From aerospace to retail, asset-intensive industries are becoming increasingly conscious of the critical role that proper physical asset management plays in industry success. Despite this awareness, however, many individual companies are still having difficulty optimizing their asset management practices and getting the most from their assets. Read on for a look at five of the most common reasons why companies fall short of achieving optimal asset management.
The basic starting point for any effective asset management strategy is a thorough working knowledge of what assets the company possesses, and yet a surprising number of companies make do with asset inventories that are incomplete, outdated, or vague. Addressing these inadequacies is therefore the first major step a company must take in implementing a proper asset management program.
Companies should develop a comprehensive list of all assets and cross-check the list with what is currently in the field; establish a physical asset hierarchy (based on a reference benchmark, most typically the ISO 142242 technical standard); develop criteria for linking individual assets to their impact on the company’s strategic plan; and develop and implement a change or configuration management process to ensure that future changes to the inventory or to individual assets are properly documented.
Over- or under-maintenance
The dangers of under-maintaining an asset are easy to identify, as are the reasons why under-maintenance is a fairly common issue. With financial constraints increasing and companies constantly under pressure to cut costs, a proper level of routine maintenance is often identified as a luxury rather than a necessity and is cut back to a minimum to help boost profits. However, this approach typically leads to underperforming assets and the need for costly reactive maintenance when problems arise.
Over-maintenance is not as commonly identified as an issue, but it can be as big a problem as under-maintenance. Not only does over-maintenance, or non-value-added maintenance, generally come with significant associated costs, but the more frequent performance of intrusive maintenance tasks can also strongly increase exposure to infant mortality failure (or early life-cycle failure) and further incurred costs.
To avoid both over- and under-maintaining assets, companies can use reliability centered maintenance (RCM) programs to determine the optimum maintenance requirements for their asset inventories, thus moving from a reactive-based maintenance operation to a predictive-based operation.
Even when assets are properly inventoried and maintained, their performance capability can still be significantly diminished through improper operation. When companies lack in-depth knowledge about the inherent design capabilities of their assets and the optimum operational range for maximizing the asset life cycle, asset performance and life can be adversely affected. Operating either above or below an asset’s best efficiency point—such as by speeding operation up, slowing it down, or continuously operating assets that were designed only for intermittent running—gives rise to numerous life-shortening issues or maintenance problems. Learning how assets should be operated, understanding the consequences of operating outside prime design ranges, and taking steps to mitigate risk are therefore important asset management strategies for companies to adopt.
Inadequate risk management.
An effective asset management plan is not only concerned with the proper operation and maintenance of a company’s assets, but also with the risks that can arise from the ownership and use of those assets. The two main components of risk management are 1) the assessment of the consequences of a potential event as well as the likelihood that that event will take place, and 2) the development of management and controls to be implemented should such an event occur. Neglect of either of these two components can have a significant negative impact on effective asset management.
To properly manage risk, the ISO recommends a four-step model, which involves establishing context conducting risk assessment (risk identification, analysis, and evaluation); implementing risk treatment; and monitoring and reviewing.
Underutilized asset management systems
To help address their challenges with effective asset management, more and more companies are turning to enterprise asset management (EAM) systems, which can help significantly improve capital asset management on many fronts. However, not all companies are fully taking advantage of all the features that EAM systems offer, often as a result of a rushed implementation process or other shortcuts taken during setup. EAM systems can be most effective for companies when they are treated not just as a project, but as a major change program requiring appropriate planning, resources, and support. Consulting with the change management and asset infrastructure specialists at EAM provider organizations can therefore be a useful strategy for companies that have implemented EAM systems but may not be using them to their full capabilities.