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S2:E13 Taking Maintenance and Reliability Offshore with Lucas Marino

Lucas Marino currently works as a Life Cycle Engineer at Amentum, and is also the Owner of EAST Partnership and Marino Consulting Services!


In this week’s episode of Masterminds in Maintenance, we are excited to welcome Lucas Marino on the show! Lucas is a Life Cycle Engineer at Amentum, Owner of EAST Partnership and Marino Consulting Services, and former Branch Chief for the U.S. Coast Guard. With such a diverse background, Lucas is able to offer a ton of knowledge on similarities and differences when it comes to improving maintenance and reliability on land and on the sea. Listen today!

Episode Show Notes

  • How do you build great communication practices?
  • How do navy maintenance practices differ? 
  • What are the pros and cons to the hero mentality?

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00:03 Ryan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host Ryan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. Each week I’ll be meeting with a guest who’s had an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Sometimes their idea failed, sometimes it made the business more successful, and other times their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today I’m super excited, we’ve got Lucas Marino here on the show. Lucas is a Lifecycle Engineer at the Integrated Logistic Support Manager at Amentum, a premier global defense aerospace contractor. And he’s also very own business owner at East Partnership and Marino Consulting Services. Welcome to the show Lucas, I’ve been really waiting for this day to have you on.

00:43 Lucas Marino: Thank you Ryan. I’ve been super excited to sit with you and discuss all the good things that are happening at UpKeep. It’s been a hot minute since we talked.

00:51 Ryan: So, the way that I love to kick things off is just sharing a little bit more about yourself, your background, and how you got introduced into this wonderful world of maintenance and reliability. [chuckle]

01:03 LM: I grew up in a house full of mechanics and electricians, blue collar work. I didn’t understand that maintenance was something that was unique, we just grew up doing it. And my father was also in the US Coast Guard, and so when I was 19 I decided to join and I went in and said, “I wanna fix big engines.” And they said, “Well, we have plenty of those on ships, let’s get you on one.” So, I ended up doing that for 21 years. I was a Naval Engineer Officer for about 12 years of my time in the service. And so, the whole time I was in, I was either performing, learning or managing maintenance across all the different levels of maintenance, everything from organizational level maintenance on the deck plates, all the way up through depo maintenance for dry docking ships and doing major repairs and modernization. So, that was where I cut my teeth, if you will, it’s just part of our family tradition, that’s what we do.

01:55 Ryan: You’ve got such a diverse background, you’ve spent 20 years doing this, are there differences in the types of work that you do, that you have done across the different experiences, and what are those, with regards obviously to maintenance and reliability?

02:11 LM: When you’re maintaining a very complex piece of machinery and it’s in a stable environment, it’s one thing, but when it’s moving a lot, ’cause you’re on a ship, it’s a whole another thing. Safety is different, understanding that if you drop a tool… [laughter] It’s a whole other challenge to get it back when it falls three levels down on a ship. When it comes to the hands-on stuff, it was a little different but, it’s very tight. It was very familiar to me to go from working in an engine room environment to seeing how the same assets are employed throughout different industries because they tend to be very similar. An engine room on a ship is, they get as much in there as they can, and it’s got everything from fuel purifiers and lube oil systems and generators and propulsion engines and all the electronics packages and control systems that come with everything. When you go out into manufacturing or you go to other areas of industry that have similar platforms, they’re all trying to do the same thing, get these very capable and valuable assets into maximized packages, and then you’ve got your team of people working on them. So for me it was almost like learning a little bit of a different culture and language, moreso than it was like the environment being entirely different, except maybe you don’t have to sleep at work when you’re not on a ship, and stay there for a 100 days at a stretch.

03:28 Ryan: Are there big differences in the way that the Navy manages their maintenance and reliability processes relative to, let’s call it a manufacturing facility, or would you say, what you’ve seen in the Navy is actually very similar?

03:42 LM: The Department of Homeland Security for the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense for the Navy, they have the luxury and the responsibility obviously of being able to deep dive in acquisitions. You’ll find that everyone’s speaking the same language and doing many of the same things, but oftentimes they’re just calling it something different. We still do formica and maintenance task analysis, but then you’ll see the lines start to blur a little bit where the government does things that advance supportability analysis, like level of repair analysis which I specialize in.

04:13 LM: The government spends a lot of time and effort trying to develop that supportability picture. Take for example if you’re building a ship, a submarine, a plane, something very large, systems of systems kind of perspective. The support of those assets actually has a larger financial and value footprint on the organization, than it does the acquisition. So, you might have one of those vessels for 30, 40, 50 years, and the cost of maintaining that asset over that life cycle is tremendous, compared to the upfront acquisition cost. But more to the reliability and maintainability side of it, they separate the two a little bit, moreso than you would see in some manufacturing type scenarios because, they have so much depth on the reliability engineering side for equipment design. They’re actually influencing the design of a piece of equipment rather than just the selection. That rolls into designing the maintenance for the asset. A lot of times this is the first time someone’s developed maintenance for these things because they’re one-off products developed for that asset.

05:18 Ryan: It’s actually very interesting to get this context of like, “If you do this process upfront when you’re acquiring this asset, you can better predict your cost going forward.”

05:30 LM: Yeah.

05:31 Ryan: I’m curious Lucas, is there something that you think that… Let’s call it the Navy, the Coast Guard has done a great job at, that you don’t see as widely adopted, and let’s call it the commercial side.

05:43 LM: The operational flexibility that they have to have, and the tremendous amount of lines of communication between the functional asset and other decision-makers is pretty significant in any military branch for that matter. You’ve got these assets that exist to perform a certain mission and, they will flex that asset to do far more than it was designed to do. It creates a need for flexibility in the staff, and in all of your plannings. Operational availability and material availability are king in our world because, it’s all about coverage, how much time and coverage do you have for your assets? We used to call it Semper Gumby in the Coast Guard, like “Always flexible.” The chain that is in place to support that flexibility is huge, so you get these really robust lines of communication. And it’s kind of crazy to go from the deck plate level where you’re a maintainer and you’ve got your prescribed preventive maintenance. And then you’ve got all of this corrective maintenance, and you have to be really flexible to corrective maintenance, ’cause you’re in the middle of the ocean in a cylinder head on a main diesel engine goes down. How am I getting apart, I’m 400 miles off shore? Do we have one on the ship? Those questions are all answered for you before they happen, because someone’s planned for that scenario to happen.

07:03 Ryan: How did you guys build out this, what it sounds like great communication levels to support this incredible flexibility?

07:12 LM: Like most you learn through stubbing your toe a bunch of times. [chuckle] We’ve had decades and decades to try and revise our processes and try and go from minimize the reactive culture and maximize the proactive culture. There’s always been a strong desire to get more proactive than reactive, but the ability to do it has changed drastically in the last, I’d say 20, 30 years. Because software capabilities have changed our ability to communicate, bureaucracies have been streamlined a bit to accelerate processes. We’ve had a very robust support network invested in outside of the assets, so that’s organizational investment. In the military that means congressional, you have to spend a lot of time to get that type of stuff attached to the acquisition or retroactively implemented for in-service assets later. You have to really become a master of tying the strategic value of an asset, and in this case, it’s usually to the national strategic interests. In a corporate organization type, it would be more toward production. But you find a way to tie all of these support network that you’re trying to put in place and then streamlining in continuous improvement to better meeting those targets and goals and hopefully we can get those things in place. But we’ve had decades to do that.

08:37 LM: Now, on the flip side, there is a lot of bureaucracy because there’s different levels of accountability and funding is different and action is different. I can’t just stroke a check and start a contract tomorrow. The government’s got really strong regulations, rules, policies on how you spend your money, how you establish service contracts, how you shop. So there’s a lot of those types of barriers to success that actually require more support infrastructure to overcome and manage, so that’s you get big real fast doing that.

09:11 Ryan: Yeah. Maybe just on this topic of extreme flexibility, how do you balance this extreme flexibility with also just like the ultimate planning? And I think you brought up a great example of like, you got your plant maintenance, you got your corrective maintenance, you gotta be prepared for both, how did you guys breed that culture? That’s like, “Alright, cool. We can do both.”

09:32 LM: Yeah. So on the ship, it was different than external to the ship. When I was on the ship, you have to create a culture within the vessel that is, and I hate to use the word agile, but it is. You have to be able to move quickly. We accept the fact that things are going to break. I used to tell my guys, “If things didn’t break, you wouldn’t have a job. We wouldn’t be here right now.” We recognize people for their extra effort and going out of their way to… Things don’t… We used to joke around, if it’s gonna break, it’s gonna break at 2:00 in the morning. That’s just the way it is. I’m gonna get woke up. It’s gonna be bad and were gonna be up for two days fixing it.

10:11 LM: And then external to the vessel when I was a port engineer or when I was the workforce manager or whatever, you’re creating this culture where you can go through all of the possible hoops, because you were out there and you knew what it was like when you needed someone to support you. So you’ve just got this grind that’s inherently built into the naval engineering community, that if you’re not the one out there sacrificing your time at home, then you’re the one ashore sacrificing so that they are taken care of. And so there’s this relationship that exists to help, and when you have that kind of motivation in perspective, you’re willing to do things that are really necessary to maintain that flexibility.

10:54 Ryan: I think you also brought up a really interesting point, I was literally on a podcast the other day talking about this topic around the hero in maintenance. And there’s this hero culture that some people like and some people absolutely hate. And I think my perspective on it is like, like you mentioned, stuff is gonna break and we should recognize people for when they do go out and wake up at 2:00 o’clock in the morning and get us back running into production. But I think there’s just this balance that we have to play. Obviously, we don’t always wanna be in this reactive hero mentality, it shouldn’t go the complete opposite way either. So I guess the question is like, how do you balance that?

11:36 LM: Yeah, you have to be very careful because if you’re only waving the hero flag for people when they’re responding to corrective maintenance, something that’s broken and you’re not waving the flag to recognize the work they’re doing to prevent equipment failures, then you’re setting yourself up for a culture that only rewards the bat signal. Something’s amiss, set up the signal and now everyone’s rushing to do something. We were very focused on rewarding the divisions for high completion rates of preventive maintenance.

12:07 LM: I would call them out “Hey, look, the electricians have completed a tremendous amount of backlog maintenance” or “They’ve done a tremendous job performing all of their preventive maintenance this period despite the operational challenges of not having the equipment available to them.” Working crazy hours sometimes to do maintenance, so they didn’t interfere with the operation of the asset. The one thing outside of the ship that was hard to do was when it comes to funding preventive maintenance versus corrective maintenance, you have to make sure that the operators, the people that you’re reporting to, understand that the investment in the preventive maintenance reduces the footprint of the corrective maintenance. Because oftentimes they only felt the cost of the corrective maintenance, they’d say, “Oh my gosh, we had to fix this piece of equipment and it cost this much”.

12:55 LM: Well, we’ve been doing preventive maintenance on those systems for X amount of years, and if you had had that failure far more frequently, think about what the financial impact would have been then, and it also is important for people that are running maintenance reliability sections to invest in the capability of the people. We had folks that would be great at preventive maintenance, doing exactly what the maintenance procedure card told them to do, but they couldn’t troubleshoot when something broke. And then, vice versa. I had some people that were great at troubleshooting. They didn’t want anything to do with preventive maintenance. I’m like, “No, no. You’re not a whole technician unless you can do both and do both well and do both frequently.” So kind of invest in that kind of mentality with people as well.

13:36 Ryan: Something that we commonly talk about is industry 4.0: The IoTs, the machine learnings of the world. I’m curious. What are your thoughts around industry 4.0 and how it relates to the maintenance and reliability world? Are you excited? Are you scared? Do you think it’s gonna happen? Or what do you think is gonna change?

13:57 LM: Yeah, I’m excited for it. I think if it can make our jobs better, if we can be more effective, if we can be more efficient, and if it makes their job easier, then it’s a success. And so if you kinda think about monitoring equipment, so you’ve got sensors all over stuff. I’ll use a little bit of an anecdotal kind… We put 99 sensors on a ship and say, “Here, have sensors. Have a computer that can read every temperature and pressure and everything. Look at this highly complex system, and it’s being monitored by an equally complex brain, and it’s all packaged right here. There you go.” Second part of that is the implementation. Do you know how to pull the data down? Do you know how to read it? Do you know how to analyze it? Do you know what to do with it? Are you gonna be dangerous with it, or are you gonna be effective with it? And I worry that the software and the technology, I should say, not just software, but the hardware as well. I’m worried that the technology is gonna advance faster than the world around it.

15:04 LM: When you think about rolling out a CBM plus program for a large, very complex, expensive asset, the people buying that are chopping at the bit to get the value out of that, ’cause it sounds amazing. But the minute you turn that asset over to somebody, they’re like, “What do I do with this?” and they don’t realize it takes a whole program on the back side. Not software program, but people program, to manage it, organize it. Use it. It takes effort. You have to invest in both. And I guess this is the same old adage of, “Well, our maintenance program stinks. Let’s just buy a seam and mess to fix it.” No, that’s not how that works. It’s the same thing I feel like with the advancements in industry 4.0. As a matter of fact, the Navy right now, I’m involved in something called model-based systems engineering, model-based product support. I’m one of the change agents for that within my company and within the submarine community for the Navy, and it’s a tremendous advancement in our ability to capture both engineering and logistics product data, and then use it for really robust analysis, like we spoke about earlier in the podcast. Well, the software is the easy part. Like you now have to create a culture and a competency that knows how to use that data, how to organize it. The technology’s gonna be ahead of us a little bit, it’s just the nature of the beast, but I’m hoping that by investing in the back side, we can get the organization built up around it.

16:36 Ryan: Yeah. I totally agree with you, Lucas, because what we commonly hear too is that you’ve got all the data, all the insights in the world, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the people to drive the actions. And I think that’s exactly what you’re saying too. What’s next for you in your journey within maintenance and reliability?

16:57 LM: I’m absolutely having a blast with the work I’m doing in Amentum. And we just talked about model-based systems engineering and model-based product support, I’m excited to help carry that forward and bring that change into our particular industry. I’m also getting ready to launch new courses for the East partnership, which is a partnership of entrepreneurs that deliver training in sustaining assets, so large complex assets. Trying to bring SMEs from around the industry together to deliver that type of training to people that could potentially benefit from learning a little bit more about caring for their complex assets. So there’s a lot of stuff on the horizon and looking forward to trying to keep up with all of it.


17:45 Ryan: I’m looking forward to that one too, and maybe last parting thoughts, what’s something that you wish more people knew about within the maintenance and reliability space?

17:55 LM: We tend to be explorers, but not necessarily considered such. We tend to be people that want to play and tinker and solve and learn. And my biggest thing is don’t let that stop. We should be trying to drive as much learning and continuous improvement in our industry as possible. I think it’s one of the most valuable things we can do is, it’s not just about training people so they can be better at their job, it’s more about investing in people so we can build a better community. So I think the one thing we just have to do is make sure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that our greatest asset, although we focus on all these other assets, is the people. And we have to invest in the people. And the more the different stakeholders that pushed the cogs and wheels and buttons in our industry concentrate on developing people and talent, the better off we’ll all be.

18:52 Ryan: How can all of our listeners follow you on your journey and connect with you?

18:56 LM: I’m on LinkedIn, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. I’m also available through email at [email protected]

19:05 Ryan: Awesome. Thank you again, Lucas, for joining us, and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. My name is Ryan Chan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me an e-mail directly at [email protected] You can also find me on the maintenance community on LinkedIn, the largest community for maintenance professionals around the world. We host weekly conversations, contests, all centered around maintenance. Hope to connect with all of you soon, until next time. Thanks again, Lucas.

19:33 LM: Thank you, sir.

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