"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."
- Will Rogers

Recently, while attending the annual conference of the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) in Norfolk, Virginia, I attended a press conference to hear how three maintenance and reliability professionals - Rick Baldridge of the Cargill Corporation, Ramesh Gulati of Sverdrup/Arnold Air Force Base and John Schultz of Allied Services Group - utilize SMRP’s certified maintenance and reliability professional (CMRP) registration to run their business. In some respects, their comments were predictable … the certification is used to decide who gets hired and who gets promoted. What was really interesting is the manner in which the certification is employed as a training and development tool for maintenance and reliability professionals and for those who do not directly work in the maintenance and reliability field.

Usually, when one sets out to attempt a certification examination, whether it is the CMRP registration, one of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) certifications for lubrication industry professionals or some other credential, the goal is to pass the exam. However, the enlightened manager looks beyond the credential to uncover the value of the process. Both SMRP’s certifying organization (SMRPCO) and ICML report strengths and weaknesses for those attempting the exam. The process used is different for the two organizations, though the result is the same. Those attempting certification receive a peer-reviewed evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, when I earned my CMRP registration in 2001, I was pleased to get the evaluation form that showed my relative strengths and weaknesses (Figure 1).

Figure 1. SMRP Provides Feedback to
All Who Attempt the CMRP Exam.

I was surprised to learn that I needed to work on my understanding of manufacturing processes. Despite the fact that I was successful in my attempt to certify, I learned about an important knowledge gap. Other more specific gaps become apparent as you take the exam. For me, I discovered during the course of the exam that I needed to learn a lot more about electrical predictive maintenance techniques. While I haven’t closed all those gaps, I am pursuing them.

This subtle but interesting fact was emphasized by Baldridge, Gulati and Schultz in their presentation. In fact, they referred to those who attempted the examination as successful and unsuccessful. According to them, the only failures are those who are afraid to take the examination for fear that it might reveal weakness. To paraphrase Will Rogers, a fellow Okie, we are all ignorant - only on different subjects. We can’t eliminate ignorance if we are ignorant of the topics on which we’re ignorant (Ignorance2 = Failure, for you mathematically inclined people!).

Attempting an SMRP or ICML certification exam provides you with a roadmap to eliminate skill deficiencies relative to an accepted body of knowledge - the first step in any education, training or development program. With the information provided by attempting certification examinations, skill remediation can be targeted and scaled to meet the requirements of the individual’s planned career path. Without such a roadmap, skill remediation planning relies on a lot of guesswork.


In addition to utilizing these certification exams to create career development plans for successful and unsuccessful candidates, Baldridge, Gulati and Schultz all remarked that they encourage team members outside of the maintenance and reliability field to attempt the exam. This includes operations, design engineering and even finance and administration, encouraging them to attempt the examination, not with any expectation that they will succeed, but rather to more thoroughly understand the role of a maintenance and reliability professional and the value he or she contributes to the organization. What an excellent idea! We all tend to trivialize that which we don’t know, including the contributions of people in other departments or those who possess expertise outside of our own realm. This helps others understand what we do. We must be willing - no, eager - to reciprocate and gain a similar understanding of the way in which our non-M and R colleagues contribute to the organization.

While the ultimate goal of certification is to achieve the credential, the real value is in the process of finding and eliminating knowledge gaps. After all, the certification itself adds no value to the organization. However, the value the knowledge represented by the certification has the capacity to add immeasurable value, so make sure you get the most of it. This is my Viewpoint. As always, I’m interested in yours.