Irving Forest Services and J.D. Irving see success with virtual PEMAC training

Rachel Ouellette
November 29, 2018
By Rachel Ouellette
November 29, 2018 – Irving Forest Services, a division of J.D. Irving Ltd., has seen success with virtual training through the Northern Lakes College (NLC) and Plant Engineering & Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC) Maintenance Management Professional (MMP) program, which was designed for maintenance personnel and supervisors to learn effective management of physical assets.

Mike Crowell, director of maintenance at Irving Forest Services in New Brunswick, credits the program with creating a platform for attaining leading practice and performance at the organization, achieving consistency and standardization across divisions.

Crowell recently provided the keynote address at MainTrain 2018, the annual PEMAC national conference. The theme of the conference, held September 24 -27 in Ottawa, was Connect, Learn and Contribute. Crowell’s presentation, "Accelerating Management Talent in Partnership with PEMAC," acknowledged program provider NLC as part of J.D. Irving’s excellent experience with the MMP program.

"In 2013, we knew we had to change how we do things. Ten people from the division enrolled in module one of the PEMAC MMP program through Northern Lakes College," says Crowell. Five years later, 90 employees, including employees from HR and operations, have participated in 337 modules, which was a $300,000 investment by the company involving 23,000 hours of classroom and self-study.

"This has really engaged our employees and we have 22 who are now MMP-certified,” Crowell says. 

He says that J.D. Irving places a higher value on training and development programs that provide professional certification, such as MMP through NLC. He notes the owners of the company say that the $300,000 has had a great return on investment, reflected in the long-term performance trends driven by maintenance activity.

While participation in the program isn't mandatory for employees in maintenance or asset management at Irving Forest Services, "by day three or four, new employees know what MMP is and what PEMAC is about," says Crowell.

By the time an employee is a maintenance superintendent at the company, they are normally working on the final module required to obtain MMP certification. Newly employed graduates with engineering degrees are also encouraged to participate in some of the modules of the MMP program.

Crowell, who completed his MMP program at NLC and is a member of the board of directors at PEMAC, credits module three of the program, "Human Resource Management for the Maintenance Manager," with a change in practice he has adopted. He now includes representatives from the HR department when talking with his employees about training and preparing for growth and future roles at Irving Forest Services, and it is now routine for the HR module to be completed by supervisors at the organization.

NLC offers the NLC LIVE Online option, which allows companies not located in Alberta to participate via virtual participation. The three-hour time difference between New Brunswick and Alberta was bridged by scheduling NLC's classes earlier in the afternoon, allowing a start time of 6:30 p.m. AST for those participating at Irving.

Crowell credits the MMP program (and PEMAC’s corresponding Asset Management Program) with allowing Irving Forest Services to achieve standardization and consistency, because employees who participate in the MMP program and move up within the organization share the same mindset or strategy around maintenance and asset management.

"We can transfer people between divisions easily," he says. "The other benefit is that we are speaking the same language." Crowell indicates safety performance at Irving Forest Services has also increased, which he partly attributes to the emphasis placed on safety in the MMP program.

"We are seeing the benefits. Our employees are more engaged and motivated. They understand the roles they occupy," Crowell says.

Rachel Ouellette is the communications officer, external relations for Northern Lakes College.

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