Attract the Right Knowledge and Skills
The NVDO Maintenance Compass gives an overview of the trends and current state of the Dutch maintenance market. For the NVDO (Dutch Maintenance Society), the goal of the Maintenance Compass is to facilitate its members concerning their developments and challenges related to maintenance within the asset management chain.
The size of the Dutch maintenance market stands between 31 and 36 billion Euros, which is approximately 4-5 percent of GDP. Moreover, almost 3.5 percent of the Dutch labour force is active in the maintenance sector. The Dutch maintenance market is expected to grow in the coming five years, according to 86 percent of the participants. A possible reason behind this expectation is the growing economy. Companies have seen a rise in their investment budgets and are grabbing the opportunity to invest in deferred maintenance and replacements. Furthermore, high availability and reliability of assets has become increasingly important for companies, causing the demand for maintenance to rise as well.
From the NVDO-survey several important developments can be distinguished. These developments, briefly explained below, will undoubtedly play a major role in determining the current and future position of maintenance.
Scarcity of technical work force – Above 40% of the participants expect technological employees. The scarcity could be caused by an increase of complexity regarding maintenance activities. Additionally, we see that supply of new employees cannot keep up with the booming demand. However, a positive prospect is that companies seem open to collaborate with educational institutions to improve the connection between education and the business world
Ageing asset base – Companies increasingly focus on solutions to cope with problems and challenges faced by ageing assets. 30 percent of the asset base is considered either at end of life or the lifetime of the assets is already extended. To deal with this situation companies could roughly consider two options. On the one hand, companies have the option to simply replace their ageing assets, which has become easier due to the recent economic growth. On the other hand, maintenance organizations could invest in innovative/technological solutions to optimize the ageing asset base. This year, the NVDO Section Suto have done further research on this topic in the benchmark PrestatieManagement with the Technical University Twente.
The increasing role of technology and data within maintenance – Several of the most important are linked to technological developments. In particular, the combination of the need for ICT-systems and processing large amounts of data lead to higher demand for technological knowledge. As stated in the Facts & Figures, companies are looking for innovative and technological knowledge
Generally, we see that the maintenance market is facing some problems due to the lack of technically-educated personnel and the ageing asset base. But, due to the improving economic climate in combination with technological innovations, the prospects are promising. Still, to reach sustainable growth, maintenance companies should dare to invest in innovation, data and technology in order to develop and attract the right knowledge and skills.
Shortage of technically-trained personnel
The trend of a shortage of technically-trained personnel is the development with the most impact for the Dutch maintenance sector in 2017/2018. This problem has been recognised for several years, and has been paid a great deal of attention by the business community, the government and the media. The current tightness of the labour market is due to a quantitative and qualitative shortage of personnel.
The quantitative personnel shortage is increasing because of the ageing of the population on the one hand and the resurgent economy on the other. The qualitative shortage is caused by an insufficient supply of technical personnel with the necessary competencies. The qualitative shortage in particular has brought about tight labour market conditions.
Besides problems with the growing demand for technically-trained employees, maintenance companies have an increasing need for all-rounders, that is to say employees with an understanding of both technology, ICT and data: we can see a lack of experience in dealing with data in maintenance organisations. Now and in the future, a maintenance professional does not only have to be able to carry out maintenance work, but must also be familiar with the analysis and storage of data so that this can be effectively converted into useful information.
It is vital that the educational sector and the business community come together more closely to alleviate the tightness in the labour market. This can be achieved by closer liaison on the curriculum and the competencies and knowledge that are expected to be needed in the future, and by partly replacing teaching in the classroom with learning in practice. After all, the need for technical knowledge is declining. Technicians want to gain practical knowledge and skills that they can put into immediate use in the workplace. A number of in-company training centres have already made a start on this.
We can also see that a large number of companies are prepared to enter into partnerships with each other and with the educational sector to ease the tightness in the labour market. A key aspect of this is to improve the image of maintenance among young people. For this to truly succeed, the government also has a role to play. Encouraging young people to go into technology and innovation, instead of introducing fixed quotas for these types of courses, would help.
As Finnish energy company Fortum digitalises its operations, new alternatives are also being actively pursued in the detection of leaks in the district heating network. In a pilot project launched in partnership with Advian Oy, the location data of the existing district heating network is being combined with satellite data to detect possible leaks.
As the required time-to-market for industrial products becomes ever more aggressive, so does the need to keep machinery and other assets working efficiently. Alongside this is the equally urgent requirement to reduce the cost of maintenance and speed-up time-sensitive repairs.