Data Management in Reliability Related Processes
Top-and senior management are appraised for good strategic and tactical decisions. First line management and their operatives are on the other hand appraised for effective collaboration and efficient work performed against quality standards. Communication in business is key.
Decisions have to be made on all levels. Operators and technicians make decisions on how to operate the equipment and what to do about failures. Supervisors and managers make decisions on priorities of work, allocation of resources, and progress.
For good decision making we need true, reliable, information. Facts if you will. Access to this leans heavily on our ability to compile data from different sources, and roll these compilations up into information we can communicate and act on.
When data is wrong, outdated or missing, our assumptions are more error prone and our decisions will more likely to lead to wasted effort; we will not be able to do the right things at the right time with the right people having the right skills, materials, and so on and so forth.
An analysis for one of our clients revealed that the way their work management process was reflected in EAM, was not on par with the principles of good Asset Management. Planning and Scheduling was virtually impossible. Appropriate linking with logistics and procurement was nearly non-existent. Cost of maintenance was not retrievable.
The CFO reacting to our proposal to start working on a radical rebuild: “OMG, this is going to touch everything on our company”. And how right that was!!
From a software coding perspective, the maintenance module is the smallest module in most EAM systems.
Paradoxically, the necessity to interface this module with all other business management functions has the tendency to make it the most complex, and most misunderstood.
Let us make a quick overview to show the point:
We know that a work order (and its work request as predecessor) forms the heart and soul of a work management system. These two “documents” are the main “data collectors” needed for looking ahead (Plan and Schedule) as well as looking behind us (Analyse and Improve). These are the “building bricks” for capturing your Equipment History thus enabling true Asset Performance Management reporting.
To perform these two business functions, Work-Requests and their subsequent Work-Orders are integrating:
1. Equipment and system location data
Without this, we would not be able to direct the required flow of resources to the right place at the right time, let alone that we would be able to allocate the resulting cost to the right accounting level.
2. Materials and Tools Specification data
Essential to allow our detailed planner (work preparer) to be able to select the right materials and tools from the bill of materials and add them to the work order firing up the procurement, warehousing and logistics processes.
3. Documentation data
Without technical documentations, our technicians must work blind, or by memory, when performing the job. A necessity to ensure the job can be done with the right quality.
4. Safety, Health and Environment data
Without it, we would not be able to ensure all the necessary work permits would be in place at the right time, introducing the risk of not having our technicians and specialists working under the correct safety instruction set.
5. Work Centre Data
Without it, our schedulers would not be able to balance the workload against available capacity making our planning and scheduling efforts void.
6. Personnel Data
Without it, we would not be able to line up the jobs to be performed with the skill sets required.
7. Logistical data
Without it, our colleagues taking care of picking, packing and transporting required materials and services to the right place at the right time would not be able to do so.
8. Procurement data
Without it, we would have no clue about sources, prices, delivery times, and so on and so forth, again making planning and scheduling efforts void.
9. Financial Data
Without it, we would not be able to run budget forecasts nor would we be able to perform cost-benefit analyses supporting our periodic review of strategic and tactical decision making.
10. Fault diagnosis data
Who reported the fault? Which part of the equipment is not functioning? Necessary to perform Root Cause Analysis.
11. Asset risk data
What is the impact on people, production, environment and reputation? Required to prioritize and control risks.
Back to the case: The company had established a gap-analysis revealing a 1,5 to 2 Billion USD annual opportunity to improve the total cost of operation. In theory, it should therefore not be difficult to decide for a major reconstruction effort on data- and information management including instigating the appropriate amount of cultural change one would think. Reality though was much harder.
The infamous “silo” mentality that we so often find in big companies appeared. Combined with the tendency to only focus on “quick wins” and “low hanging fruit”, amplified by the personal career building plans based on 1 to 2-year job changes, works wonders to build walls against creating the necessary platforms for departmental change and to form the bridges between the departments needed to overcome the barriers.
Departments and Their “Proprietary” Tools
Despite the availability of information technology and the fast development of “the internet of things” / ”Industry 4.0”, “Big Data” and swats of software solutions, in practice we often witness how a missing 10 USD gasket, or the delivery of 6 instead of the required 8 tightening bolts, can grind a complete maintenance job (if not a complete project) to a halt.
This naturally results in all the adverse consequences of late startups, missed product delivery dates, etc. All at immense costs, as well as agony and frustration in meeting rooms.
Respecting the fact that organisations are doing a good job with combining knowhow and skillsets into departments, this doesn’t mean that we should allow departments to freely go out and buy (or even invent) complete solutions, including managing systems of their own. Good intentions easily end up leading to disintegration of business processes, disconnect, waste, and return to endless crisis control and firefighting.
As an example, from the Oil and Gas sector, we see for instance a clear distinction between departments taking care of maintenance of:
- Structures, pipelines and vessels (Integrity Maintenance)
- Equipment maintenance (Process Maintenance)
- Wells and related equipment (Wells Services)
- Buildings and offices (Facility Maintenance)
The maintenance strategies processed through these departments often require some very specialised measurement, data-collection and decision making tools to fulfil their function and meet their targets.
It’s truly marvellous to see some of their solutions at work. The ingenuity, ambition and expertise of their employees in applying the latest technology to bring about performance is often astounding. However, at the same time sometimes stubborn, and short sighted behaviour sometimes kills the power of these solutions. By department heads desiring to have full control of what they seem to experience as proprietary knowhow of their department, thus destroying the results that could be reached by collaboration and realistic integrated scheduling of work.
What to Do?
So how do we lead people to change their behaviour?
While not simple
Encourage (empower, if not: “demand”) department leaders to aim for long-term solution integration while focusing on the taking away of barriers on the short-term. Make part of performance reviews be based on ability to integrate and improve processes across departments, reward Manufacturing Reliability, not mere Production quantity, low percentage of emergency work, or budget adherence.
Make it clear, starting from management, that it is in order to have mistakes, but that learning from them is key! To pinpoint the gaps and find solutions to close them permanently. Shifting from ‘How can I make my KPI green’ checkbox mentality to ‘I need to see the reds (gaps) and understand how to improve’ would be a big step forward from most organisations. “
Invest in integrated solutions and avoid solitary solutions.
Vendors will not say ”no” to creating and delivering standalone solutions when there is a market for them. However, when you have invested in your own EAM system, making sure that the core functionality for collection and processing of specific data is fulfilled, and tailored to the end user. The Operator, the Maintenance Technician, the Supervisor, the Planner. Refrain from accepting attempts to implement parallel Work Management and materials/services ordering solutions.
Communication is gold, information is silver, data is the ore for both. The success of your company depends on these.
While investing in software solutions may allow us to become more efficient, we will always need people to get the work done and manage our work processes.
A software solution for a manual process does not automatically mean better results!
Badly executed implementation, unclear work process interaction, and not addressing culture and behaviour can mean that a more efficient software solution only makes your problems worse.
The paradox is that automation tends to be sold on the argument of headcount reduction, while the truth is that we may indeed need fewer people to perform labour intensive or low value adding work.
The people we do need however, will often have to be better educated and trained and are therefore more expensive!
Do not fall into the open trap of thinking that automation will solve all your problems.
If you get it wrong it will result in very efficiently making a lot of errors!
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Having practiced Reliability Engineering for 17 years, I am still continually excited and encouraged by the new lessons I learn. I would like to share with you a recent lesson learned while working at a Fortune 100 company which is re-engineering its asset management plans to ramp up production by more than 50 percent over the n ext calendar year; a wonderful challenge for this Reliability Rhino. The type of challenge I can put my head down and charge in to.