The Two C’s of a Winning MRO Team

As the NFL season gets underway, the difficulty of building a functioning and efficient team is on public display. And it’s not always pretty. Getting people to work together, while each does his own job, is not easy. But as some teams prove year in and year out, it is doable.

And the challenge is not confined just to football. It also takes work to build your maintenance team. So what do you do? At OPEX, Dave Beres is the man with the answers. He’s the Director of Field Services for Warehouse Automation and has been with the company for 15 years.

“You should really pay attention to the two Cs,” he says. “The first C is character, and the second is competency.”

That’s intriguing. Please continue.

“Character has several components. You start with honesty and integrity. Add in communications skills and work ethic. In the end, soft skills are a big deal. A maintenance team member, is after all, focused on customer service.”

“Competency comes in three different buckets – mechanical, electrical and software. Each team member needs all three. Although, it’s rare that someone has all three in equal measure. However, we can train to improve what needs attention.”

Which brings us to an interesting question – which is the more important of the two?

Character is more important than competency

“Character is is the basis for how a person works and interacts with others. Maintenance is not a stress-free profession. So many of today’s warehouses run 24/7; they can’t tolerate downtime. Maintenance people are always being pushed. And they can’t push back. Sure, they have to take care of the problem in the shortest time possible.  But a lot of their job is about customer service. That’s how maintenance works today. So, I would tell you that character is more important than competency.

Now, you aren’t saying competency doesn’t matter, are you?

“Of course not. Maintenance has to be able to fix what’s broken. Team members are now much more than wrench turners. They have to be just as capable to fix electrical and software issues.  Now, I’m not saying they have to be able to write code. But they do have to be able to update existing software and be able to ensure it runs the way it should. If someone needs to learn more in any of these categories, we can train them. Sometimes they even train themselves through personal hobbies. I’ve seen it happen time and again.”

How do you turn them into compatible team members?

It’s fairly easy to assess someone’s competency. Character is a little more difficult.

“To start, you hire right. It’s fairly easy to assess someone’s competency. Character is a little more difficult. You generally know within 3 to 6 months if someone has the right mix. Glaring flameouts take a lot less time. We are not lenient. You are either a team member or you are not. It’s up to us to follow our onboarding plan. We train them for the skills they need. We teach our techs how to interact with customers and expect that they will succeed. Our method has been highly effective over the years. Just ask our customers.”

Next week we’re going to talk to Beres about transitioning your maintenance team from a conventional warehouse to an automated one.

Gary Forger is the former editor of Modern Materials Handling magazine and the Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap to 2030. 

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