How To Use Data To Spark Change: Lessons From Mercury Marine

For Trevor Schwartz, who works as the Maintenance, Metals and Tool Repair Manager at Mercury Marine in Fond Du Lac, Wis., changing the paradigm shift is the hardest part of his job.

“We’re all human beings and we all tend to fight change,” Schwartz said. “I base a lot of my information and process of changing off of data. Collecting that data or making a data/measurement system available is critical. If you’ve got that information in front of you, it’s a lot easier to convince people than not.”

Schwartz has been at Mercury Marine since 1993, when he started as an assembler. He worked his way up, and in 2004, he became a salaried employee. He’s a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and is also certified in maintenance management from UW-Madison.

The biggest challenge he faces is increasing uptime while decreasing downtime and making his equipment more reliable. Like many maintenance managers, that means being more proactive with maintenance repairs.

“We are still in firefighting mode here, but we are making progress. So it’s something that we know is not going to change overnight, but we are continually trying to move the needle to a more predictive [approach] instead of reactive.”

He likes the challenge, though. “I like problem-solving. I really like working with skilled trade individuals and overcoming issues and fixing them.”

Schwartz’s Maintenance Management Certificate, which aims to help technical professionals become more proactive in their maintenance strategies through continuing education courses, also helps. “The classes I took had some very good ideas and remedies,” he said.

While he didn’t plan on getting certified at first, he found two courses of interest at UW-Madison that were running consecutively.  “To me, they were a good fit for what I was looking to get out of it. And from there, I started looking into the certificate.”

Schwartz liked the courses he took at UW-Madison because of the interaction with classmates. “I really liked the networking and I also enjoyed a lot of the working sessions, where you do a case study and work as a group with different students, and tried to [figure out] what worked well and what could be improved. It was a good representation of how to use the tools back in the real world.”

He estimated that half of his classmates were from a facility maintenance background and the other half production.

His instructors had also been in his shoes. “They went through similar issues and talked about how they would resolve them,” he said. “They gave you that leadership or mentorship.”

The tools he learned from UW-Madison can be used in multiple areas of the job. “It can be almost anything, especially in maintenance,” he said. “It’s not just in production.”

In five years, Schwartz sees himself pushing Mercury’s maintenance program to be better, more streamlined and more efficient. He hopes to be the one driving improvements in operations.

He also anticipates taking more courses at UW-Madison. He has taken maintenance courses from other providers, but preferred the courses he took in Madison. “UW-Madison just shined [in comparison to the others],” he said.

He also has some advice for future students: “Sign up. You’ll never regret it.”

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