1. Introduction

Not another maintenance management article on the latest fad.  What is it this time Lean, 6 Sigma, TPM, TQM, RCM, BPR?

Yes and no, certainly all those tools and techniques above (and a good few besides) have their uses and I refer to aspects of them in other articles, but that is not what it is about and I have not found, invented or put together any new ones.  I am relating my 30+ years experience of managing operations, maintenance people and equipment and specifically some of the scenarios I have come across in my last ten years of commercial troubleshooting, mentoring and training to a variety of industry, public and private sector organisations.

The trouble is I keep coming up against the same basic problems, and they are basic, they cannot be overcome by the perceived panacea of computer software (although it can be a valuable management tool), they require leadership across board, senior and operational management level and like it or not that means people taking responsibility and some pretty mundane but essential work to set things up. 

Yes we are talking the basic systems here because that is what I so often see so poorly understood or managed.  It’s not just the small companies, we are talking blue chip organisations here, who are spouting ‘best practice’ initiatives but quite literally do not have, comprehensive or accurate listing of what equipment they have or up to date Process and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs).  Yet these same organisations demonstrate their compliance to the Health & Safety authorities, auditors and client review teams. 

What they have is a pyramid of systems, processes and procedures balanced, inverted, on a too often extremely poor basic knowledge of what they have and how it is operating (whether it be service or production). This creaking structure has been propped up here and there over the years to keep going, painted a different colour now and then to meet changing demands and they have convinced themselves that it is the core to their business.  It may well be, but often service or production is maintained by individuals despite of the systems not because of them.  Ask yourself how many spreadsheets or databases are run by different managers independent of ‘the system’… now convince me your system is working.   

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good software systems out there and some inspired managers at all levels, but too often they become disheartened because of the situations they inherit, the amount of fire fighting they have to do and the constant demand to optimise resources (save money), add to that the corporate or organisational incentives (flavour of the month), legislative and compliance demands of any modern operation, and keep a demanding ‘system’ updated.

2. The Basics

These are some pretty simple guidelines to what I call the basics, but believe me a lot of organisations tell me they have management systems giving them inputs, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measuring outputs and management decisions based on these when the information they input so often is incomplete, corrupted or out of date.

2.1    Equipment / Assets

You must know what you have.

Seems blindingly obvious I know, but do you really know what assets you have?
•Do you have a comprehensive listing on a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) or a business system package (SAP, etc)
•Is it accurate?
•When was it last updated?
•Do you have a change process or similar to capture new (and removed) items, does it work?
•Are the plant diagrams up to date (P&IDs), are they included in the change process?

Some basic questions, but answer them truthfully.  A simple truth is that you cannot expect to manage something unless you know its extent.  The 5 questions above are ones I routinely ask a potential client.  Often they will have asked me in to address a maintenance strategy issue or equipment unreliability, it is amazing how many tell me with pride that they have captured 60% of their assets onto the cmms or whatever system they have adopted.  If this was a football team how happy would the manager be with only having knowledge on 12 of his squad of 20 players? 
I want to know what I have, how I can identify it, its characteristics, what care it needs, how often it is likely to fail, the implications should it fail, the implications on my departments performance (so that I can warn my customers of any shortfalls), to name but a few. 

How to do it?
In the introduction I said that there are some things that are mundane but essential, I am afraid this is one of them.

The ‘how’ is driven to an extent by the ‘why’.  We want to know what assets we have so that we can then keep them going as safely and productively as we can, machines are expensive and we must get the most we can from them.  Circumstances though will dictate just what maintenance we will adopt for the individual machines.  Maintenance Strategy is addressed in detail in a separate article, but for now if we are making an asset list what are our boundaries, do we want every piece of piping, and every plug socket?

I use a simple rule
If it can be maintained or is subject to routine compliance testing or inspection it should be considered an asset and listed. 

Asset Listing
An asset list is a bit of a misnomer in that it is actually a list of locations, be they functional or geographic of where within a production, service or facility an equipment is allocated.  Why?  Well because we are not interested in the identity of the individual item as such (serial number) but we do want to know its basic function (equipment type) and where it sits within its allocated function.

For Example
In a multi line plant we might have conveyors feeding the packaging lines.  These would be listed by location/function as below

Asset Type                 Location/Function       Allocated tag

Conveyor                        Line 1 feed             C1
Conveyor motor assy     Line 1 feed             MC1
Conveyor Control            Line 1 feed             INVC1
Conveyor                       Line 2 feed              C2


Here we introduce the concept of 'tagging' whereby each piece of equipment’s location is identified uniquely within the plant, a simple example to demonstrate first principles that we shall expand upon as we progress.  If P&IDs exist of the plant, it makes sense to adopt the tags (if shown) from them and in fact the physical asset listing should be carried out against any existing P&ID, updating the drawing(s) as necessary.
Assigning assets/equipment to functions
A plant or site is set up such that the assets are usually grouped either geographically or by function (what they do, what main equipment they control or service).  It is useful to define these functional boundaries on working copies of P&IDs to allow later database (or CMMS) organisation and structuring.
 For Example..

Maintnenance boundary 

The assets/equipment supporting the pumping function has been identified and a boundary identified.

Equipment listing is a long and drawn out process but is the only foundation for effective and efficient maintenance and operational management.  Any management strategy based on an
incomplete or outdated asset list will compromise even the most brilliant system or manager.

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