For many years - as long as I can remember - trainers and consultants seem to have pushed the concept of de-skilling the work force, proceduralising the work, and thus demotivating the people involved. I've always thought this was the wrong approach. Admittedly you don't want to be entirely reliant on a few key people, but it isn't a question of one extreme or the other. That would be the fallacy of the missing middle, and in this case the middle most definitely is not missing.
But during that day, whatever the topic, whether it was reliability or life extension of equipment we came back to the same point. Your skilled people are the ones you need, both as problem solvers and as problem preventers. The people who know the equipment best are the ones who live with it all the time. They know the sounds, sights and smells that indicate potential problems, and they usually have a petty shrewd idea about how serious a problem is going to be long before their managers suspect a problem.
What a refreshing outlook! I suppose this is because I was sitting in a room of optimistic and realistic engineers who know what it takes to keep their plant running, whether this happens to be a train, a chemical plant or a nuclear power station.
It was much more encouraging than listening to management consultant BS! Apologies to some of the lovely people who do it for a living, but I just had to say it!