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PEMAC maintenance, reliability and asset management association turns 25


Mississauga, ON – In 1989 a few engineers and maintenance professionals put their heads together to address a mutual concern: maintenance practitioners provide a vital service and make significant decisions that have an impact on the sustainability of their organizations, yet there was no association in Canada catering to the needs of workers in the maintenance profession and no recognition of the essential role they play in the success of asset-intensive organizations, such as public infrastructure and private manufacturing and processing plants.

The group discussed ideas about creating a Canadian association to represent maintenance professionals and support maintenance professionalism. Canada’s first annual maintenance conference, taking place in Toronto, coincided in June 1989 with Toronto meetings of IFRIM (the International Foundation for Research in Maintenance), providing an opportunity to launch such an association.

At that conference, the idea was presented, business cards of people who showed an interest were collected, and a series of meetings followed, during which ideas about the purpose, vision and type of organization were formulated. Bylaws were drafted, a name for the organization was decided, and an application for a nation-wide charter was submitted. The Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada – PEMAC – received its not-for-profit charter in August 1990.

The next step was the creation of a board of directors, headed by the association’s founding president, who appointed an executive director and tasked him with developing something that would put PEMAC on the map. Brainstorming with the director of education and research and other board members determined that providing value to members through communication and education should be the top priority. Thus, education and certification, as well as providing forums for the exchange of information, became pillars of the association.

With an initial focus on education and certification, a collaborative effort resulted in the development of a Maintenance Management Professional (MMP) education and certification program, consisting of eight modules – a 15-hour introductory framework module and seven 30-hour modules – designed and structured for individuals aspiring to management and supervisory positions in industrial maintenance and those already employed in production or maintenance management who were seeking formal training, accreditation and national recognition.

The idea was to help participants understand and embrace the various concepts necessary to be effective as maintenance and reliability management professionals and enable them to align maintenance strategies with corporate plans.

A delivery strategy was developed, trainers and course providers were selected, and government funding was secured. The MMP program was first run at Durham College in Whitby, ON, and later gradually expanded to 14 colleges, universities and technical institutes across Canada. More than 1,000 individuals have completed all eight courses and applied for the MMP professional designation.

Colleges and learning institutes have also been involved in the MMP program development. For example, PEMAC worked closely during the initial program design phase with the Colleges of Ontario Network for Education and Training (CON*NECT) – an alliance of 25 colleges of applied arts and technology, whose goal is to link industry with post-secondary institutions to ensure relevant training opportunities are being provided.

Later, Hamilton’s Mohawk College assisted with the development of the MMP Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) system, which allows for formal recognition of prior experience in place of completing courses. Another big advancement was made when Northern Lakes College in Alberta made the program available online in 2004. Wherever the program is offered, the local teaching institutions actively reach out to industry in their region.

Over time, the MMP program has become a benchmark in professional development for maintenance practitioners. Completion of the MMP program is recognized by Alberta Industry Training for the achievement of the Blue Seal for business competencies of tradespeople, and in Ontario for Continuing Education credits for water and wastewater operators.

Participants in the MMP program are not only from the trades. It has become part of an action plan and a valuable recruitment strategy for many companies and has advanced the possibilities of maintenance management as a career option for people of many professional backgrounds, such as senior operations managers, maintenance and reliability engineers, and administrative personnel in both maintenance and operations.

The MMP program has also attracted international interest. It has become part of an action plan and a valuable recruitment strategy for many companies, advancing the possibilities for skilled trades and offering them a career option. While most program participants are from Canada, there is also a small but steady stream of enrolments in the online program from other countries, notably from Africa and the Middle East. In December 2014, Module One was offered in Bahrain during a conference of the Gulf Society of Maintenance Professionals.

More recently, PEMAC developed a second training program, the Asset Management Professional (AMP) certification. It also leads to a professional designation and is designed to build capacity for excellence in asset management by developing relevant knowledge and skills across disciplines for those responsible for asset management decision-making and design of the asset management system. This program is offered exclusively at Toronto’s Humber College, in association with PEMAC.

Like MMP, the development of the AMP program was made possible by funding from the Ontario government’s Sector Initiative Funding and PEMAC. The AMP courseware was developed in cooperation with educational partners and with reference to PASS 55, ISO 55000 and GFMAM, the Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management.

Together, the MMP and the AMP certification programs show that PEMAC has a leading role to play in professional development. The courses of study and subsequent designations provide knowledge and national recognition for asset management professionals who fill many roles in their organization. PEMAC is collaborating with leading maintenance and asset management associations around the world in efforts to develop a system for international recognition.

The development and delivery of the education and certification programs addressed the first two major elements of PEMAC’s mission and began contributing to the revenue for the association.

Establishing ‘forums for the exchange of information’ for maintenance, reliability and asset management professionals became the next development opportunity. The association started its own national conference, called MainTrain, in 2004. Since then, this PEMAC annual conference has been a source for professional development for maintenance practitioners, aiming at knowledge transfer and networking to contribute to the transformation of both individuals and organizations.

As PEMAC grew, chapters were created across Canada to provide professionals with opportunities to network regularly and exchange information. More recently, monthly webcasts have been added as another ‘forum for the exchange of information’.

The association also participates in trade shows, organizes plant visits, provides job postings and publishes a newsletter for its members. It is now developing a framework for its ‘Body of Knowledge’ with input from a team of PEMAC members.

That is where, after 25 years, PEMAC is at now – a national, not-for-profit association for maintenance and reliability professionals and for asset management practitioners in Canada. PEMAC has chapters in Vancouver, Alberta, Fort McMurray, Saskatoon, Sudbury and the Greater Toronto Area. Membership totals more than 1,100. It is operated by five paid staff and its chapter presidents and is guided by 15 volunteer board members.

After modest beginnings, PEMAC has morphed from an organization for maintenance workers into a professional body with a focus on education and professional development, value and learning and networking opportunities for its members, a vision to deliver knowledge and quality, and for playing a role in overcoming ignorance and fixing Canada’s deteriorated infrastructure. It now refocuses on the need to transform its mandate from representing solely maintenance practitioners into one that takes a closer look at whole lifecycle asset management and reaches beyond Canada to become a major global player in the asset management field.

At this 25-year milestone, the organization continues to search for ways to achieve its vision and mission. With a target of increasing membership to 3,000 over the next five years, the goals of the current strategic plan are to excel at engagement; deliver value; aim at continuous improvement; and grow awareness of maintenance, reliability and asset management.

Within the next five years, PEMAC also aims to have its ‘Body of Knowledge’ available for all members, have members representing a range of roles from frontline trades through to senior executives; provide more opportunities for members to connect, learn and contribute to advanced management practices; and get the PEMAC certification system recognized globally.

These next steps for the organization are viewed not so much as a challenge but rather as an opportunity to represent and serve reliability and asset management professionals – which PEMAC has already done for years. The planned expansion of PEMAC’s reach beyond Canada’s borders to become a major player in the global asset management world is not intended to compete with other associations, but rather to learn and share with global partners through GFMAM, of which PEMAC is already a member.

PEMAC has these aspirations because it wants to add the best possible value for society in asset management as the association continues the journey started 25 years ago.

For more information on the association and details on membership, visit http://www.pemac.org.

This article was written by Steve Gahbauer, a retired civil engineer and journalist, a charter member and life member of PEMAC, a former executive director of PEMAC, former editor of PEMAC’s newsletter, a recipient of the Sergio Guy Memorial Award for significant contributions to the profession of maintenance, physical asset management and PEMAC, and a contributing editor on maintenance topics for Canadian Plant and Machinery & Equipment MRO magazines.