Smarter asset management: A 3-step strategy to doing more with less
- By Steve Beard
- Sep 20, 2018
The standard concept of asset maintenance sounds simple enough: determine what must be done to ensure that any physical asset continues to do what users want it to.
However, as the issues around maintenance resources and the assets themselves become more complex, this simplicity fades. Some organizations, while trying to implement their own maintenance strategy, can make the process and plans more complicated than necessary and result in systems with nonessential assets being over-maintained. It can also lead to inefficiencies and wasted resources. For example, traditional maintenance models often include shutdowns for overhaul. But is an overhaul necessary at all? Are we pulling crucial assets from operation when it is unnecessary?
RCM makes way for RBM
Reliability-centered maintenance helps deliver safe minimum levels of maintenance through standard asset-management practices. However, it may be time for organizations to look toward a reliability-based maintenance model. RBM is different from RCM in that it essentially shifts focus and resources to the most important business assets. This is especially crucial in this funding environment where agencies are consistently asked to do more with less.
With RBM, agencies can create systems, structures and processes that optimize asset management at a more cost-effective level. RBM sets up the enterprise for proactive maintenance activity prompts and notices. As that information is pushed to the responsible teams and managers, maintenance is scheduled exactly when it is needed, minimizing system downtime and non-productivity.
With the goal of mitigating adverse impact and risk, industry experts have found that there are three steps to implementing successful RBM: discipline, technology and coaching.
Step one: Discipline
An organization can have thousands of assets, and successful enterprise asset management (EAM) is only as good as the data gathered around those assets. That is where the discipline is needed. A successful start to RBM begins with developing a hierarchy of crucial assets, ranked by which are most important to operations. They are defined by their own unique characteristics, based on criteria that speak to the things an organization does in terms of maintenance, quality and supply chain as well as safety, cost and risk.
Those rankings should be objective and determined by a trusted cross-functional team that will drive activities. From there, this master asset list is ranked by criticality: low, medium, high and critical. Many forward-thinking organizations go as far as identifying critical spare parts. From there, Preventive Maintenance Optimization can create a structured process around past failure -- including identification, classification and strategy -- to prevent future issues. Spare Part Analysis follows that same process, but at a more granular level.
Even the most careful and detailed information gathering may go to waste because the most important EAM data is not housed in a single system -- or even automated at all. That is where researching and selecting the right technology comes in.
Step two: Technology
While ranking and defining assets yields the right data, it is not enough to manage it by spreadsheet or in disparate systems. The fact is that infrastructure management and assets themselves are undergoing a technology evolution -- a transformation that many have not yet caught up to. That can create even more ways to fail and show up in low customer satisfaction, decreased employee morale and threats to long-term sustainability.
But technology is a friend to infrastructure management. True RBM is driven by smart technology that connects the master asset list to all other evaluation methods and systems. This provides reliability analytics, including root-cause analysis, which addresses the cause rather than the symptom of failure. This information provides insights as to how those critical assets fit into the bigger picture of design, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance and replacement. With all this unique data in one place, IT managers will see increasing consistency across the agency, which leads to more predictability and proactive decisions.
Step three: Coaching
As data analysis and technology revolutionizes EAM, it is important to consider the human element in making a system work. With RBM being a relatively new industry concept, and with the world of infrastructure now playing catch-up to the rest of the digital revolution, it is imperative to work with partners who can map a careful strategy.
In looking to fill that role, agencies should find an EAM expert who has spent hundreds of hours in the RBM space. That same consultant or leader should have a record of successful RBM implementations and be able to provide case studies in how his or her clients have achieved real return on investment.
The benefits of EAM are obvious and include improved performance, increased efficiencies and productivity (which translates to funds saved and better service for customers and constituents) and creating a culture of continuous improvement and growth. The key is identifying the right assets with an RBM system that intuitively prioritizes those that maximize efficiency and safety.
Steve Beard is director of innovation at Infor Public Sector.