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Challenges in Asset Management And ways that you can deal with them

Wikipedia considers asset management to be: "... optimal management of the physical assets of an organization to maximize value ... By managing assets across the facility, organizations can improve utilization and performance, reduce capital costs, reduce asset-related operating costs, extend asset life and subsequently improve ROA (return on assets)".

The University of Toronto's Professional Development Centre offers a Management Certificate Program in Asset Management. The official program description states "... Asset Management can significantly impact an organization's bottom line by reducing maintenance costs, increasing the economic life of capital equipment, reducing company liability, increasing the reliability of systems and components, and reducing the number of systems and components." In actual practice, though, asset management has been more about keeping track of data about assets from a transactional perspective. Asset management's traditional focus has been about gathering asset information, such as asset location, asset configuration, maintenance activities, production throughput, and so on. In other words, asset management practices have typically provided a great deal of information about assets and asset performance. But this information by itself does little, if anything, to actually improve an asset's effectiveness and performance. The information is, in fact, irrelevant unless and until someone acts upon it. People still need to analyze and use this information intelligently to make informed decisions that positively impact overall asset performance.

Asset Management: Why Do We Care?

We care because managing assets effectively and maximizing asset effectiveness is the key to:

  • Achieving production targets,
  • Controlling costs, and
  • Meeting corporate and organizational goals.

There is so much information gathered today though by so many ERP, EAM, CMMS, and other systems that the dilemma for many organizations is how to identify the most relevant information. Almost too much data is gathered in many organizations to be reasonably interpreted.

So how do you pinpoint and take action on the most pressing challenges and issues to positively impact actual asset performance?

Asset Management and the Bigger Picture

In addition to individual asset management issues, management in asset intensive industries faces these and other key ch allenges as well:

  • A looming retiring workforce sometimes referred to as "the Great Crew Change".
  • Corporate strategy and operational reality are out of alignment; in other words,what the corporation plans to happen frequently isn't what really happens.
  • Organizational alignment issues: for example, maintenance management andproduction management goals and targets may not be in sync.
  • Corporate or organizational backing for technology investments may be lacking
  • or inadequate.

Also, while many organizations have a plethora of asset information, some may still have a surprising lack of asset information. Some recent studies indicate that assetmanagement is not always given the priority and attention that is merited.The remainder of this paper will focus on how a technology solution can help im-prove both asset performance and positively impact the top three issues above-The Great Crew Change, Corporate Strategy and Operational Reality, and Organi-zational Align-ment-at the same time. This inforation can also be viewed in this iPresentation on the website.

The "Great Crew Change"

Countless operational experts will retire over the next decade. Many of these professionals have been working in, and sometimes managing and running, production or maintenance operations in asset intensive industries for two, three, or in some cases four decades. When these wizards retire they will take a great deal of knowledge and "tricks of the trade" with them.

So the question is, how can you preserve that tribal knowledge and all the benefits that knowledge brings to the table every day?

Furthermore, is there a way you can dispel folklore-based maintenance perceptions to promote better maintenance practices and boost asset and overall operational performance? For example, it may be a commonly-held impression that it doesn't make sense to schedule maintenance on the weekends because the overtime costs involved are too high. But what if scheduling occasional maintenance on weekends actually enabled greater production, which resulted in greater sales and larger margins, which in turn more than offset the higher overtime costs? Would it not be worth it to the organization to schedule that weekend maintenance?

The retiring maintenance or production expert may have known about this scheduling peculiarity. But that expert's gone. So how do you replace and retain that know-how?

The answer is an expert software scheduling solution.

Software Captures and Models Expert Knowledge


The great news is that software technology is available today that is capable of capturing, modeling, and emulating an expert's knowledge in this and countless similar scheduling situations. The software we're referring to is the "Maintenance and Production Scheduler" product from Actenum Corporation.

Actenum Maintenance and Production Scheduler (MPS) enables maintenance and operations managers to schedule production equipment for full and efficient utilization. For example:

  • It empowers management to determine the best time to take equipment down for maintenance.
  • In so doing it is sensitive to production requirements and schedules.
  • The software is aware of production run gaps and slow-downs.
  • It takes into account the availability of certified and skilled technicians to work on equipment.
  • It considers the parts and tools required for maintenance tasks.
  • And more.

The MPS software actually emulates some of the skills of a Reliability Centered Maintenance engineer.

The following screen shots (Figures 1 and 2) illustrate how Actenum's software can be used to develop the best possible maintenance schedule to minimally impact production, while taking other critical factors into account at the same time, such as:

  • Overtime costs,
  • Crew availability,
  • Technician skills,
  • Predictable production schedule slow times, and so on.

Figure 1: Actenum Maintenance & Production Scheduler Software

Figure 1: Actenum Maintenance & Production Scheduler Software

Figure 2 - Figure 2: Production and PM Schedule Example

Figure 2 – Figure 2: Production and PM Schedule Example

Actenum MPS facilitates the rapid development of optimal schedules for both maintenance and production operations.

Corporate Strategy vs. Operational Reality
... or what you think is going to happen, isn't what really happens!

The long-term corporate plan is generally developed at the beginning of a fiscal cycle. This longer term planning phase is sometimes referred to as the "slow-loop"
planning phase. In the "slow-loop" planning phase the Required production output levels are set to meet the required corporate reve-nue goals,

  • Individual and departmental production targets are established,
  • Preventive maintenance plans are prepared,
  • Some unexpected maintenance time is allocated,
  • Spare parts and tools are planned for and ordered.

This long term slow-loop planning phase requires input and collaboration from both maintenance and production staffs. And of course the output of the plan must be in alignment with the organization's goals and targets.

But then comes the actual execution of the plan, or what we'll refer to here as the "fast-loop" phase of the cycle. This is the phase where the plan is actually put into motion and production and maintenance plans are actually executed against real world demands. And in the real world, things are not often the way we had envisioned.

For example, sales may be higher than expected (that's good), which results in an increased demand on production equipment. This increased demand on production equipment causes someone to make a decision to skip a scheduled preventive maintenance on a production asset. That specific production asset later suffers a catastrophic breakdown (that's bad). This unanticipated breakdown will not only put the organization's ability to meet the increased production requirements in jeopardy, but it may put its ability to meet the original production requirements at risk as well.

These sudden and unexpected changes will now require modifications to both the maintenance and production schedules to get them back on track. Collaboration between the maintenance and production teams will be essential in successfully devising the revised plans. Software technology can significantly facilitate that effort.

For example, rows 3 and 4 of the screen shot in Figure 3 clearly show an asset with 100% risk of a breakdown due to an overdue maintenance task.

Figure 3 - Scheduled Maintenance Activities and Breakdown Risk Illustration

Figure 3 - Scheduled Maintenance Activities and Breakdown Risk

This type of tool and screen would clearly have been useful to both maintenance and production management in the scenario described above in helping them determine whether that PM should have been skipped. It will also be valuable to them going forward in devising their updated plans and schedules.

Actenum's software presents crucial information in real time for evaluation, so management can develop alternative action plans when necessary to ensure critica 1 targets are not missed.

The Organizational Alignment Challenge


In order to develop, maintain, revise, and optimize their plans and schedules, maintenance and production management need accurate and real-time information to
determine such things as:

  • How will maintenance activities impact production? For example, will today's maintenance shutdown cause a production problem next week?
  • What crucial maintenance activities cannot be skipped (like that skipped PM)?
  • What's the best response to unanticipated events (such as an increase in demand or an unantic ipated breakdown)?
  • Can machine failures be minimized, or even eliminated?
  • What's the best way to boost overall asset availability to meet production targets?

Moreover, maintenance and production managers must cooperate and collaborate in both the slow-loop planning phase and the fast-loop execution and planning phases. Such cooperation benefits the entire organization, not just their individual departments.

Traditionally however, these planning efforts have been largely manual in nature, aided in large measure only by spreadsheets and similar tools. Fortunately, emerging technologies such as the Maintenance and Production Scheduling software are facilitating these efforts in both the slow-loop and fast-loop phases.

To illustrate, the screen shot in Figure 4 displays several missed production dead-line risk factors and a very high breakdown risk for a proposed maintenance and production schedule before the schedule is automatic ally optimized.

Figure 4 - Maintenance & Production Schedule with Very High Missed Deadline

Figure 4 - Maintenance & Production Schedule with Very High Missed Deadline

and Breakdown Risk Factors, before optimization

When the same schedule is optimized, however, the risk factors are virtually elimi-nated, as illustrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5 - Automated Scheduling with MPS Significantly Improves Both Missed Deadline and Breakdown Risk

Figure 5 - Automated Scheduling with MPS Significantly Improves Both Missed Deadline and Breakdown Risk

Advanced Software Technology Facilitates Planning and Scheduling

The benefits to implementing advanced software technology to assist with maintenance and production planning and scheduling are numerous. To highlight several of the primary advantages, such software:

  • Speeds coordinated planning in both the slow-loop and fast-loop phases,
  • Coordinates the creation of production of both maintenance and production schedules,
  • Displays production output by time period, (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc, or user defined)
  • Lists detailed maintenance activities and schedules
  • Automatically calculates the best possible maintenance and production schedules,
  • Displays revisions and impacts to the schedule in real-time,
  • Measures and displays risks of missing production targets,
  • Measures and displays potential breakdown risks,
  • Evaluates and displays potential conflicts; e.g., a technician with a required skill is not available for a scheduled PM, or a production asset is not available for a production run due to a scheduled PM,
  • Analyzes and displays a wide variety of user defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as equipment availability and utilization or production output.

Actenum also recognizes however that seasoned and experienced professionals in asset intensive industries know a great deal about their environments. So the company designed the software to allow for what the company refers to as a "two expert" approach. Maintenance and production managers and authorized users can easily and actively interact with the software using a "drag and drop" interface to manipulate and revise the schedule. The MPS software analyzes and evaluates all suggested revisions made to the schedules in this fashion and presents the updated schedule, the potential conflicts, the possible risks, the KPI impacts, and other factors back to the users in real-time for instant analysis and action.

Integrate with Back Office, Project, and Primavera

The Actenum software is a stand-alone application that easily integrates with a variety of CMMS and EAM systems. It also easily integrates with and optimizes schedules generated in Microsoft Project or in Primavera.

Powerful Decisions Boost Asset Management and Performance

Most organizations today have gathered an enormous amount of data about the assets they use and maintain. They've stored that data as information in the advanced ERP, CMMS, EAM, and other systems that are available today. But as we said at the beginning of this paper, information about assets in and of itself is not valuable unless some one uses the information to make good decisions that positively impact an assets performance.

Actenum's software does just that. It empowers maintenance and production management and workers to use available information to make great decisions-decisions that positively impact the assets' ability to produce goods, to extend their useful life, and to provide an improved return on assets (ROA) financial measurement. The user normally works with the schedule in two modes: manual and automatic. In manual mode, the user may select activities and drag and drop them elsewhere in the Gantt chart. As activities are moved, the optimization objectives will be updated to reflect the outcome of the change. Each such change may be easily undone, if necessary. In automatic mode, the optimization engine takes control of the schedule and shuffles activities in order to satisfy constraints, and to satisfy the optimization objective targets (for example, maximizing production output, or minimizing costs). Once the optimizer has generated a new schedule, the user can examine the objectives) usually referred to by Actenum as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), generate desired reports, and send the schedule to external execution and enterprise systems.

About Michael Israel and igniteService, Inc.

igniteService, Inc. provides expert business consulting and marketing support for companies with customer service, field service, repair depot and asset maintenance operations, and for vendors providing technology solutions to those companies.
igniteService can be contacted at 702.476.5328, or at

About Actenum

Actenum is the leading provider of Asset Scheduling Management (ASM) software for asset-intensive organizations. Our solutions increase production uptime through rapid, reliable scheduling of production assets.

During daily operations-even in the most complex, disrupted production environments-Actenum solutions enable you to create optimized asset schedules that are directly linked to user-defined key operational metrics. As a result, you can make informed and effective scheduling decisions that support your production goals, reduce deferred production, and improve operating efficiency.

To speak to an Actenum representative, or to schedule a demonstration, please contact us at 604.681.1262 x 224, or

Actenum Corporation

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