Inspectioneering Journal

Addressing the Great Crew Change

A Recap of the Fall 2017 Meeting of the Minds Roundtable Discussion

By Tyler Alvarado at Inspectioneering. This article appears in the March/April 2018 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Last November, in Dallas, Texas, Inspectioneering and PinnacleART hosted a roundtable discussion for a select group of leading mechanical integrity (MI) and reliability experts in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries. This inaugural forum, called the “Meeting of the Minds,” explored how the MI and reliability fields will have to prepare for the impending loss of knowledge resulting from the retirement of the baby-boomer generation — a national event known as the “Great Crew Change.” According to some reports, this represents as much as 50% of the current experienced workforce.

During the course of the roundtable discussion, the Great Crew Change issue was broken down into two critical challenges:

  • First, managers must find ways to preserve and effectively transfer to younger employees the institutional knowledge acquired by retiring engineers, inspectors, and other experienced professionals during the course of their careers.
  • Second, companies must find better ways to recruit and retain top talent to these fields to avoid gaps in this critical workforce.

The details of these challenges, the various proposed solutions, and other critical concerns and observations that were discussed are detailed in this article.

Basic Needs

At the initiation of the discussion, the participants agreed that the “Great Crew Change” was a significant concern for all industry members, and that the mechanical integrity profession as a whole must seek solutions to current and upcoming knowledge transfer challenges or risk a steep, costly learning curve for new entrants into the industry. Knowledge transfer is a vital requirement to reduce the risk of increased errors, missed opportunities for safety advancements, or — worst case scenario — catastrophic events.

“The challenges discussed today are going to require dollars, training programs, and the commitment from a high level in our organizations,” said one group participant. “In fact, this discussion should be fodder for annual company meetings, industry process safety meetings, and other venues. And, we are going to have to prepare and deliver presentations about these critical challenges.” Such presentations should target upper management to ensure support for the process, the participant said. Meanwhile, management should be encouraged to support more mentoring programs to pass on knowledge to the new generation.

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