Interview with Natale Mozzanica, CEO of Mozzanica
Long ago, a courageous industrialist who had started a company for manufacturing super sports cars said that “it was the maintenance carried out on his cars that allowed him to understand the effectiveness of his choices and informed him on how he should make future decisions”.
In fact, he not only considered this service the basis for car maintenance, but also a means to improve.
This perspective is truly unique and interesting, because in the field of firefighting, especially in countries where the culture of safety is not widespread, we really struggle to understand the importance of this service that does nothing but preserve the equipment and systems designed for our safety.
But that's not all.
Underestimating maintenance sometimes leads us to hire the wrong technician, who lacks training and the right equipment, but in exchange… at a lower cost.
We therefore decided to interview our CEO, Mr. Mozzanica Natale, who for many years has always been at the forefront of fighting for increasingly specialized maintenance services.
What is the identikit of a true fire protection maintenance technician?
A maintenance company that provides “after-sales services” needs a level of organization that is proportional to the result it intends to obtain, that is, maintaining the performance of the equipment and firefighting systems over time.
The “maintenance service” must develop specific internal skills – related to the organization – and specific skills in the field – related to operational activities.
The company must be well organized in terms of: activities, objectives, operating methods, structures, procedures, equipment, stock, staff, training, practice and verification of skills.
Every facet of the organization requires professionalism and competence, and without these basic characteristics, it will not be possible for the service to deliver satisfactory results.
Good internal organization can never compensate for the skills and knowledge that the technician must apply in the field.
Will utilizing a performance approach bring about changes in the maintenance process?
The performance approach should lead to better management of firefighting system maintenance activities.
Maintenance activities are an integral part of safety management, which the professional has defined (or should have defined) in their project, together with the system specifications. In particular, service activities can be optimized, but above all the system's structure will benefit from it, as it must respond to changes in risk over time as the protected activity develops.
Is maintenance a cost to be minimized or a “value”?
I think it makes absolutely no sense, for those who have invested in an active protection system, to see maintenance, and in this case fire protection maintenance, as a cost to be contained. If for all other systems the maintenance/efficiency ratio of the system can be found continuously over time (e.g., an air conditioning system), this is not always possible in firefighting systems.
In fact, the firefighting system is, par excellence, an asset not necessarily utilized, which, in any case, owners must continue to invest in to keep it efficient. This exposes them to that perverse game of cost reduction, which sometimes sees the client and the maintenance company as accomplices; the first hiding behind “protection clauses” and trusting the second in the possibility of making their performance as “virtual” as possible.
Starting from the assumption that a fire emergency will ruthlessly define the true levels of safety the client will have aimed for.
Good maintenance is truly an added value that can contain real management costs and allow the customer to have a genuine guarantee of “business continuity”.
In my forty years of experience in the firefighting industry, I have never used price as a selling point. On the other hand, I can confirm that the customer who invests in efficiency in their active protection systems incurs lower total costs than those who apply savings policies that can expose them both to direct damage and to sanctions in the event of inspection by the control bodies. If the computer systems for the management and remote control of the systems are properly maintained, the levels of safety and savings will only increase.
When does maintenance begin?
There are already litmus test maps that determine customers' and their technicians' responsiveness to the problem: the system specifications and the user manuals and maintenance manuals of the fire protection systems employed.
The system specifications still find a limited application and the user manuals and maintenance manuals are rarely read, so normally we talk about maintenance on the system in use and in a detached way from the safety management of the activity in question.
This way of operating can create discrepancies between what the designer intended and what was then actually applied during maintenance.
A good maintenance plan must start from the system specifications, which must determine the objectives of interaction between the firefighting system and the protocols adopted for safety management, including the company's emergency plan.
If you do not know the logic developed during the approval phase of the fire protection project, it becomes difficult to establish a coherent maintenance plan.
Given the above, the figures that should be involved in the chain are:
- the qualified technician who in the system specifications must define the appropriate system according to the protected risk, the management of the hypothesized safety, and the organization of the client;
- the designer who must develop what is defined in the system specifications, designing a system that takes into account not only the operational factors, but also the impact that maintenance operations may have in the context of the protected activity;
- the installing company that must guarantee the correct installation of what has been designed and that must produce the user manuals and maintenance manuals with all the instructions necessary for the correct management and maintenance of the system;
- the client and its structure that will be in charge of the system once it is inserted into the context of the entire company's safety organization, training the personnel responsible for its management and preparing the necessary procedures for its maintenance over time;
- finally, the maintenance company that will be in charge of the system with all the necessary documentation, and is responsible for verifying its content, establishing the control checklists, agreeing on the frequency of the interventions, the operating methods, and the documentation to prepare at the end of each visit, necessary for creating the system history and essential for certification activities.
How about preventive and corrective maintenance?
In the firefighting industry, the level of risk and the organization of company safety determine the type of maintenance applicable. These two parameters are decisive in determining whether preventive maintenance should be the priority over corrective maintenance.
Normally, the two operating models work side by side.
In the presence of redundant protection (a high-risk context or strong attention to safety), preventive maintenance is the priority.
In the presence of a minimum level of protection and only compliance with the legislative obligations (a low-risk context or lack of attention to safety), corrective maintenance is the only one applied.
Good fire protection maintenance, as part of any system, must classify the components subject to preventive maintenance according to certain cycles or periodicity, based on evaluation methods dictated by the risk analysis and the evaluation of possible failures. In this way, corrective maintenance only becomes necessary in the presence of tolerable or unpredictable failure in ordinary events or in the presence of necessary system changes.
Certainly, maintenance of processes or more generally of production equipment in which downtime can more directly determine “losses or production standstills” generally gets more attention than fire protection maintenance.
How to decide who to entrust the maintenance to?
By political choice – that is, guaranteeing work to everyone – and contrary to what is applied in other countries, in Italy there is not a qualifying path for fire protection maintenance companies and for the specialized figures who are part of them. This has led to the development of micro family businesses on the Italian market, specializing above all in the maintenance of fire extinguishers and hydrants and with little expertise in system maintenance.
However, there is a “Guide”, called the “Azzurra” guide, written by the Uman association, for drafting tender specifications and it provides useful assistance when the client needs to choose the “subject” to entrust the maintenance to.
The following are the support topics that the buyer should consider when choosing a maintenance company:
- high specialization and continuous training of personnel
- in-depth knowledge of firefighting systems and the technical standards that regulate them
- application of work procedures resulting from regulatory references and experience gained in the specialization
- adequate organization
- specific well-defined equipment for each type of system or equipment
What characteristics must a maintenance technician have?
When talking about maintenance technicians, it is necessary to distinguish between simple equipment technicians (fire extinguishers/hydrants), fire door technicians, and systems and complex equipment technicians. Consequently, the basic characteristics and training are different for each professional figure.
Every maintenance technician must have good manual skills and regulatory knowledge.
Specifically, a maintenance technician for simple equipment is required to know the technical standards and technical rules that regulate the maintenance procedures and their application to protect against various risks.
A maintenance technician for fire doors must have training as a joiner/glazier.
A maintenance technician for systems and complex equipment is required to have more considerable technical training (preferably a specialization in electrical engineering), knowledge of the design, and knowledge of firefighting systems.
The duration of training for maintenance technicians varies depending on the activities, which require on-site training with experienced personnel.
Typically, timelines range from 6 months for a simple equipment maintenance technician to 24 months for a systems and complex equipment technician.