Maintenance: what is changing in asset management

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Asset management inscription coming out of an open book, creative business concept

Very often the questions of what will change for the maintenance department if and when the organization starts doing asset management. The most accurate answer, although it may disappoint the asker, is “it depends”. This is the only answer to give, because what will change depends totally on the maturity of the maintenance department and the culture of the organization.

If the maintenance department is fully mature and using all the latest techniques, technologies and tools, then the only thing that will likely change will be reporting their results in a format that shows support for strategic objectives.

To remind you what asset management is about, here is a reminder of the fundamentals that underpin it and show how they will apply to maintenance.

VALUE: Assets exist to provide value to the organization and its stakeholders
Asset management does not just focus on the asset itself, but on the value that the asset can bring to the organization. This means that the focus on maintenance may need to change a bit, as value is often a moving target; should we continue to spend a lot of money on a comprehensive maintenance program on an asset that is losing its ability to deliver value? Markets may have changed, competition may have driven prices down, technology may have passed us, and therefore there is less value being extracted from the asset. This does not mean that maintenance departments should arbitrarily stop their maintenance program for this asset, but after discussion with other departments and guidance from management, they can decide how to proceed. This brings us to the next fundamental of asset management.

LEADERSHIP: Leadership and workplace culture are determinants of value realization
Leadership and commitment from all levels of management are essential to successfully establish, operate and improve asset management within the organization. Leadership creates culture. To do this, leadership provides the right measures to the various departments of the organization in support of the strategic objectives. These measures will in turn influence the behaviors of the departments, and thus, will create the culture of the organization; what they do, how they do it, how they measure it and how they react to the measures. If leadership focuses on the wrong actions or allows the actions to lead to the wrong actions, then it will lead to the wrong behaviors.

Suppose it has been decided that one of the metrics for the maintenance department is mean time to repair (MTTR). If, instead of ensuring that this leads to better procedures, better planning and scheduling, better strategies to improve understanding and monitoring of failures and thus reduce repair time, leadership simply enables people to taking shortcuts, doing “tape and gum” repairs, or even worse, starting to falsify numbers by not following up and giving advice, it certainly won’t add any value to the organization.

Leaders need to make sure they provide the right goals to drive the right behaviors, and thus create the right culture and make sure they make sure that happens. What they need to do is the next fundamental of asset management

ALIGNMENT: Asset management transforms strategic intent into technical and financial decisions, plans and activities
Asset decisions (technical, financial and operational) collectively enable the achievement of the organization’s strategic objectives. This alignment must be both horizontal and vertical. We know there are other departments in the organization and not just maintenance, but we interact or talk to them or give them feedback on an extremely limited basis, if at all. This is definitely changing in the world of asset management, but before we talk about the changes, what is the current state?

If we look at the current model of many companies, it looks like this, where maintenance, operations and purchasing are led by the current management and they go ahead and run their departments, often without talking to each other and very often without have the opportunity to provide feedback or feedback.

This model allows departments to simply look internally and not seek to understand how what they do influences and impacts other departments. Purchasing was told they had to cut spending or reduce storekeeping; they simply start buying cheaper, lower quality parts or arbitrarily reduce their inventory, without considering that they are now preventing the maintenance department from doing what it needs to do.

Cheap parts don’t last as long and more repairs are needed, impacting the ability of operations to meet their goals as downtime increases. Maintenance takes the shortcuts mentioned in the MTTR. This catches up with them as repeat repairs become more frequent, forcing supply to have to rush parts and, again, affecting operations. Operations decide they can’t release assets for needed MPs or repairs, and it starts the vicious cycle all over again; more frequent repairs, more parts, more downtime.

Maintenance in the asset management world understands the impact and influence of all departments on them; HR for training and hiring the right skills, IT for having easy-to-use systems that provide the required data, engineering for designing for reliability and maintainability, etc., and how maintenance impacts and influences these other departments. Leadership ensures that goals are achieved collaboratively and clearly support strategic objectives, and considers these impacts and influences. All of this is supposed to provide the fourth fundamental of
asset Management.

ASSURANCE: Asset management requires assurance that assets are fit for purpose
The need for assurance stems from an organization’s governance process. Its origin is in the stewardship relationship between an organization’s senior management and its stakeholders that guides and steers the actions of all departments in the organization to achieve the desired value.

To be able to give this assurance, the maintenance department really needs to use all the latest techniques, technologies and tools. You are not applying the way of doing asset management if you are in reactive mode, or if you do not have the information necessary to make optimal decisions, or if you do not have the aptitudes and skills that you need, or if you have a culture where no one trusts anyone. The techniques, technologies, and tools mentioned are really no different from those that mature maintenance departments already use, and the journey from reactive to mature is the same, whether done as part of a maintenance management journey. assets or simply trying to be the best maintenance department you can be.

Maintenance is an essential part of asset management, but it is only one part. We certainly need a mature department that delivers the best possible results, but if we don’t include, collaborate and engage with our partners across the organization, we won’t be assured we’re meeting the challenge. The intent of asset management is to deliver the desired business results while meeting stakeholder expectations. MRO
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Cliff Williams is the author of the bestselling maintenance novel People – A Reliability Success Story. He is a trainer in maintenance and asset management and a guest speaker at conferences around the world. He believes that success comes from people. Currently, Cliff shares his knowledge and experience as an advisor on people and process maintenance and reliability, and asset management with TMS Asset Management and is a facilitator for PEMAC’s Asset Management program.

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