Archive | Asset Management


4:14 pm
August 14, 2017
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Uptime: Manage Development of Asset-Management Skills


By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Businesses gain a significant strategic advantage by developing and deploying targeted skill sets within their organizations. It only makes sense since there is no worthwhile substitute for a competent, engaged group of people focusing on strategic improvements.

One of the biggest challenges is that of limited resources to develop and conduct training in the workplace, including staff to develop, time to deploy, and time to train. However, the lack of formal and structured training often leads to human variation and errors, resulting in unreliable equipment and work processes.

While formal training is a must-have process for assuring equipment reliability, we should also recognize that traditional approaches to training may no longer be efficient or effective. Now is the time to find ways for training on a strategic employee-qualification process—one that builds individualized workplace competence toward strategic goals. Let’s explore how training and development processes can become part of the systems approach to asset management and conform to the ISO 550001 Standard.

Competency development

Begin by thinking beyond the activity of training to the goal of training, which is to build competence. Competence can be defined as “a cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills enabling people (or organizations) to act effectively in jobs or situations.”

So, what would a systematic approach to competency-based training, education, and development look like? Start with these recommendations for six basic elements of a Competency Development System based on ISO 55001:2014 Asset Management Standard requirements. These elements aren’t sequential or linear. They’re interdependent.

Organizing for Training Management. Strategic alignment assures that training is truly focused on business goals. Components should include:

• a strategically focused training organization charter
a training- and development-systems leader
training-program and materials developer(s)
records management, document control, and change management.

Defining Development Roles & Responsibilities. Training and development activities for building asset-management competence must be directly linked to business goals and specific job-performance requirements. Actionable components should include:

• overview, i.e., job role, classification, qualifications
asset-management competencies (see “IAM Competencies Framework,” from the Institute of Asset Management)
general duties, i.e., responsibilities, accountabilities
• specific asset-management-related job-performance requirements

• duty-task analysis (duty-task list), frequency of performance, difficulty/criticality ratings
• standards, references, and resource materials, i.e., policy, procedures, job methods, work instructions, certifications, and license
• updating of asset-management-related job methods and procedures.

Establishing a Training & Qualification Process. The most intensive element is dedicated to training activities and assuring qualification of individuals completing the training. Components should include:

• skills/knowledge verification, assessment

• qualified to perform
• development opportunity.

• training and development plan/schedule

• business priorities and needs
• individual needs
training/development schedule.

• job-role instruction

• assigned instructor/trainer/coach/mentor
duty-task referenced, i.e., standards, references, and resource materials, job-task breakdown
job instruction/development, i.e., classes, on-line instruction, seminars/workshops, self-study, on-job training/development.

• on-job performance qualification

• duty-task referenced
performance demonstration
qualified/not qualified
periodic re-qualification.

• training and qualification documentation

• individual skills and qualification profiles
• individual training and development plans.

Establishing an Asset-Management Training-Program-Development Process. Training-program development is a multi-faceted process designed to assure consistent and standardized approaches, coupled with strategic alignment. Components in this element that drive various components in Training & Qualification Processes include:

• alignment with asset-management-system requirements, i.e., asset-management organization structure, Strategic Asset Management Plan, business priorities, individual roles and responsibilities (new employee, experienced employee, contractor, vendor, supplier)

• alignment with asset management life-cycle organization requirements, i.e., design engineering, procurement, construction, installation, startup, commissioning, operations, maintenance, decommissioning/restoration.

Recruiting & Selecting the Right People. Formal recruiting and selection is essential regardless of whether the right people are identified from within the organization or hired off the street. Components for success must include these considerations:

• job-performance-based requirements
related experience and competency demonstration
work-group and organizational-culture compatibility.

Monitoring Training & Development System Effectiveness. The systems approach to asset management requires regular reviews and audits of the effectiveness of the business and work processes. The following components are recommended:

• periodic training-and-development-system review, performance evaluation
identifying and pursuing improvement opportunities
incident investigation (failure analysis)

• qualification-requirement verification
training-and-development needs
training-and-development-improvement opportunity.

See my August ISO 55000 Asset Management column for more on applicable elements. MT

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


7:45 pm
July 26, 2017
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Interview | Insights on How to Engage with IIoT

The headline could also be another way of saying, how to sell IIoT to management? A recent webinar via Maintenance Technology (via link) revealed how a Hank Ward, aGlobal Asset Management Lead at MolsonCoors approached selling a MRO data optimization project to management. In Ward’s case, he tied it into a bigger Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)integration project to justify the cost.

In this seven-minute video, it’s more of the same. Brun Mommens, IoT and M2M Solutions Lead for Delaware Consulting, talks about how to engage the IIoT process within a company and, of course, sell it to decision makers. Topics include organization design thinking sessions, IT/OT, and case studies.


7:39 pm
June 15, 2017
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Focus on Automation System Updates

Keeping software updates current is an oft-neglected activity, resulting in exposure to cyber attacks and reduced reliability.

It is essential that software updates/patches be kept up to date throughout an automation-system lifecycle to prevent cyber attacks and maintain reliability.

It is essential that software updates/patches be kept up to date throughout an automation-system lifecycle to prevent cyber attacks and maintain reliability.

As companies focus more energy and resources on protecting mechanical equipment, one key asset is often overlooked: the plant’s automation system.

Because automation-system hardware components are typically very reliable out-of-the-box, it is easy to deprioritize monitoring and maintenance activities for the overall control system. Unfortunately, “set it and forget it” is not a good strategy with automation systems. To keep such a critical investment running reliably over its 30-to-40-yr. lifespan, organizations must focus on proactive maintenance and upgrades of their automation systems.

Proper automation-system maintenance means keeping critical hardware and software elements up to date. Leaving the system and its operating environment unpatched or out of date means exposing the plant to potential equipment failure and cyber attacks. In addition, it is essential to maintain the hardware and software backbone on which the automation system relies.

Behind the curve

A properly installed system should start with all software and hardware completely up to date. When a plant begins using its new, fully patched and updated system, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security and let it operate without further intervention.

Unfortunately, nowhere is it truer than in the technology field that “change is the only constant.” Though an automation system may continue to run under its original configuration for a long time, the environment in which it operates is continually evolving.

Every month, Microsoft releases new security updates. These updates add or improve essential functionality and security in the operating system that supports the automation system.

Along with operating-system updates, automation-system manufacturers will also release regular updates, patches, and hotfixes for their products. Staying up to date with these improvements means protecting the organization from unexpected failures or unauthorized intrusions, while also adding opportunities to improve plant and operator performance.

Furthermore, at some point, the hardware and software on which the automation systems run will no longer be supported by the manufacturer. Organizations then must move beyond updates and look toward upgrading systems.

Often, an organization will wait 8 to 10 years before considering an upgrade to their automation-system hardware or software, as they don’t see the urgency if they don’t witness any active problems. Yet, there is a serious risk to operating in this manner.

System hardware has a lifespan. Eight years ago, Microsoft Windows 7 was released, meaning a 9-yr.-old system today is likely running Windows XP (retired) or Windows Vista (soon to be retired). Hardware failure on a Windows XP or Windows Vista machine will be tremendously difficult to remedy. Because these operating systems are either no longer supported, or soon to be retired, manufacturers have ceased producing computers or parts for these systems. At best, users will be able to find used replacement parts that are unreliable themselves, due to their age. At worst, they could be facing an outage until they can complete an emergency upgrade.

Moreover, the cyber-security risk of running an outdated operating system is significant. Since the April 2014 termination of support for Windows XP, several security flaws have been discovered in the retired software. These include CVE-2014-6332, which remains unpatched in Windows XP since its November 2014 discovery, allowing remote attackers to execute code on the machine, even to the point of remote control of the system. With such vulnerabilities not only in existence, but also widely published, running an outdated operating system leaves organizations open to a potential disaster scenario.

There is also a strong business case to be made for keeping automation systems updated and upgraded. Organizations that strive to improve reliability, automation, plant and operator performance, and cyber security will find themselves facing an uphill battle if they try to make these changes with an old, outdated automation system. Advancements made in the past five to eight years have enabled plants to realize vast improvements in intrusion prevention, alarm management, optimized work practices, process throughput, and paperless record keeping. All of these advancements can be implemented to give organizations better visibility to the health of their assets and the status of their processes.

Yet, even knowing the risks of falling behind in system health, many organizations let updates languish for a variety of speculative reasons. There are several understandable and resolvable concerns that can keep operations from performing the system monitoring and preventive maintenance that they need.

What if something breaks?

Users are sometimes concerned that, by updating their software or hardware, some features, or even the entire system, will stop working. In addition, companies often worry about the risk of updates having a negative workflow impact if employees need to be retrained because the interface changed.

The reality is that properly planned and executed system updates are successful. Updates, patches, and hotfixes released by the operating- or automation-system manufacturer undergo regular, rigorous testing for compatibility and are thoroughly documented on the manufacturer’s support site.

In addition, though interface changes are a reality, such changes are designed with efficiency in mind. Changes to operator interfaces are generally implemented with the intention of increasing efficiency. Thus, any potential workflow upset will be offset, over time, by increased operator efficiency when users learn and leverage the new system updates.

We don’t have time.

A plant’s priority is to stay productive. As such, many organizations feel that they do not have the time to properly maintain their system health, even if they recognize that patches, updates, and upgrades are essential for improved performance and security.

However, the goal of a plant’s control system is to help the plant stay productive. As such, keeping automation-system technology up to date can be a key to finding more time. Unexpected failures in automation-system servers and workstations can mean plant downtime until issues are resolved. If resolving the issue requires sourcing legacy parts, the outages can be lengthy.

A facility that doesn’t have the time or staff to dedicate to system monitoring and preventive maintenance and upgrades can and should find a solution to keep its automation system up to date. Investing in a key partner in automation-system reliability and maintenance can pay significant dividends.

Expensive systems should work.

Automation systems can be a huge capital expenditure. A high-quality, well-designed automation system will work well for a long time. However, as with any intricate, high-quality system or device, a large capital investment does not preclude maintenance and upgrades.

Maintenance and upgrades become more capital intensive based on how long it has been since either was last performed. Ignoring the automation system for 8 to 10 years will mean that making changes will be a more complicated and more expensive project. Smaller steps are often more manageable, take less time, allow organizations to take advantage of new features and functions more quickly, and prove less complicated with a smaller risk of major hardware and software overhaul.

Where do we start?

Implementing a best-practice automation-system maintenance and upgrade strategy begins with lifecycle planning. Organizations that want to keep their systems up to date need to understand and document the lifecycles of each control-system component. These vendor-specific guidelines will be available in product documentation for all automation-system components, as well as in vendor-support services such as Emerson’s (Round Rock, TX, Guardian Support (see sidebar).

Following is a general trend for component lifecycles, though length will vary among specific vendors:

• control-system software: 5 to 7 yrs.workstations: 4 to 6 yrs.
• controllers: 10 to 15 yrs.
• I/O cards: 25 to 30 yrs.

In addition to automation-system-specific component lifecycles, organizations must consider devices that aren’t system-specific but have an impact on performance:

• switches
• firewalls
• virtualization infrastructure
• universal power supplies.

Fig. 1: Over the course of an automation system’s lifecycle, individual system and infrastructure components will have their own lifecycles that need to be managed.

Fig. 1: Over the course of an automation system’s lifecycle, individual system and infrastructure components will have their own lifecycles that need to be managed.

All of these components will have an expected lifecycle that affects the organization’s plan. Figure 1 above shows a typical automation-system lifecycle.

In combination with component lifecycle data, organizations should take advantage of a site evaluation available from automation-system vendors. Effective site evaluations look at component firmware, lifecycles, cyber-security issues, plant performance and Key Performance Indicators, and value-add opportunities. This information is used in conjunction with a return on investment (ROI) calculator to determine tangible benefits that will come from adding individual features during an upgrade. Armed with lifecycle information, a site-evaluation report, and ROI data, organizations can find a lifecycle plan that will keep systems up to date without financial risk.

Maintaining momentum

Whether organizations want to implement their lifecycle-planning programs themselves or work with vendors to do so, many offerings and/or programs are available to help the process. For example, to avoid the shock of a single capital expenditure for the project, many vendors offer flexible payment schedules, allowing organizations to spread the payments out over several years.

Many organizations are also looking to hardware virtualization to simplify the update and upgrade process. By moving from standard computer hardware to virtualized systems, organizations can, to some extent, decouple some hardware and software requirements, allowing them to quickly move machines between different hosts and easily create test environments to ensure that updates and upgrades will be successful, before they are applied.

The process of keeping automation systems up to date is never finished. Effective, sustainable, and measurable programs for maintaining and improving automation-system reliability and performance are always evolving. By staying on top of the update process and developing and sticking to thorough equipment lifecycle plans, organizations can leverage the newest features, the best cyber-security protection, and the most stable equipment platforms to help drive plant reliability and performance every day. MT

Information for this article was provided by Yoga Gorur, program manager in Emerson’s PSS Lifecycle Services organization, Round Rock, TX. He manages global service offerings to DeltaV customers, and the DeltaV Upgrade Service, Scheduled System Maintenance, and Site Evaluation Service. He has a degree in Instrumentation Engineering, an MBA, and PMP certification. 

Find more information at

Automation-System Support

Guardian Support is a comprehensive, prognostic service designed to optimize reliability and performance of an organization’s automation system. The program helps organizations minimize and simplify automation-system issues with comprehensive incident management. Users have access to 24x7x365 global factory support, and can speed issue resolution by collaborating with Emerson ( experts to determine the fastest and most appropriate corrective actions.

To help ensure automation-system performance over its 40+-year lifespan, Guardian Support offers organizations lifecycle management. Users can simplify record keeping with system-specific inventory management. In addition, organizations can ensure the best cyber security and patch management with proactive lifecycle status notifications on their automation systems.


12:02 am
June 15, 2017
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Automated Predictive Maintenance Approach Listens to the Past

Fig. 1. The cavitation that caused this piston pump to fail catastrophically, to the point of melting the piston shoes, could have been detected weeks in advance through sound predictive maintenance.

The cavitation that caused this piston pump to fail catastrophically, to the point of melting the piston shoes, could have been detected weeks in advance through sound predictive maintenance.

The promise of automated predictive maintenance practices or condition monitoring seems like falling off a log by some solution providers, but the challenge is difficult with legacy systems and workflows. Also, most legacy plants are dealing with hybrid practices: part paper-based procedures and digital data coming from productions systems.

For manufacturers in modernization efforts, mountains of data is a real problem and especially when end users begin to implement automated predictive maintenance practices. Yeah, we have data but how do we act on it?

A new post by Annon Shenfield at IIoT World discusses the ability to fine-tune your automated predictive maintenance approach by recognizing the right “leading signals” and discusses the transition away from manual routines.

However, with automated PdM, a part of the intimate relationship between the technician and machine is broken, which makes understanding anomalies detected remotely very difficult.

Shenfield, the CEO of 3D Signals, discusses how sound can still be one of these go-to leading signals in automated Pd’M routine.

Sound as a leading signal for automated PdM enables detection and classification of a wide range of mechanical phenomena, often sooner than other sensing methods. This is due to the simple fact that moving parts – whether solid, liquid or gas – produce a unique sound pattern, and when something in that movement changes, even slightly, the sound produced changes too.

Read Aaron Shenfield’s Post Here >>




For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


12:02 am
June 1, 2017
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IIoT Platform Lifting Automotive OEM to Better Uptime

Sometimes it’s hard to realize with so many articles on advanced sensing or new platforms that IIoT initiatives have been with us for some time. Automotive OEMs are well known for their platforms and ability to scale new technology. The automotive industry drove IIoT projects in the early part of this decade as factory utilization and low-interest rates pushed this advanced technology approach forward. (Ford had a credit line of $7 billion with the U.S government…nice deal).

A recent post from the Robotics Industries Assn.’s page describes a recent initiative by GM to decrease downtime with their robotic processes. The company, worldwide, employs over 35,000 robots at its plants and 95% are FANUC.

General Motors is putting IoT and the building blocks of Industry 4.0 to work – today. The automaker’s robot supplier and strategic partner, FANUC America Corporation, is helping GM build a strong foundation for smart manufacturing. GM, FANUC, and networking giant Cisco together developed the Zero Down Time (ZDT) solution. ZDT uses a cloud-based software platform to analyze data collected from robots across GM’s factories in order to detect potential problems that could lead to production downtime.


The takeaway from the article is that this Big Data component is a proprietary solution with FANUC robots, which differs greatly with current IIoT solutions.

A little about the rollout:

GM started slowly, connecting a couple thousand robots over the first year or two. But by fall 2016, GM had over 6,000 robots connected to the ZTD platform, and just six months later over 8,500. Right now, the solution is focused on FANUC robots and FANUC robot-controlled processes. There’s no intention to connect robots made by other manufacturers.

Read the Full Article Here >>

For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


4:47 pm
May 15, 2017
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Beware Self-Inflicted Reliability Problems

modern manufacturing industry and mechanization concept, abstrac

Think of this expert advice as a reality check for your operations and take action accordingly.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The root cause of poor reliability can come from many sources, including aging plant assets, poor design decisions, even disregard for reliability by those who built and/or installed the equipment. Then, there are the many other reasons outside of your control that could be contributing to the reliability problems your site is experiencing today. While any reliability-improvement initiative will require that all of those issues be addressed, according to Jason Tranter of Mobius Institute (, Bainbridge Island, WA), operations must first deal with those of the “self-inflicted” variety.

Don’t think you have self-inflicted reliability problems? Tranter begs to differ. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but yes, you do,” he said. “That’s good news, though, since it is much easier to deal with the self-inflicted root causes than the inherent reliability problems you adopted.”

What does Tranter mean by self-inflicted? To determine why equipment fails prematurely and/or why you experience slowdowns, safety incidences, or quality problems, he explained that personnel could go through a detailed reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) analysis process, or perform root-cause failure analysis (RCFA) after each failure occurs. “Better yet”, he said, “they can learn from the experience gained at thousands of plants around the world and consider some of the most common root causes of equipment failure.”

Focusing on rotating equipment, Tranter outlined those types of problems as follows, starting with the most obvious and working backward to their root causes.

#3. Cause of Reliability Problems: Imperfect operating and maintenance practices

Most of the equipment in a plant or facility, i.e. motors, pumps, fans, compressors, and turbines, is designed to run for many, many years without unplanned downtime. While those types of assets may incorporate some components that wear out, many items, such as bearings and gears, are designed to provide years of trouble-free operation. This, however, assumes that all of the parts were installed correctly, the components are precision aligned, the bearings and gears are correctly lubricated, all fasteners are tightened to the correct torque, there is no resonance, belts are tightened to the correct tension, and the rotors are precision balanced.

It also assumes that the equipment is operated as designed. Pumps, for example, should be operated at their best efficiency points (BEPs). “If you are unsure these types of situations are occurring,” Tranter cautioned, “then they almost certainly are.” He pointed to several areas where seemingly minor issues could be causing serious problems:


Just 5/60th of a degree of angular misalignment can cut bearing life in half. (Reference: Harris, Tedric A., A Rolling Bearing Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1984.)

Shaft alignment. When two shafts are “collinear” (no angle or offset between their centerlines) it reduces stress on the bearings, couplings, shafts, and the rest of the machine components. Research has revealed that just 5/60th of a degree of angular misalignment can cut bearing life in half (see Fig. 1).

If you use laser alignment with appropriate tolerances, and you remove soft foot, then this will not be a source of poor reliability. By the way, just because your vibration analyst does not detect misalignment does not mean that your machines are precision aligned.

The life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load.

The life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load.

Balancing. When you balance to ISO 1940 grade G 1.0, the cyclical forces on the bearings, shaft, and structure are minimized and you gain reliability. If you do not have a balancing standard, then unbalance will be a root cause of failure. If you wait until the unbalance generates “high” vibration, then you will have reduced the life of the equipment and supporting structure. That’s because the life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load (see Fig. 2). Tranter noted that, while this calculation sounds very complicated, it basically means that if you double the load, a bearing’s life will be reduced to an eighth (23).

Tiny 3-µm particles cause more damage than 40-µm and 10-µm particles (Reference: A Study by Dr. P. B. McPherson)

Tiny 3-µm particles cause more damage than 40-µm and 10-µm particles (Reference: A Study by Dr. P. B. McPherson)

Lubrication. When you correctly lubricate bearings and gears, whether with grease or oil, and that lubricant is free of contaminants, you will achieve maximum life. But if bearings are not adequately greased, their life will be reduced. If the oil is contaminated, the viscosity is incorrect, or additives are depleted, then the life of gears and bearings will be greatly reduced.

Research was performed to determine which particles caused the greatest damage. It wasn’t the 40-µm particles or the 10-µm particles, it was the tiny 3-µm particles (see Fig. 3).

By the time you can see water in oil, the life of the bearing has been halved.

By the time you can see water in oil, the life of the bearing has been halved.

According to Tranter, personnel may think that if they can’t see water in oil then the oil must be fine. Sadly, that is not correct (see Fig. 4). By the time water can be seen in the oil, the life of the bearing has been halved. “We could continue the discussion,” he said, “but suffice it to say that there is a great deal we can do to avoid problems that arise due to imperfect maintenance and operating practices.”

#2. Cause of Reliability Problems: Desire and organizational culture

It’s one thing to understand all of the above root causes. “It’s another,” Tranter observed, “to obtain approval to establish standards and purchase all of the tools, such as laser-alignment systems, that enable technicians and operators to do their jobs correctly. But owning the tools and having standard operating procedures won’t solve the problem.” As he put it, the problem will only be solved when technicians and operators want to use those tools properly and are given the time and encouragement to do so.

Thus, the issue of “desire” and its link to organizational culture must be considered as a root cause of self-inflicted reliability problems and addressed accordingly.

#1. Cause of Reliability Problems: Inadequate management support

Tranter believes a strong case could be made that the root cause of all failures derives from lack of senior-management support for a culture of reliability. Without their support it will be impossible to change the culture and thus change behavior.

“Think about initiatives to improve safety at your plant,” he said. “If senior management didn’t support them, would those initiatives have been successful? Senior-management support leads to people being employed in safety roles, investment in training and tools, and posting of signage that provides warning and feedback on progress, among other things. It also keeps sites from cutting corners that would risk safety, and it makes it clear how important safety is to the future of the organization.”

According to Tranter, the type of management support that drives safety at a site needs to be leveraged to drive reliability improvement. “Everyone within the organization,” he said, “needs to understand that reliability is critically important to the organization and that senior management will stand strong when shortcuts that compromise reliability are available.” Without adequate senior management support, he concluded, meaningful culture change won’t occur, and reliability-improvement initiatives won’t be able to eliminate self-inflicted root causes of problems. MT

Jason Tranter, BE (Hons), CMRP, VA-IV is CEO and founder of Mobius Institute (Balnarring, Victoria, Australia, and Bainbridge Island, WA). For more information on this topic and other reliability issues, including vibration monitoring and training and certification of vibration analysts, contact him at, or visit

Where Does Condition Monitoring Fit?

By Jason Tranter, Mobius Institute

Condition monitoring plays several crucial roles in the battle against self-inflicted reliability problems. For example, providing an early warning of impending problems minimizes the impact of premature failure, and detecting and eliminating the root causes ensures that we achieve the greatest life and value from our precious assets.

Many plant personnel, however, believe that if they have a condition-monitoring program in place, equipment reliability will be optimized. That, unfortunately, is not true.

Most detected faults are avoidable. While it is important to get an early warning, it is much more important to avoid the problem in the first place. Condition monitoring can help by detecting the root causes of failure, including misalignment, unbalance, lubrication issues, and looseness, among others. If those problems are cost-effectively nipped in the bud, then we avoid future failures.

Another way condition monitoring plays a role in plants is in acceptance testing. As part of the purchase agreement, condition-monitoring specialists can perform tests to ensure the new or overhauled equipment is “fit for purpose.”

You may be surprised at how many problems you actually bring into your plant.


8:19 pm
April 13, 2017
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Uptime: Aligning ‘Our’ Goals With Business Goals

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

Cut expenses. Boost performance. Those are among the goals of many businesses. Frequently, though—too frequently, in fact—maintenance managers find themselves between a rock and a hard place: improving maintenance while reducing costs.

By its very nature, the maintenance function is a business expense. As an extreme, we could eliminate the entire maintenance budget as a cost-cutting measure. Having done that, the business would suffer under significantly more expensive run-to-failure equipment-management practices, leading to increased costs of repair and lost revenues from unpredictable/unplanned equipment and facilities downtime.

Maintenance can be defined as “actions for sustaining a desired level of equipment performance.” From a maintenance professional’s perspective, the big picture is more about sustaining desired levels of business performance.

Let’s be clear, we could be discussing the maintenance department as we explore the principles of aligning maintenance with business goals. But, when reviewing the scope of maintenance work, we must think and look well beyond the maintenance department and consider the maintenance function, regardless of the organization(s) performing the work. This is a crucial distinction when it comes to the alignment of goals.

Typically, the maintenance department is perceived as the party that’s responsible for the health and well being of equipment and facilities. Yet, many (if not most) of the causes of unhealthy and poorly performing equipment and facilities go well beyond the scope of the maintenance department. As a result, maintenance basically gets to address the symptoms, not the true causes, of problems.

Efficiency vs. effectiveness

The noted business-management consultant, author, and educator Peter Drucker defined efficiency and effectiveness this way:

• Efficiency: Doing things right—able to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort. (Focuses on process).

• Effectiveness: Doing the right things—producing the intended or expected result. (Focuses on results, outcomes, throughput).

Just because maintenance is performed efficiently does not necessarily mean that it is effective.

NASCAR race-team pit crews offer an excellent example. An efficient pit stop can be performed in record time. The pit crew’s work processes are highly efficient. But, if they always change four tires while only two tires are showing signs of performance-handling wear, pit stops are ineffective.

In the business context of auto racing and pit stops, it’s not the responsibility of the pit crew (let’s call it the “maintenance crew”) to determine how many tires to change. The crew chief (let’s call him or her the “maintenance manager”) reviews previous tire-performance data, compared with vehicle handling, as reported by the driver, and determines the tire-changing tasks to be completed during each pit stop.

After all, the goal of a race is not only flawless work execution (efficiency) by the pit crew, but also performance of pit stops in a manner that ensures the business goal of winning the race is a top priority (effectiveness).

All too often, we focus primarily on measuring and improving maintenance efficiency, including, among other things, preventive-maintenance (PM)-schedule compliance, mean time to repair, actual hours/planned hours, planning variance, and preventive/predictive-maintenance (PM/PdM) yield. While activities (or actions) associated with these measurements and improvements lead to excellent maintenance practices, they must be balanced with maintenance effectiveness.

Aligning maintenance functions with business goals assures maintenance effectiveness. Maintenance actions then contribute to the goals of the business.

This business line of sight reflects alignments from the upper-most purposes of an enterprise, down to plant-floor work execution.

This business line of sight reflects alignments from the upper-most purposes of an enterprise, down to plant-floor work execution.

Line of sight

I’ve discussed asset-management standards and the importance of aligning an organization’s work processes with their goals in numerous Maintenance Technology columns over the years. Both the PAS-55:2008 Asset Management Specification and ISO55000: 2014 Asset Management Standard refer to the importance of aligning asset-management practices to the goals of the business. PAS-55 referred to this alignment as a “line of sight” designed to assure the effectiveness of such practices.

Let’s use the chart on p. 6 to drill down through a typical line of sight, from the upper-most purposes of an enterprise, all the way to work execution on the plant floor. Since business terminology varies widely, here are my clarifications and some examples for this diagram:

• Business Opportunity (our market/customers/requirements)

• Shareholder/Owner Expectations (return on the investment)

• Organization’s Mission-Vision (who we are and where we want to be)

• Strategic Themes, Policy Statements (guiding principles)

• Strategic Business Plan (what and why)

• Business Goals (what we want to accomplish)

• Key Performance Indicators (measuring what is critical: financial, customer, process, people, and/or regulatory)

• Objectives/Strategic Initiatives (what and how)

• Organizational Structures (our divisions/cost centers/departments/shifts/crews)

• Job Roles & Responsibilities, Job Requirements (who, what, where, when)

• Work Processes, Methods, Procedures, Systems (how work should/shall be performed)

• Work Execution (performance management—how well).


There are two ways to approach line-of-sight alignment. Most organizations view it from a top-down perspective to define their respective business models and what they should measure to determine whether they’re on a successful path. Their KPIs (key performance indicators) often provide necessary measures of success.

From a bottom-up perspective, we see Work Execution reflecting the fundamental actions required to meet the Business Goals as measured by the KPIs. The two paths (top-down and bottom-up) meet in the middle—aligned toward the same KPIs.

Connecting and aligning Work Execution to the KPIs are some of the most critical links in the process. The KPIs can be made actionable by linking to the appropriate Equipment Utilization Losses (see Uptime, March 2017).

Specific Objectives or Initiatives are determined from the KPIs; Organizational Structures are defined; specific Job Roles & Responsibilities (in various departments) are defined; and Work Processes are developed to define how work is to be performed. All of this leads to the flawless Work Execution that’s necessary to achieve the Business Goals (as in the pit crew example).

Seeking alignment

Aligning the work culture (an organization’s behaviors) with a line of sight to the organization’s business goals begins by communicating the Business Opportunity and how the organization needs to pull in the same direction to take full advantage of it.

Linking maintenance to business goals is only one of many alignments that must exist in successful enterprises. Thus, we must remember that a maintenance department alone cannot effectively maintain equipment and facilities. More and more, we’re learning that the maintenance function is a team sport that requires multiple disciplines (players) brought in at different stages in the life cycle of a physical asset.

Paying attention to maintenance-work processes and efficiency are good things to measure. It’s when we align the outcomes of those processes and efficiencies with business goals that maintenance truly becomes effective in a business model. 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. Contact him at


6:46 pm
April 13, 2017
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Guide Helps Measure Asset-Management Maturity

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

By Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

The asset-management journey is rich with ideas, opinions, and recommendations. As organizations focus on life-cycle asset management, many performance breakthroughs have been achieved. It’s wise to continue to learn from these asset-management examples and tools as they become available.

A quick read of the ISO 55001-2014 Asset Management Standard offers detailed descriptions of minimum requirements for an effective asset-management system, rather than a comprehensive checklist. Plant leaders, though, could benefit from a more practical guide to asset-management excellence.

The Institute of Asset Management (IAM, London, has compiled an insightful document that helps readers understand the subjects relating to an asset-management system, as codified in ISO 55001, and to the overall asset-management discipline. Titled Asset Management Maturity Scale and Guidance, it can serve as a progress guidance tool in an organization’s asset-management journey.

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At the heart of the IAM publication is the “Asset Management Landscape” (2nd Edition). Assembled by the Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management (GFMAM, Zurich,, it provides a broad overview of the asset-management discipline and a structured body of knowledge spread across 39 different, yet related, subjects, organized into six groups:

• Strategy & Planning
Asset Management Decision Making
Lifecycle Delivery
Asset information
Organization & People
Risk & Review

The Asset Management Maturity publication aligns the 39 asset-management subjects with a six-level maturity scale. An invaluable tool for assessing an organization’s asset-management progress, the document also offers specific recommendations for improvement. The accompanying table summarizes this maturity scale. It can be used as a template with each of the 39 subjects.

Each subject spans two pages in the Asset-Management Maturity publication. The first page is organized with the six maturity levels (0 to 5), shown in the summary table here, with additional maturity definitions.

The second page offers important insights into achieving excellence in the asset-management journey. Each subject is put into context with criticality, scale, and complexity to help define Level 5 maturity. Related subjects from the list are also referenced. Notes and illustrations from the developers also are included to help you on the journey to asset-management excellence. MT


ISO 55001-2014 Asset Management Standard, (1st Edition), Jan. 2014. The International Organization for Standardization (

Asset Management Maturity Scale and Guidance, (Version 1.1), June 2016. Institute for Asset Management (

“Asset Management Landscape,” (2nd Edition), Mar. 2014. Global Forum on Maintenance and Asset Management (