Series: Asset Management Improvement is Not for the Faint-hearted

Mark Warrener
Managing Director
Work Management Solutions

“The colins dictionary defines Faint-hearted as “If you describe someone or their behaviour as faint-hearted, you mean that they are not very confident and do not take strong action because they are afraid of failing.”

When I talk to organisations or individuals about improving the performance of their assets and the capability of their team members, I always make a point to ensure we get to the willingness of themselves or their organization to make meaningful change. There is a time at the start of every improvement program where we must come to a common understanding that Asset Management Improvement is not for the faint-hearted. It is hard work, and it takes resilience, courage, and conviction to stay the course and deliver sustained improvement.

The following is the first in a series of articles that show examples of times in the Asset Management Improvement journey where our conviction as Asset Management leaders is tested.

Part 1 – Breaking the Back of the Maintenance Debt

We have improved our IDENTIFY and PLAN steps of work management and now have a true picture of the state of our asset and the effort it will take to rectify this.

One of the first challenges in the improvement program is when we actually get a picture of the condition of our assets, i.e. the cost and effort to bring them back to a required standard. We have improved the inspection, recording of maintenance faults and now have estimated effort, costs, and priorities against each work order in our system. The picture does not look good and there may not even be enough money in the budget. We must stay the course and show that we will break the back of the maintenance debt and will be significantly better off in the long term.

Many times, I have used the following diagram and explanation that outlines the journey undertaken when breaking the back of the maintenance debt and improving asset management performance. I realise there are different Maintenance terms, and it is simplified but the concept is sound and has been proven over and over in my experience. I hope this is of use to an Asset Manager out there who is in the middle of the journey or thinking of undertaking it.

Figure 1: Breaking the back of the maintenance debt
  1. Unsustainable Current State – We know that the current level of breakdown maintenance is unsustainable. It costs more in effort, money, and equipment downtime. We undertake an Asset Management Improvement Program.

  2. Worse Not Better – We have improved our maintenance tactics, and these have fed into the maintenance plans for the assets. We have increased our predictive maintenance and inspection programs which have identified additional Planned work that is entered into our CMMS as Planned work orders. Unfortunately, the assets have a maintenance debt that results in breakdowns that occur before we can correct them with the Planned work. At this stage the Asset Manager sees nothing but increasing workload, budget restrictions and is struggling to justify the additional downtime required

  3. The Loneliest Time – At this stage we understand the full condition of our fleet and our Planned maintenance is in full swing. We are still dealing with the maintenance debt of breakdown maintenance as we work our way through the Planned Maintenance Outstanding Work. This is the hardest point for the Asset Manager to stay the course. Production and cost pressure has never been greater. The Asset Manager must have faith that the improved Predictive and Planned Maintenance will begin to reduce the Breakdowns. This is also the time it can get very lonely being the Asset Manager. They must dig deep and stay the course.

  4. Don’t Back Off – We have broken the back of the Breakdown Maintenance Debt! We are starting to see that maintenance effort, Breakdown and Planned Maintenance are reducing. We are still fine tuning our predictive maintenance program. At this point the Asset Manager needs to ensure they stay the course and do not take their foot of the accelerator. Any reduction in in discipline with the Predictive and Planned Maintenance programs will result in a slide back to reactive and high-cost maintenance.

  5. Now Lock It In – Our costs, downtime and effort are now significantly less than when we started. This is the time for the Asset Manager to lock in the improvements by ensuring there is process discipline and execution through a suite of measures and actively being engaged with the front line. At this stage the saying “What interests my manager, fascinates me” has never been truer. The Asset Manager must attend the right meetings and be curious about the measures of schedule compliance and schedule work percentage. In short leadership is the key to sustaining the hard-earned improvements.

In summary, the journey of the Asset Manager when undertaking an Asset Management Improvement program and Breaking the Back of the Maintenance Debt is not an easy one. The Asset Manager must be able to understand where they are at any stage of the journey and be able to effectively communicate this to all stakeholders whilst selling the vision.

Asset Management Improvement requires conviction, resilience, and courage. It is not for the faint-hearted.

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