor!

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