Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

S2:E20 Strategic Planners and Problem Solvers with Bryan Bieschke

Caitlyn Young

Bryan Bieschke is the Director of Maintenance and Reliability of T. Parker Host, solutions provider for the maritime industry, specializing in agency services, terminal operations, and marine assets.


In this week’s episode of Masterminds in Maintenance, we are excited to have Bryan Bieschke, Director of Maintenance and Reliability of T. Parker Host! From budgeting, managing metrics, staying up to date with the latest technologies, tracking equipment health, and more, today’s maintenance technicians and managers need to be skilled strategic planners and problem solvers to manage the tons of tasks they have on their plates. Bryan and Ryan discuss the importance of these essential skills, and how maintenance technicians and managers can truly hone these abilities. Listen today!

Episode Show Notes

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00:03 Ryan Chan: 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 the idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today, I’m super excited, we’ve got Bryan Bieschke here on the show. Brian is the director of Maintenance and Reliability at T. Parker Host, a solutions provider for the maritime industry, specializing in agency services, terminal operations and marine assets. Welcome Bryan to the show. I’m really excited to have you.

00:40 Bryan Bieschke: Thanks for having me Ryan. It’s gonna be good brother.

00:42 RC: Hey, Bryan, can you share a little bit more about your background, your journey into the field of maintenance and reliability?

00:50 BB: I started off like a lot of people, I went to college, and then I dropped out of college. I went to automotive school, I learned to… Fundamentals of auto mechanics. I graduated, I got out and I was turning the wrenches in a small privately owned shop, and that business went under for a while, and I ended up getting laid off. I went and joined the Navy, and in the Navy, I was a GSE troubleshooter, so a ground support equipment troubleshooter. I ran the flight deck of the aircraft carrier during flight ops, troubleshooting cranes, generators, tractors, MSUs, static frequency converters, oxygen and nitrogen carts. The Navy really is what got me into reliability maintenance, it really planted the seed. I was hired by Caterpillar right out of the Navy to be a machine technician for them, where I’d done tons of overhauls, troubleshooting in the field and in the shop, mostly in the shop.

01:42 BB: Customers are paying a premium for that dealer-level service, it was really another driver of getting things right and following processes, procedures, and trying to do the best things that I can do during maintenance evolutions. I ended up leaving Caterpillar to go work for a material handling company where I was a field mechanic, that’s really the fundamentals of where it started, and of course, Host Terminals hired me away from that company to develop and oversee six maintenance programs across the United States, and right now my big project is here in Louisiana. I’m living here temporarily until February. I’m revamping and overseeing the maintenance program at a petcoke and coal facility here on the Mississippi River along with another facility upriver. Yeah, that’s where I started, man, I always tell people I’m a wrench turner, it’s where I started.

02:28 RC: It’s really funny because you mentioned, “Hey, I started my career off just like anyone else.” And then you quickly pivoted into dropping out of college, and I think the one thing that’s common on every single person that we’ve had come on to this podcast, their journey into maintenance and reliability has never been a straight one.

02:48 BB: No, man.

02:50 RC: It’s kind of exactly what you mentioned, a ton of pivots, turns, twist, they find a industry that they come to really love, and it’s that wrench turner mentality that I think really draws people to it. Often maintenance is looked at as like, “Hey, go repair that, go replace that, go turn this knob over there,” but what I heard from you and what I know too, is that the maintenance and reliability industry requires a lot of critical thinking, a lot of problem-solving. I don’t think that’s a common thing that, let’s call it the average person that’s not deep into our industry would really, really understand. How do leaders within companies really promote this critical thinking aspect? This critical thinking within a team? And ultimately how can leaders really stay on top of developing and improving their own critical thinking skills?

03:44 BB: Critical thinking is a life skill, in my opinion. It doesn’t just stop at maintenance, it benefits everything that you do in your life, and it’s a fundamental process of careful objective thinking, directed at a goal. One of the things that can be done is understanding the fundamentals of what they’re doing, whether it be subject, task, machine, the better they understand what they are doing and why they are doing it, the better their capacity to think critically about it, that’s one. And another is encourage your team to question things, constantly ask why, be curious, encourage curiosity in all things. I know sometimes we get very rigid, we’re like, “No, procedure, procedure, don’t deviate, don’t deviate,” but sometimes it’s good for them to question why they’re doing the things that they’re doing, and you being receptive of that, so that you can better facilitate that critical thinking process and you’d be a champion of it in that very real moment.

04:42 BB: And help them work backwards, sometimes I find it easier to work backwards from a problem that someone may be facing or you may be facing to help that critical thinking process. One of the big ones, and you could probably test this being in plants and organizations, is tribalism, the groupthink mentality. And whether for good or for bad, it’s important to be objective and to… You know the saying, “Think for yourself,” block the noise and gather and reflect and rationalize your thoughts on your own, in certain capacities. I’m not saying, don’t be a team player, I’m saying sometimes it requires that.

05:17 BB: Another big one, I don’t know if you know Jim Van Taggam, he’s fantastic. You also got pattern recognition, and pattern recognition is invaluable, whether in personal, professional life, maintenance or not maintenance, being able to understand and recognize patterns allows for some very good thought-provoking ideas, whether it be in machine failures, repair information, past work, all those things. Pattern recognition is super, super important. And the last thing I’ll say in this aspect of it is it’s important to understand that no one is thinking critically 100% of the time, you can’t. And that’s okay, that’s why it’s a skill that has to be trained. Nine times out of 10, the reason people don’t think critically 100% of the time is ’cause of emotions, that’s kind of the overview. That’s why I like to lump them together, because the things you can apply to other people in critical thinking you can apply to yourself.

06:10 RC: The world of maintenance and reliability shouldn’t just be 100%, let’s call execution-oriented where you’re out there just following procedures, and it shouldn’t also just be, “Hey, we’re gonna assign one person to strategically plan the next year.” What I’m hearing from you is that it’s a cumulative effort amongst every single person on the team. Whether you’re the planner scheduler, whether you’re the wrench turner out in the shop floor, every single day. How do you plan and schedule this time for strategic planning, let’s call it that critical thinking versus the execution in doing?

06:52 BB: Yeah, I think it’s good to distinguish with your team levels of feedback, we write a PM or we write a service or we write something and we deploy it to the team. Always make a point to tell them that this is not brick and mortar, this is not set in stone. Follow up the tasks, make your notes, come see me after the fact, or make time, make yourself available to where there’s an outlet for them to give you that feedback on the critical process that you’ve laid out and you don’t wanna be like, “Here’s this, pick it apart and don’t do anything.” It’s more give them the avenue, the outlet, the ability to give you feedback on those things in a controlled environment.

07:31 RC: Bryan, I’m curious how you’ve implemented this at your team, and also really curious to how you’ve seen that really improve and create a healthier maintenance and reliability organization.

07:43 BB: I link their work life to their personal life and vice versa, to help them really understand that the things that we want or the outcomes that we want, are not just work things, they’re tied to you and they can benefit you in a positive way at home as well. Critical thinking is a life skill, it benefits far beyond maintenance and reliability, and people that think critically and apply the principles to their personal lives can make better decisions at home, and in turn they make them happier and more fulfilled, and then therefore making them more present at work. You can see these things when you start to help people understand process-oriented thinking, it’s a huge benefit to really nail down your thought process and to really understand your team’s thought process and the things that they’re doing to make sure that it is goal-oriented with some structure so that we’re not wasting time fooling around with something that logically, we know isn’t a part or relevant in the process.

08:44 RC: How does a leader know that, we don’t have enough, let’s call, like strategic planning in place. Are there any areas where you commonly see too much following procedures and not enough taking a step back and saying, “Why am I doing this?” Do you see these problems most related to downtime causes? Is it depreciation? Is it your PM schedules where people are just following procedures and not really stepping back enough and saying why?

09:15 BB: Following procedures is a goal, that’s our control of variability, but it’s beyond that, like you said, and some of the ways that we recognize that, of course, everything is tied to downtime, everything is tied to operational impact, whether we’re taking a machine on a schedule or proactively, or we’re taking a machine reactively. It’s all in some way is impacting the operation. Some ways to pick out to know that you’re not… Your team or yourself, ’cause reflection is very important, that you’re not thinking critical enough is that your decisions or your department decisions are heavily influenced and driven by emotions.

09:51 BB: Emotions are good, don’t hear me say that they’re not. Your emotions when going into a factual tangible application in machinery or troubleshooting, they can get in the way, and the more you are emotional about something, the less likely you are to think critically about it. Another big one is the troubleshooting or thought process outside procedures is decreased, and you can normally tell this by constant intervention of your first level leadership to solve problems for a group or for a person. They’re always going back and looking to the group, or a sole individual to solve their problem when they get to something that is outside that procedure.

10:31 RC: Completely agree Bryan, there’s this balance you have to have, and it’s a collective effort amongst everyone in the team, and you’re absolutely right. When you start acting off of emotion versus being rooted in data, that’s when you know that you’ve got a problem, or at least a problem that can be fixed as well. Bryan, you’ve been in the industry for quite some time now, what’s something that you wish more people knew about within the maintenance and reliability space?

11:00 BB: I am a staunch advocate for the fundamentals of maintenance and the education of human variability processes, long-term effects, craft and industry knowledge. Everybody in maintenance wants this silver bullet to solve all their problems, whether it be technology, the new coolest gadget, whatever, the reality is that a person needs to be able to do the job, and I wish that more people would understand and know that training your people fundamentally in these things and maintenance has immense value, and that just going right to condition monitoring or some sort of crazy technology when your team doesn’t even know to torque a bolt or don’t use a torch to heat the race of a bearing up. You’re going backwards. So that would be it. It’s like, maintenance in my opinion, is like the chain of command, try and keep it as low as possible for the desired outcome. Train your people, understand that they are humans and that they need to control their variability, understand the processes, understand the long-term effects of what they do with a tool in their hand, because no amount of technology is gonna solve that problem.

12:15 RC: Completely agree. We see so many companies just running to the shiny new object over there, but forget that the fundamentals, that foundation block needs to be built before you can move up two rungs on that ladder.

12:30 BB: It’s invaluable man.

12:31 RC: Bryan, obviously, you’re still learning, we’re all still learning, where do you go to find new educational content, and where do you go for new ideas?

12:41 BB: This may sound kinda odd, it’s just kind of a multi-layered question for me, being immersed in maintenance and failing and trying to learn from those failures. The second thing is, I’m kind of a nerd, I read a lot of manufacturer information. I’m on the fence about manufacturer information as we all are in the reliability world, but I’m a heavy equipment guy. I’m always reading CAT SIS Web and going through machine data and looking at all these different things. So I do read a lot of machine information, but Slack now is my thing, man, ’cause I’m on there all day, I waste half my… Not waste, but I’m on there all day looking at stuff and reading, and there’s some amazing professionals in there, and that is really a very strategic outlet that UpKeep you guys have made. And man, you got everybody on board, and you can just, all day just read, read, read.

13:34 RC: To all of our listeners, if you haven’t joined already, join our Slack community, there’s I believe, 1400 folks in the maintenance reliability industry that have offered to share all of their expertise and knowledge with anyone that’s looking for some extra help and Bryan, you included, so thank you for joining and being part of this community. How can all of our listeners follow you? Connect with you on your journey?

14:00 BB: I’m on LinkedIn, of course, just under my name Bryan Bieschke. The Slack community now has become a… Really taken off, like we said, and I will talk to anybody. I don’t think I’m better than anyone, I don’t think I know anything more, I wanna learn. If you have one year in maintenance, you know something I don’t know, and I wanna know it. Let me know, I’m in.

14:21 RC: Awesome. Thank you so much, Bryan, 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, you can shoot me an email directly at [email protected] and lastly you can find me and also Bryan in the maintenance community on Slack, it’s the largest community of maintenance professionals in the world. We host weekly conversations, contests, all centered around maintenance and reliability, I hope to connect with everyone soon, until next time, thanks again Bryan.

14:52 BB: Thank you Ryan, take it easy.

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