The COVID-19 Crisis, a Maintainer’s View
‘NOUS SOMMES EN GUERRE!’ I can’t state any better than the French President Emmanuel Macron, that humanity is currently at war with COVID-19. This type of lung infection is caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is spreading around the world after an initial outbreak in the Chinese Wuhan region in December 2019.
Many governments are taking severe measures, including travel bans, school closures, lockdowns requiring people to stay at home, factory shut downs, etc. The world economy has been impacted severely; stock markets colour deep red. I don’t need to explain to you that this situation is unprecedented. Let’s look at the current situation through the eyes of a maintenance, reliability and asset manager.
Chronicle of a Problem Foretold
Coronavirus infections have already been lurking for several years. Usually these viruses cause relatively mild symptoms, such as colds in winter and early spring. As a matter of fact, 5 to 10 percent of colds are caused by coronaviruses. But we knew from the 2002 SARS and 2012 MERS outbreaks, that coronaviruses could potentially become very dangerous.
However, even after two major wake-up calls, policymakers and companies were still not willing to make the investment in preventative measures. We had plenty of time to develop medicines and vaccines to prevent today's outbreak, but it just did not happen. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? How many times do maintainers need to remind upper management that it is better to prevent than to repent (= feel regret and remorse)? Also, the asset manager knows all too well that the risk of doing nothing needs to be incorporated into investment decisions. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. A small short-term gain usually wins over over long-term benefit. As a result, we now live in times of repent.
The risk of developing a severe COVID-19 lung infection through the Coronavirus increases with age – for the geeks: it is a failure pattern B. Taking into account that in Europe 18 percent of the population is aged (compared to only three percent in Africa), hospitals are hit by an exponentially increasing number of patients.
Just as technicians are firefighting an ever-increasing number of failures caused by overaged assets, doctors and nurses are overwhelmed by the huge demand on intensive care. Add to this the fact there is no proper treatment and it becomes clear we are headed for a complete health system overload.
Valuable Assets Need to be Protected
Just as it is the maintenance technicians that keep things running in a factory, it is the doctors and nurses (and hospital technicians) who are our most valuable assets at the front of the war against COVID-19. It goes without saying that, if we want to
win the battle, we need to protect those doctors and nurses from being infected.
Enter the facemasks. The global shortage of facemasks has revealed another major risk in today’s society. The relentless offshoring of manufacturing has led to very vulnerable global supply chains. If there is a single lesson to be learned from the current Corona Crises, then it is the fact that decision takers need to do more and better long-term thinking. All of us can help by making the right choices ourselves.
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