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Managing Assets: What’s the problem?

The type of maintenance work and how it’s done is changing. Maintenance pros have to adapt.

March 3, 2015   by Steve Gahbauer

Find the right pieces to calm the turbulance caused by change. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Find the right pieces to calm the turbulance caused by change.
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Ben Stevens, founder of DataTrak Systems Inc., an asset management solutions provider based in Godfrey, Ont., says requirements and operating context for assets change as more is demanded from them and the environment and regulations they operate under change. Assets and their operating context are revised over their long lifetimes to meet production volume, variety, quality and regulatory requirements; and they’re usually measured in decades rather than years, so these changes accumulate.

How do we best address change? Properly define the problem.

The Asset Management Solutions Newsletter by Len Middleton, a Toronto-based physical asset management consultant suggests answering these questions:

• Is your organization doing the right amount of work?
• Do you experience unplanned and unexpected outages?
• Are you doing proactive maintenance on equipment that doesn’t have an impact on safety, the environment or standby equipment? Would the cost of repairs be about the same if it ran to failure?
• What are your current maintenance tactics? Do you get work orders that make no sense because the equipment has changed and the work order is not relevant, or the tasks do not effectively address the probable cause of failure?
• Does all the work assigned to the skilled workforce need to be done by them only? Or could others do the work if they received a couple of hours of training and documented instructions?
• Do you know which assets are critical to meet the organization’s objectives? Are they given priority to ensure tactics are effective and executed when required?
• Does your company have a plan to address its ability to execute work properly after many of your maintenance practitioners have retired?
• Do tactics effectively address the causes and consequences of failures?
• Is your organization familiar with available technology used for condition monitoring?
• Are you using the most effective technology and are you executing the work effectively and efficiently with few avoidable work delays through good work management practices, including proper planning and scheduling?
• What can you do to change the situation?

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Increase value
To successfully manage change, think of maintenance as a business unit that adds to and increases company value. That requires an understanding of your company’s rules and objectives and what managers are looking for. Maintenance must learn to speak executive language, which is essentially financial.

To change the way management behaves, show executives your ideas are really their ideas (joint goals); that the results are to their benefit and their credit, and that change is rewarding to them.

Getting help from your friends in accounting should be easy. Do the math. Show how the investment results in higher ROI. Accounting’s job is to help maintenance put together sound financial plans for budgets and projects, as well as monitoring progress.

Understand their methods of budget and project evaluation and follow their rules (definitions of costs, project time horizons and threshold ROIs). Get an accounting analyst attached to your team to assist. Help accounting understand the basics of maintenance: show how aging equipment needs more resources; demonstrate that you understand economic annual costs of assets; and don’t just send in the numbers, present the budget and explain the rationale to managers.

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

This article appears in the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of PLANT.


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General Operations Manufacturing Asset Management manufacturing


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