Author Archive | Bob Williamson


4:46 pm
July 18, 2016
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Uptime: Fuel Continuous Improvement with Data

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Making decisions about what to improve and how to measure the rate of improvement requires a systematic use of data. But, more than raw data, data bases, or spreadsheets, it’s important to use the right data. Many organizations today are already awash in data, anticipating a tsunami of numbers, thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and, as some are forecasting, the Internet of Everything. Professor Patrick Wolfe, executive director of the University College of London’s Big Data Institute noted, “The rate at which we’re generating data is rapidly outpacing our ability to analyze it.”

Data’s dark side emerges when unfiltered information is used as a threat, a smoke screen, or to obscure the facts. So it’s easy to see why some view data as a not-too-pleasant four-letter word.

Data alone can easily elicit anxiety, boredom, fear, sensory overload, and, in some cases, even excitement. Today’s business leaders must find ways to make data more user friendly to be successful in reliability/maintenance, in operations, and ultimately to the benefit of their organizations, their customers, and their stakeholders.

When organizations actually begin using their data, when they make data actionable for the benefit of the business, the employees and their customers all experience the bright side of data. Data is the foundation for eliminating problems and improving organizational performance.

What is data anyway?

When we delve into data we find digital data, bits and bytes, numbers and decimal fractions, text, alphanumerics, and mathematical symbols. Whatever the data looks like it is actually representing certain conditions or objects—and it is limitless.

Output from a machine sensor is also called data. This can be very useful, redundant, irrelevant, or totally useless. But, it’s still data. Real-time data is on-line. Archived data is off-line.

Amassing data for data’s sake can be a futile effort. It’s what we do with the data that’s most important—turning data into actions through smart, informed decisions.

Let’s take a quick look at one organization’s recent data-discovery journey. Production and labor data are collected by machine operators on tickets and forms, then keyed by others into a master database. To make the information more useable, data is printed out in spreadsheets. Some is then converted into graphs for reports or used to measure progress toward defined business goals.

Data collection continues with scrap production and material waste measurements. Quality data is collected from multiple sources for two separate reports—production defects and customer complaints. The defects are identified and categorized by QC inspectors through random inspections. Customer complaints are supplied by those who run a customer-feedback process.

Production-machine downtime is also written on sheets with a duration and a reason and later summarized in spreadsheets by department.

Maintenance work orders also capture machine work, problems, repairs, parts used, and labor.

Most data is looked at separately and the improvements are targeted by departments. The results are narrowly focused actions that lead to slow gains and short-lived improvements. There can be more. There must be more.

Make data actionable

Let’s make data actionable. Data used to chart a path for continuous improvement and measure progress along the way is essential to business success. But it doesn’t start with data.

The key element in business improvement is asking the right questions. Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist of and the author of more than 100 scientific papers on the application of machine-learning techniques said it best: “You have to start with a question, not with the data.”

Let’s look at an example for improving an organization’s performance in an evolving continuous-improvement work culture:

Big opportunity. Start by focusing on improving something that is very important to the organization: Where is the organization most at risk, where are failures most penalizing, where could breakthrough improvements be revolutionary to business success? These opportunities for improvement can be expressed as dire needs, a burning platform, response to regulatory issues, market changes, balance sheets, or changes in the organization due to buy-outs, mergers, or acquisitions.

Whatever the reason, start by defining the big opportunity for improving your organization’s performance. Specific opportunities for focused improvement are then defined. Be prepared to answer the question: Why are we doing this?

Right data. Identify and gather the right data. From where does the data come? Is the information easy to access? Is the data reliable and trustworthy? In the early years of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) we learned that machine performance data should be collected and analyzed by those people closest to the machine, the source of the data, and often the source of improvement. With the explosive rate of the IIoT, much of the data will likely come directly from the machines and equipment.

Information. Ask what the data is telling you. Here is where the improvement teams question the relationships among production efficiency losses, unplanned machine downtime, quality defects, customer complaints, scrap rates, and maintenance work (labor and parts). These collective data are now the information that guides improvement.

Knowledge. By connecting the information from the combined data sets, the improvement team can look for connections to the big opportunity for improvement. Armed with the knowledge between the information and the big opportunity for improvement, the improvement team is prepared to begin making improvements that will benefit the organization in a notable way.

Action. Develop a bias for action. Data analysis can be an attractive end to some. To others, it’s analysis paralysis. But, taking purposeful action is what gets things done in the organization on the plant floor. Action begins with root-cause analysis to determine the connections between what was learned from the data and the causes of poor (and successful) performance. Action continues with the corrective actions to address the root causes and putting countermeasures in place to eliminate the cause, or at least to minimize the penalizing effects.

Wisdom. Nurture the individual, team, and organizational learning that takes place from the specific improvement process. Ask the question: Are there similar problems that could be identified and eliminated in this manner? The wisdom to leverage additional improvements with the same body of knowledge is a powerful step in creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Creative/collaborative people and machines. Weaving together all six of these steps will result in an essential organization-wide behavior that I call Creative/Collaborative People & Machines. “Creative” meaning new ways of using data as a foundation for purposeful improvement. “Collaborative” is two-fold: People from different parts of the organization working together to make data a tool for continuous improvement and machines providing data that people use to improve performance.

Data is the fuel that drives the continuous-improvement engine and tells us how well it performs. Let’s find ways to make the right data actionable for the good of the organization and its employees, customers, community, and owners. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


10:14 pm
June 13, 2016
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Uptime: A Crime Against Machines

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Dispatcher: “Hello. This is 9-1-1 what’s your emergency?”

Caller: “I don’t know how it happened but my machine… it just quit. Please help!”

Dispatcher: “What’s the machine doing now?”

Caller: “I don’t know! It just made a loud noise and stopped! Like it’s dead!”

Dispatcher: “Is there any sign of movement? “

Caller: “It’s hard to tell for sure. I’m just a machine operator. But the panel lights are still glowing!”

Dispatcher: “That may be a good sign. Is there anything else you can see?”

Caller: “Oh, this looks bad! There’s fluid spraying from the back of the machine. It’s all over and I can’t stop it!”

Dispatcher: “Back away from the machine. An EMT is on the way to your location now.”

Caller: “Please hurry! I don’t know how much longer we can wait!”

Granted, the above doesn’t seem like a typical maintenance trouble call. But what if crimes against machines were actually handled the same way as people-related crimes?

What if mortally wounding a machine were a crime that had to be investigated? Let’s continue…

Dispatcher: “EMT James, what’s your 20?”

EMT: “This is James. I just arrived. Production supervisors and managers are everywhere, pointing fingers, waving their fists at what looks like a first responder… a ‘para-mechanic.’ Oh no!”

Dispatcher: “Repeat.”

EMT: “James here [winded from running]. I just inspected the scene the best I could. Hemorrhaging fluid at the back of the machine. This is serious. We don’t have much time! Looks like it blew a main seal or pressure hose.”

Dispatcher: “What do you need from Central Shop?”

EMT: “James here. Five gallons of hydraulic fluid, main seal part number QM-29145578, pressure hose QM-854132, filter QM-2985-1. But please, we really need crowd control STAT. Got a 10-34 starting. Supervisors and managers verbally abusing the para-mechanic and coming after me… shouting something about ‘got to get this thing fixed NOW…truck’s waiting for these parts… you’re costing us thousands of dollars a minute!’”

Dispatcher: “Crowd control EMS [emergency maintenance superhero] is on the way. Two minutes out.”

(silence… 30 minutes pass)

EMT: “James to Dispatch.”

Dispatcher: “I’m here, James. Whatcha’ need?”

EMT: “We lost it. Couldn’t stop the hemorrhaging… wrong hose. Did all we could on scene. Will be transporting critical parts back to Central Shop. Send a flat-bed. Got plenty of help here. 10-36?”

Dispatcher: “Sorry about that. Will get the flat-bed out STAT. 10-36 is 10:25 a.m.”

EMT: “Thanks for your help on this one. James out.”

A post-mortem

EMT James had his hands full with a dying machine and a verbally abused para-mechanic, not to mention his boss, the EMS, and a crowd of production folks wanting someone to blame. James suspected he’d get the nod, but his boss, too? This could get very nasty.

The machine parts were back at Central Shop—being analyzed by two OEM techs that had raced to the site. One of them disassembled the hydraulic pump. Parts were cleaned, measured, bagged, tagged. The damaged hose was next. The other tech started on the old filter. After about 10 minutes, however, the one with the hose began whispering loudly to his associate.Word spread. A verdict was imminent.

The production personnel gathered in Central Shop looked as though they wanted to hang someone. The EMS was there, as was the para-mechanic. James and other EMTs were close by.

Silence fell over the crowd as the OEM techs approached the bench covered in bagged-and-tagged pump parts, the damaged hose, and a cut-up filter. Once there, they announced that, after careful investigation, they had eliminated the pump as the problem. “It was perfect.” James was relieved. He had rebuilt that unit just the week before.

The techs continued: The filter, while dated with a marker as being changed a week before, showed signs of discoloration. “But,” they said, “that was normal.”

“The true culprit,” one explained, “was the hose.” His tone was neither accusatory nor blaming. James and his EMS boss wondered what the deal was. They didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

The OEM techs inserted a high-intensity light into one end of the bent hose and held it up for all to see. At that point, a bright glow began to come through a small slit. A cut hose, the investigators announced, with a degree of satisfaction. Their job was finished.

“Just order a new hose, and let’s get this machine running again,” directed the production manager. But the investigation was not really over. More investigators had arrived.

The true cause of death

Due to the large financial loss from this single incident, a CSI (Capital Situation Inquisitors) team was dispatched. Preventing such losses was a top priority of the company. This team was known for quickly getting to the root cause and identifying countermeasures to prevent recurrences. It soon transported the cut hose back to the failed machine—the scene of the crime. The inspectors were mystified by what they saw. The machine had been removed, relocated, reconfigured, and the mess cleaned up. Not a single piece of evidence could be found.

It was then that the CSI team looked closely at the slit in the hose: smooth, not jagged, not abraded. Inside both ends of the cut, however, they could see small bits of yellow paint. After talking with the machine operator who survived the incident un-blamed, the team had its answer.

The root cause of the catastrophe was determined to be a newly designed prototype cutting-tool rack sitting near the back of the machine at the time of the incident. The rack had tipped over, and a large cutter coated with yellow paint fell on the floor. Without alerting anyone else to the incident or checking for any fallout from it, the operator simply cleaned up the mess and went back to work. No process was in place to do otherwise.

Crimes against machines, especially the most critical ones that put a business at risk when they fail, need to be quickly, but adequately, investigated, causes identified, and corrective actions taken to prevent future failures. Does your site have processes in place to do this and are they appropriately communicated? MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


9:42 pm
June 13, 2016
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ISO 55000: Here’s a Book Worth Reading


In addition to its contents, the extensive index makes this book a valuable resource for those working with ISO 55000.

By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Scanning the Internet, as I so often do for news and views on asset management, including as it applies to ISO 55000, I recently came across a book titled Physical Asset Management, 2nd Edition, by Nicholas Anthony John Hastings (Springer Intl. Publishing AG, Basel, Switzerland.) As the article headline notes, it’s very much “a book worth reading.”

In it, the Melbourne, Australia-based author has leveraged his 50-yr. career in engineering-asset management to produce a 540-page volume that can serve as a textbook, a reference book, and a comprehensive introduction to ISO 55000. As its 29 chapters unfold, this asset-management body of knowledge weaves in crucial footnotes that reference specific ISO 55001 clauses. The final chapter provides a cross-referenced introduction to ISO 55000:2014.


Personnel at any level and at any point on an asset-management journey—be they new to the field, experienced end users, consultants, or suppliers to industry—will find value in this well-designed, easy-to-use reference. Geared to answer many common and not-so-common questions, the book’s major sections include:

  • General Introduction
  • Acquisition and Development of Assets
  • Managing In-Service Assets
  • General Management Considerations
  • Technical Areas
  • Financial Analysis
  • ISO 55000 Standard

But don’t be fooled about the quality and comprehensiveness—or possible lack thereof—of a technical book with only seven sections. Hastings’ amazingly thorough table of contents spans 23 pages. This, along with a finely detailed index, help make the book an outstanding resource for physical-asset-management aficionados of all stripes.

Individuals who are just embarking on asset-management journeys will find the author’s examples from a variety of industries to be quite useful. Each of the chapters ends with self-assessments and case exercises, based on a number of industrial settings, that support readers in refining their knowledge.

Remember, though, the subject of asset management is not new. Its already huge worldwide body of knowledge is growing rapidly. The first edition of Hastings’ book was published in 2010. As reviewed here, the second edition’s updating and cross-referencing to ISO 55001 clauses in 2014 benefits readers in two ways: specific footnote references and summary cross-reference figures and/or tables in the final chapter.

Among other things, a section outlining a Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP), as described in ISO 55001, clause 4.4, provides some particularly important insights. The Functional Gap Analysis in Chapter 29 offers a means for organizations to compare their current asset-management systems with those specified by the clauses in ISO 55001.

If you’re someone who wants to learn more about and keep abreast of issues related to ISO 55000, I highly recommend Physical Asset Management, 2nd Edition, by Nicholas Anthony John Hastings.

Whether you’re a top manger, department leader, practitioner, or student of the topic, consider this publication to be a must-have for your asset-management library. It’s available through most major online booksellers or by downloading directly from the publisher. For more information, visit MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


4:35 pm
May 16, 2016
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Uptime: Rules, Standards, And Mainstream 2016

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

The Eventful Group, Syracuse, NY, is hosting another U.S. Mainstream Conference this month. If past installments of this series are any indication, Mainstream 2016 in The Woodlands, TX (Houston) will exceed expectations. Scheduled for May 22 to 25, its focus blends maintenance with operations and reliability and offers opportunities for all professionals in our arena to learn what’s new, validate what we’re already doing, and network with peers (and would-be peers) for a continuing dialogue. From a personal standpoint, the photo of a Formula 1 (F1) racecar on the cover of the conference brochure is what sparked this “Uptime” column.

Some readers may be familiar with my NASCAR race-team studies and how the findings permeate my teachings. NASCAR’s approach to racing, however, varies greatly from that of Formula 1. The two motorsports organizations have vastly different rules when it comes to designing, building, operating, and maintaining vehicles that compete in their respective circuits. Such rules serve as “standards” for how things get done in these arguably dissimilar racing businesses and, accordingly, help explain why a 2.3-sec. pit stop in F1 and a 10.5-sec. pit stop in NASCAR can both be considered superior. That said, let’s think about rules in today’s workplace and how they restrict or ensure the way things get done.

Work rules

We see work rules defining what’s allowed and what’s not in countless plants. Many have evolved over time to improve safety and quality, control costs, and protect jobs. Some are based on regulatory requirements (safety, environmental, employment), others on certification compliance (ISO 9000, ISO 14001, ISO 55000). Over time, some are redefined to recognize new realities. Others simply preserve historical practices, leading to a “we’ve always done it that way” mindset.

Paraphrasing the Outback Steakhouse chain, let’s consider a “no rules, just right” work environment. In the worlds of manufacturing, maintenance, and facilities, “no rules” would surely imply that chaos prevails—which could never be a prescription for business success. Still, there’s a nugget hidden in plain sight in this mantra. The word “right” says it all. My thesaurus says “right” means “just, fair, correct, accurate, precise, exact, valid, established, official, absolute.” To me, these synonyms indicate there must be a rule that defines what is correct, as opposed to an implied wrong. Thus, for the sake of consistency in a “no rules, just right” work environment, we would embed standardized definitions of what right is and “how we do it here.”

On the other hand, when we consider work rules as standards for job performance, we can approach things a bit differently. If we keep thinking of such rules only as a way to preserve the status quo, we miss an opportunity to use them to promote and preserve continuous improvement. In today’s markets, new rules and standards are requirements for success in many business sectors.

New rules, just right

Standardized work, a fundamental element of continuous improvement, is often seen as restricting individual best practices. Frequently, it’s perceived as an infringement on “how I have done my work here for years.”

There are, however, thousands of examples where standardized work is successful—including in F1 and NASCAR racing. Looking closely at these motorsports, it’s clear that standardized work isn’t exclusive to their race teams’ pit crews. It permeates all phases of work, at all levels in the organizations. Some standardized work is based on conforming to the regulations of the sport. Some is devoted to preserving a best practice or proven method. And, some is leveraged in driving a relentless pursuit of perfection, i.e., 100% reliability from the way racecars are engineered to the way they are built, operated, and maintained. After all, without policies, standards, and a desire to look for better ways of doing things, we would still be living in caves and making fires to stay warm and cook   our food.

The crux of the matter—in motorsports and other industry sectors—is about more than just looking for a better way. It’s about creating the expectation of what, where, and why to improve, as well as providing the necessary resources, and having a standardized work process in place to guide such improvements. This is the responsibility of top-level management.

Leadership’s huge role

Keep in mind that where there’s no standard, there’s no improvement—only attempts to organize chaos to temporarily minimize penalizing effects. This is why support from the top is so important.

Leadership is a critical success factor in the quest for standardizing a best practice or the way we make sustainable improvements. Management plays a huge role by leading the way to business success, improving the quality of work life, and creating expectation of continuous improvement. Standardization at all levels, in turn, guides how work and improvements are accomplished. A plan and a process for continuous improvement, whether guided by a business policy, a strategic plan, or business goals, must also be standardized.

Continuous improvement should result in benefits to the business and the employees. Leading continuous improvement from the very top of the organization keeps the efforts focused on the needs of the business. Engaging employees in the improvement of their work processes benefits them, as well as the business.

Continuous-improvement leadership, from the very top levels to the front lines of an organization, requires a set of habits that engages employees in their quest for improvement. Leaders do just that: They lead people. But leaders must also manage the process of continuous improvement in the organization. A continuous-improvement work culture, based on standardized work, cannot be delegated to a facilitator, a consultant, or a department of continuous improvement. This form of delegation often results in a predominance of improvement events rather than a sustainable improvement culture.

Suggestions for conference attendees

For readers who are attending Mainstream 2016 in The Woodlands, TX — or any upcoming technical conferences around the world for that matter, Mainstream or otherwise — I offer these standardized work-process suggestions:

  • Share who you are, what you do, and what you know.
  • Learn something new that could improve your workplace, your job, and your mindset.
  • Share what you learned with your peers and your leaders, then give it a try. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


6:53 pm
April 12, 2016
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Uptime: Asset Reliability and Costs — Take a Life-Cycle Approach

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Fundamental, early-design-phase decisions set the stage for life-cycle asset reliability and costs in plants. How new physical assets, i.e., equipment, systems, and facilities, are designed can be a testament to engineering prowess and/or observing the awesome, life-long performance of other assets—or neither. In many cases, though, budgetary constraints and construction/installation shortcuts can limit reliability and increase life-cycle costs. The result is high periods of unreliable operation, added maintenance, and modifications and workarounds to make the assets perform as needed.

What if the elements of life-cycle asset reliability and costs are unknown, not addressed, or ignored in initial-project conceptual definition and design? Chances are pretty good that reliability, operating and maintenance budgets, and planned asset life would all be a huge gamble. While the project could come in on schedule and under budget, is that what defines business success?

Conversely, what if there were an overall template or a management system that outlined and specified all elements important to the business, short- and long-term, over an asset’s life cycle? Chances are pretty good that the reliability, operating and maintenance costs, and planned life of the equipment, system, or facility would contribute, by any measure, to business success.

Here are five big questions to help us begin thinking about establishing a life-cycle physical-asset management system. Use them with your site’s top-management team, engineering group, and/or operations and maintenance leadership.

  1. What are your physical assets supposed to do in support of the organization’s goals?
  2. What physical assets put the achievement of the organization’s goals most at risk?
  3. What processes are in place to assure that these physical assets perform as expected throughout their planned life cycle?
  4. What processes are missing that may be preventing these physical assets from performing as expected throughout their planned life cycle?
  5. What are the life-cycle physical-asset management processes that should be established to guarantee the answer to the first question (“organization’s goals”) is predictably and consistently assured?

This is exactly what the ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard is asking organizations to define: an asset-management system that covers the entire life cycle of physical assets.

According to ISO 55000:2014, “An asset-management system is a set of interrelated and interacting elements of an organization, whose function is to establish the asset-management policy and asset-management objectives, and the processes, needed to achieve those objectives. An asset-management system is used by the organization to direct, coordinate and control asset-management activities.” (ISO 55000:2008, 2.4.3 & 2.5.1)

With such a system in place, a project team would be responsible for executing and held accountable each step of the way for assuring that the organization’s goals are met—even with regard to its most-at-risk physical assets.

compressor station to deliver water for iron ore beneficiation

The life-cycle reliability and costs of equipment, systems, and facilities are essentially set by decisions made during the early design phases of these assets.

Life-cycle reliability

From a reliability and cost perspective, the life cycle of a physical asset can be divided and sub-divided into numerous phases and activities. For purposes of simplicity and brevity, let’s highlight four major ones and look at elements of each that have a direct impact on cost and reliability.

Project Design Phase. Management of a new physical-asset project, be it related to equipment, systems, or facilities, requires a team of highly qualified and specialized thinkers to focus on the foundations for life-cycle reliability and costs. The project-team leadership must understand and internalize “life-cycle thinking” throughout the Project-Design phase. Remember, 95% of life-cycle costs are determined during this phase (“Uptime,” March 2016 MT).

In this phase, life-cycle reliability- and cost-critical elements required to assure the new design will perform as expected include:

  • goals of the organization, i.e., financial (P&L), longevity of the assets, go/no-go criteria
  • operations concept, maintenance concept, technical/automation/software concepts, personnel/staffing levels, financial targets
  • management activities, i.e., project management, engineering design, construction, installation, start-up/commissioning, operations, maintenance, purchasing, logistics, spare parts, training
  • engineering design, operability engineering reviews, maintainability engineering reviews, reliability engineering reviews
  • documentation, i.e., detailed engineering drawings, diagrams, schematics, specifications, and calibrations.

(Note: Given the activities in the Design Phase listed above, it is essential that top-level operations and maintenance management be involved.)

Acquisition-Construction Phase. The Acquisition-construction phase involves putting the detailed design into action from procurement to building and installation to startup/commissioning. A number of the activities that influence this phase were initially defined in and influenced by the Design Phase. The Acquisition-Construction Phase is strengthened by the involvement of operations, industrial engineering, and maintenance plant-floor leadership.

In this phase, life-cycle reliability- and cost-critical elements required to assure the new design will perform as expected include:

  • design engineering handoff to industrial, manufacturing, and plant engineering personnel
  • construction, installation, start-up/commissioning
  • identification of pre-startup maintenance requirements
  • development of operations and maintenance work methods
  • definitions of job skills and knowledge requirements
  • production control, maintenance control systems (CMMS, EAM)
  • plant engineering, maintenance, spare parts, QA/QC, material handling, training facilities
  • critical spare parts, consumables, inventory levels, management systems
  • documentation, i.e., detailed machine drawings, diagrams, schematics, specifications, calibrations, operations instructions, maintenance and repair instructions, troubleshooting charts, bills of materials
  • initial workforce recruiting, screening, hiring, on-boarding, training.

Operation-Maintenance Phase. This is the longest asset life-cycle phase. While the Project and Construction Phases may have been successful, it is the Operation-Maintenance Phase that proves the concept over and over again. This is also the phase where the asset-management system endures.

In this phase, life-cycle reliability- and cost-critical elements required to assure the new design will perform as expected include:

  • on-going workforce development, i.e., recruiting, screening, hiring, on-boarding, training standards
  • maintenance and repair work processes, i.e., planned, preventive, predictive, overhaul, repair, unplanned repair standards
  • spare-parts management, inventory-control standards
  • data acquisition, analysis, reporting systems standards.

Decommissioning-Disposal-Restoration Phase. Think of this as an end-of-life phase that encompasses decisions and actions regarding the next steps for the assets. It can be as involved as decommissioning and disposal of hazardous materials and facilities or as simple as surplus or scrap sales. There may also be cases where the assets or sub-components and major equipment items can be reconditioned, restored, or repurposed.

Where are you now?

Life-cycle reliability, costs, and asset management are all highly interrelated and interconnected. That said, achieving your organization’s business goals in a consistent manner is dependent on an asset-management system that establishes and deploys the policy and objectives—along with the processes necessary to achieve those objectives.

Planning new projects? Great: You’re in the Project-Design or Acquisition-Construction Phases.

Already in the Operation-Maintenance Phase? Don’t worry: It’s not too late to begin your life-cycle asset management journey. Pay attention to the elements listed for this phase. In the meantime, look back at elements of the previous phases and begin fleshing them out with an effective asset-management system in mind. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


7:18 pm
April 11, 2016
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ISO 55000: Grab These Asset Management Resources


By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Details of the ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard continue to spread. To recap: In the maintenance and reliability arena, “assets” are typically physical, i.e., equipment, systems, processes, facilities, buildings, and so forth. True life-cycle management of such assets, through their development and deployment, operation and maintenance, and eventual decommissioning, is an organization-wide endeavor led from the top. As maintenance and reliability professionals, our role should be to coach peers and upper management on the breadth and depth of this pursuit. This month’s “Uptime” column discusses some critical elements that must be considered to achieve reliability and cost goals over the life of an asset.

Fortunately, resources to help us understand associated concepts and activities are within our grasp—online. The following three documents are good examples. Used together, they can help decision-makers understand the fundamentals and requirements of ISO 55000.

Asset Management Anatomy

The Institute of Asset Management (IAM), Bristol, UK, developed the Asset Management Anatomy (v. 3, Dec. 2015) to provide an appreciation of asset management: What it is, what it can achieve, the scope of the discipline, and descriptions of the underlying concepts and philosophy. Readers will find this publication especially helpful in growing their own understanding of the field, as well as in introducing a new way of thinking about asset-management systems in the context of entire value-producing-resource life-cycles. Among other things, sections/topics include:

  • asset-management models and management system
  • why does asset management matter
  • who does asset management
  • asset management subjects.

IAM Members and Affiliates can download the Anatomy document for free. Non-members will need to become Affiliates (at no charge) to download the PDF. Learn more at

Asset Management Landscape

Published by the Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management (GFMAM), Zurich, the Asset Management Landscape (2nd Edition, Mar. 2014) is a tool that promotes a common global approach. It includes a number of conceptual models, a list of asset-management subjects and principles, and a framework for describing best practices, maturity, and standards. Among other things, sections include:

  • components of the knowledge and practices area
  • asset-management fundamentals
  • GFMAM asset-management landscape subjects
  • asset-management concepts and models.

Download the publication for free at

IAM Self-Assessment Methodology

The ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard could play a major role in industry in the coming years. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this Standard at

The ISO 55000:2014 Asset Management Standard could play a major role in industry in the coming years. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this Standard at

The Self Assessment Methodology (SAM) (v. 2.0, SAM+, June 2015) allows organizations to assess their capability across either the 28 elements of BSI PAS 55:2008 or the 27 sub-clauses of ISO 55001:2014, including strengths and weaknesses, deficiencies, and areas of excellence. It provides considerable insight into the development of action plans for asset-management improvement, and also lets organizations track such improvements.

This SAM is divided into two parts: “General Guidance Notes” and an Excel spreadsheet “SAM Tool” (SAM+). The tool provides assessment results based on an IAM Maturity Group scale of 0 to 3 (the level of compliance with ISO 55001). Among other things, sections/topics include:

  • context and objectives of the SAM+ tool
  • users and usage of the SAM+ tool
  • questions, Level 3 criteria, and associated guidance
  • alignment of questions with BSI PAS 55:2008
  • alignment of questions with ISO 55001:2014
  • alignment of Level 3 criteria with the asset-management landscape.

Download the SAM “General Guidance Notes” document for free from the IAM website. The “SAM Tool” (SAM+) is available only to paying IAM members. Learn more at MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact:


4:25 pm
March 18, 2016
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Uptime: Reliability’s ‘Chicken Or Egg’ Question

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Discussions about life-cycle asset management and curiosity about the ISO 55000 Asset Management Standard have been growing since its launch in January 2014. While we are anticipating how this standard will affect decision making regarding the life cycles of an organization’s assets, we already know top management plays a key role (see “Uptime,” Feb. 2016). But, top management is only the leadership component.

Only the leadership component? What an understatement. Organizational culture is determined by leadership—either by design or by default. For most traditional organizations, transitioning from a typical project-based investment in new equipment and facilities to a life-cycle-centric, risk-based, asset-management culture requires highly focused, decisive, real-world leadership from the very top of the organization.

ISO 55000 defines asset management as the “coordinated activity of an organization to realize value from assets.” Two key words from that definition should resonate with us: “coordinated” and “organization.” Any meaningful coordinated activity requires a reliable organization. This approach is dramatically different from the traditional project phase, followed by a loosely connected operations-maintenance phase, i.e., an unreliable organization.

Asset management requires reliable equipment and reliable people in a reliable organization. Think about it. “Reliable equipment performs as intended, without failure, under stated operating conditions, for a specified period of time.” Reliability, though, is often expressed as mean time between failures (MTBF). People and organizations must be aligned with the goal of reliable equipment to increase the MTBF.

We know that equipment, systems, and facilities are all physical assets that must perform reliably to minimize their operating and maintenance costs and ensure long and productive service. Well then, what about the desired performance of an organization and its people?

Is it possible to have equipment consistently perform as intended if the people that operate and maintain it are inconsistent or unreliable?

Is it possible to have people consistently perform at the intended level if the organization has unclear, inconsistent, and unreliable standards and, therefore, behaviors?

We’ve had technologies to improve equipment reliability for decades. But true reliability has proven to be elusive whenever the root cause of unreliability isn’t addressed. For example, because reliability isn’t designed in—because operability and maintainability aren’t designed in—shortcuts and workarounds are often deployed to the best possible equipment performance.

Because 95% of life-cycle cost is determined at the design stage, and upward of 75% of those costs are attributable to operational and maintenance activities (Blanchard, 1978), organizations and people have to play a huge role in life-cycle cost and reliability of an asset. This is why life-cycle asset management continues to be an essential business-success factor for enterprises that depend on physical assets (equipment, systems, and facilities) to achieve their goals.

As also discussed in the Feb. 2016 installment of this column, various holistic equipment-management strategies since the early 1970s point to the need for organization-wide, life-cycle spanning, and coordinated activities. With few exceptions, however, the emphasis on people fell through the cracks: Why? Organizations typically had large numbers of skilled and knowledgeable people on staff. Vocational-education programs trained some of the best and brightest skilled crafts and trades. People weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to make a decent living. And the growth of technology was relatively slow, compared with the exponential explosion of the past 20 years.

ISO 55000 defines an asset as “an item, thing, or entity that has potential or actual value to an organization.” At this point in our industrial/business evolution, and given the ISO 55000 definition of an asset, I consider an organization and the people within it to be assets.

Think ‘systemic reliability’

Organizations and people are destined to be the most important components of physical-asset management in our increasingly competitive marketplace with its rapidly transportable and growing technologies. Given that belief, now is the time to think more systemically about asset life-cycle performance and costs.

Equipment (asset)-performance reliability:

  • The asset must be designed, built, installed, started up, operated, maintained, and decommissioned or restored, according to specifications and life-cycle cost goals.
  • Failure and/or functional failure must be defined for each asset.
  • Operating conditions, duty cycle (operating duration) must be specified.
  • Planned service life (period of time) must be specified.

Organizational-performance reliability:

  • The organization must be designed, staffed, started up, operated, maintained, and improved, according to specifications and employee life-cycle plans.
  • Organization goals, objectives, vision, purpose, guiding principles, and values must be defined.
  • Work processes, methods, and procedures must be specified (standardized).
  • Constancy of purpose toward improvement (Deming) must be established.

Human-performance (people) reliability:

  • Employees must be recruited, selected, hired, on boarded, trained, qualified, deployed, improved, and transitioned according to specifications and life-cycle plans.
  • Employees’ roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined and communicated.
  • Job training and on-job performance-qualification processes must be specified (standardized).
  • Periodic re-training and performance qualification cycles must be established.

Chicken or egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The question is perplexing because a chicken is a living organism that hatched from an egg from a chicken from an egg… We have a similar conundrum when it comes to reliability: Which comes first, reliable equipment, reliable people, or reliable organizations?

For the most part, we know what reliable equipment is supposed to do. We can also measure its reliability in terms of MTBF. But, shouldn’t that same thinking apply to organizations and people? From a life-cycle asset-management perspective, we should be able to define what the organization looks like and what it is supposed to do—and then define when it fails to perform its intended function. Again, measured in terms of MTBF.

When people fail to perform as intended, we are inclined to call it human error. It’s more complicated than that, however. Reliable organizations must have specific methods for determining the root causes of human error to achieve the goal of flawless human performance. Human-induced failures can also be measured in terms of MTBF.

So, it’s not about reliable equipment, or people, or organizations. It’s really about reliable equipment AND people AND organizations. Share your thoughts with me. MT


Blanchard, Benjamin S., Design and Manage to Life Cycle Cost, M/A Press, 1978, Oregon.

Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis, MIT Press, 1986 (reprint July 2000), Cambridge, MA, and London.

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


4:57 pm
February 9, 2016
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Uptime: A Top Management Standard — The Missing Link

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

The term “top management” in the ISO55000:2014 Asset Management Standard is referenced throughout the documents. In fact, top management has the overall leadership responsibility to establish the Asset Management System, as specified in the ISO55001 requirements.

But, the leadership responsibility of the very top of the organization, in pursuit of best-in-class operations and maintenance, is not new by any means. How the business’ equipment, machinery, and facilities operate has a direct impact on the balance sheet. So, why is it so difficult for top management to play a key leadership role?

Maintenance traditions

Maintenance of equipment, machinery, and facilities has been the responsibility of a plant engineering or maintenance department for generations. New maintenance methods and technologies have evolved to solve problems, improve maintenance efficiency, and ultimately keep the physical assets running smoothly. The maintenance department became one of many individual departments—organizational silos—with an accompanying charter and budget. Organizational finance and accounting put maintenance into an overhead expense category.

Traditionally, top management’s responsibility was to boost revenues and reduce expenses to meet the profit goals for the business. Naturally, top management became conditioned to treat maintenance as an overhead expense. As a result, the maintenance department often became financially constrained.

New equipment, machinery, and facilities projects frequently excluded operations and maintenance involvement. Decisions were often made based on functionality and cost trade-offs. Upon completion of the “project phase” the new physical assets were turned over to operations and maintenance. Top management applauded the project that came in under budget and ahead of schedule. Then, top management expected operations and maintenance to control their costs for the remaining life of the new assets.

Life-cycle costs

According to Fabrycky and Blanchard (1991) “A major portion of the projected life-cycle cost of a product, system, or structure is traceable to decisions made during the conceptual and preliminary design.” In other words, a major portion of the maintenance costs and levels of process reliability are established during the design and acquisition phases.

The concepts of physical asset life-cycle cost and total cost of ownership are not new by any means. Military applications were developed back in the 1960s, and industrial models began emerging in the early 1970s.

How often should top management involve operations and maintenance in the new physical-asset project team? How often have operations and maintenance actually been involved? Top management sets the overall project expectations.

Top management and life cycles

Since the introduction of the ISO55000 Asset Management Standard in 2014, a new light has been shed on the subjects of asset management, reliability, organization-wide life-cycle management, and the role of “top management.” But, the topic is not really new. Here are a few historical insights to ponder from an old book in my library (Husband, 1976):

  • “There is a glaring need for an integrated approach to physical-asset management.”
  • “It requires an appropriate strategy of management, at board level, to make it a success.”
  • “It is necessary to lower the traditional boundaries between the design, maintenance, finance, production, and other functions.”
  • “At the design stage of the process, the designer is disciplined to design out maintenance and design in reliability.”
  • “The designer will also, of course, be encouraged to design in maintainability where maintenance cannot be completely eliminated.”
  • “The idea is that communications between design, production, maintenance, and other key functions will be such that ideas and hard results will flow formally and consistently around the ‘system.’”
  • “All of the activities involved—specification, design, purchasing, commissioning, operating, maintenance, replacement—are already being carried out in industry. One of the most important tasks… is to show how (these) familiar individual activities can be combined or coordinated to achieve greater overall efficiency in the pursuit of common (business) objectives.”
  • “No new component skills are involved. The emphasis is entirely on coordinating the existing skills of a firm’s engineers, accountants, and specialist managers.”
  • “Incompetently or badly planned installation leaves a long legacy of operating problems.…insist on the use of systematic methods of managing the installation project.”

These are all insights from what was known as “Terotechnology” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then, in the 1980s, life-cycle management with top-management commitment became central to the success of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).

In the book Introduction to Total Productive Maintenance (Nakajima, 1988), the concepts of life-cycle costs (LCC) are introduced at the onset. Later in the book, Dr. Benjamin Blanchard’s Life-Cycle Cost (1978), principles are cited for TPM Step 11: Develop Early Equipment Management Program—“Virtually 95-percent of life-cycle cost is determined at the design stage.”

Dr. Blanchard further explained the important relationship of LCC principles in the introduction to Nakajima’s book (1989) TPM Development Program. Blanchard stated that upward of 75% of the life-cycle costs are attributable to operational and maintenance activities.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), as defined by the Japan Institute for Plant Maintenance in the 1980s, specified that the role of the “top management of the company” was to announce that TPM will be introduced in the plant. “Top management must incorporate TPM into the basic company policy and establish concrete goals. TPM can succeed only with the commitment of top management.”

TPM is yet another example of top management sanctioning an organization-wide initiative to improve the life-cycle effectiveness of their production equipment.

Engaging top management

Establishing an asset-management system must be a strategic decision, a commitment, made by top management. “Top management” refers to the individual or group that controls an organization from the highest level. This could be the board of directors, the chief executive officer, and the other C-level executives.

History has shown that this level of top management often has a difficult time getting behind an initiative that spans the life cycle of an asset, a period of time that typically outlives their tenure in office. History has also shown that top management seems to have difficulty understanding the value of maintenance in the asset life cycle and the impact that the design phase has on maintenance costs.

In this very brief review of asset-management initiatives, known by various names, the ever-present reference to the essential role of “top management” is stressed. We all should know that, without real top-management commitment, asset-management initiatives will continue to be misunderstood as yet another maintenance program, or receive little of the organization-wide, multi-department collaboration required to fundamentally establish a life-cycle asset-management system.

In the absence of an international standard for a “Top Management Management System” we must learn to collaborate, to educate, and to aggressively pursue life-cycle asset management as the right thing to do. It won’t be very long before the traditional approaches to caring for our equipment, machines, and facilities become highly ineffective. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM, and a member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the people-side of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at


Benjamin S. Blanchard, Design and Manage to Life Cycle Cost, M/A Press, 1978, Oregon.

W.J. Fabrycky and Benjamin S. Blanchard, Life Cycle Cost and Economic Analysis, Prentice Hall 1991, NJ.

T.M. Husband, Maintenance Management and Terotechnology, Saxon House 1976, England.

Seiichi Nakajima, Introduction to Total Productive Maintenance, Productivity Press (English printing) 1988, JIPM (Japanese) 1984.

Seiichi Nakajima, Editor, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) Development Program, Productivity Press (English printing) 1989, JIPM (Japanese) 1982.