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Throwback Thursday: March 1998

February 20, 2014 -  By

March 1998To some landscape professionals the job of a company mechanic seems to be “the most obvious thing in the world.”

They fix stuff, right?

Not quite, according to the article “Miracle workers,” which ran in the March 1998 issue of Landscape Management. Authored by then-managing editor Ron Hall, the story brings to point that mechanics aren’t just the worker most covered in grease.

In reality, they’re the grease that makes an operation run smoothly. And those who are best at their jobs don’t fix much at all—they thwart things from being fixed through preventive maintenance programs.

“Many mechanics don’t understand preventive maintenance,” said John Piersol, of Lake City Community College’s (Lake City, Fla.) turf equipment program. They are fix-it-after-it-breaks mechanics. But, in most cases, the equipment shouldn’t have broken in the first place if they read the manuals and followed what the manual told them to do.”

Mark Neidich, a former maintenance manager who then worked at Fleet Consultants in Cincinnati, Ohio, built his preventive maintenance program from service suggestions in equipment manuals. Moreover, he had an equipment tracking system in place whereby routine service checks were made on equipment over a weekly, monthly or annual basis.

As part of his program, crewmembers also could report flaws in equipment by filling out a form and filing it into a proper folder in Neidich’s shop at the end of the day. Every morning Neidich weeded through the forms and addressed the problems from most to least concerning.

It’s that emphasis on communication—whether on paper or in person—that is key to preventive maintenance programs, adds Paul Williams, then-mechanic at GreenScapes in Naples, Fla.

Williams’ mindset: “Being diplomatic never hurts any situation.”

“You can chew out a guy and give him a rough time because he did something, but that doesn’t do any good,” he said. “I would much rather the person come and tell me if something’s broke.”

To that end, at the core of Williams’ preventive maintenance program is cooperative relationships and open communication with all GreenScapes employees.

“What the industry needs now is intelligent, management-oriented mechanics,” Piersol concluded. “These guys have to be 50 percent mechanics and 50 percent managers. Somebody who knows how to read manuals, how to set up preventative maintenance programs.”

About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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