Battle data deficiency: Boost asset reliability with reliable information

By Steve Gahbauer   

Facilities Maintenance Industry Innovation & Technology MRO Manufacturing maintenance manufacturing reliability

Digital management accesses needed information quickly.

Effective management of assets relies on useful, pertinent data.

Data deficiency– the absence of critical data – and how available data is organized and managed are areas that need to be addressed to make maintenance efficient and effective. It’s not possible to make evidence-based management decisions without good, relevant and reliable information. Digital asset management (DAM) keeps relevant data within reach, when needed.

Why digital management? Let’s make the case by following how maintenance works best.

Vlad Bacalu, senior director of reliability and technical services at Aecom, an American multinational engineering firm, notes in a technical paper that implementing a good and sustainable 5S program improves the efficiencies of the maintenance team and creates a safer work environment. Such a program begins by directing and training operators to perform minor checks and inspections and understanding the nature of failure modes. The next step is to develop a thought process based on root cause analysis (RCA) and train maintenance technicians to follow it. Once the proper troubleshooting mindset is developed, the effectiveness of existing preventive maintenance programs can be evaluated and optimized.

As maintenance and reliability processes are related, developing the skills of the maintenance team becomes an important part of the reliability roadmap. A matrix shows the skills of each maintenance technician. Personnel need to interview operators to understand the conditions that caused failures. Once a repair is completed, and the operator is satisfied, the asset is returned to production.


All of that relies on useful, pertinent data – and on how well that data is managed. Effective equipment maintenance depends on it. That’s where DAM comes in. This was the subject of a case study at a MainTrain maintenance conference in Saskatoon hosted by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC).

Document problem

Palak Patel, an engineering technologist of the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA), operates 16 transmission stations and four plants in Ontario’s Peel region. Manuals and drawings are the basis of all plant operations and maintenance. Organizations are not only struggling to maintain these records, they’re often also unable to provide relevant data when it is required for diligent maintenance work. By digitizing older manuals and drawings, many gaps were identified on missing documentation from previous projects.

OCWA faced the document management problem while operating the wastewater sites under its jurisdiction. To tackle the issue, the organization upgraded its Open Text database software and uploaded operation and maintenance manuals, and engineering drawings. Initially, manuals and drawings were scanned. When scanning was completed, the documents went through optical character recognition so each file could be searched for key words and easily viewed through different formats such as Pdf, Word, Excel and CAD. Other documents – reports on maintenance, inspections and safety – were also regularly uploaded to the database.

Frequent Open Text training was provided to staff to ensure everyone knew how to use the various functions of the database, such as editing, creating versions of documents and sharing them through a mobile phone application. Part of it is an archive system that’s a major part of DAM and vital to centralize all reports and records onto one database where the information is easily accessible. Previously, records were kept on personal drives and erased when employees left OCWA. Now records are easily accessible to anyone and anywhere at any time.

There was one major issue: avoiding any duplication of documents being uploaded to the database. To resolve it, access to upload and edit is limited to managers and the document management team. Stakeholders are contacted to make sure documents are uploaded in the right format for easier access.

The DAM initiative is working for the OCWA. It now plays a vital role in assisting maintenance work across the agency’s facilities and improves the efficacy of asset management.

Steve Gahbauer is an engineer, a Toronto-based business writer and a regular contributing editor. E-mail

This article appeared in the March 2019 print issue of PLANT Magazine.


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