One of the hardest parts of working in an asset-intensive field is effectively maintaining physical assets. Asset-intensive companies often have hundreds or thousands of assets to deal with. Those assets are crucial, but they deliver an overwhelming amount of data and require consistent monitoring and maintenance to keep in top condition.
Many businesses in such a position, including utilities, oil and gas companies, and logistics operations settle for a reactive enterprise asset maintenance process that aims to fix issues after they’ve occurred and doesn’t plan for the future.
The result is often avoidable asset downtime or underperformance, which can lead to service and delivery disruptions, more expensive repair costs, and difficulty with regulatory compliance.
That doesn’t have to be the norm. By reevaluating and optimizing existing, reactive asset maintenance processes, companies can decrease costs and increase performance. Here are five steps asset-intensive companies can take to improve their asset maintenance process.
How to Improve Your Asset Maintenance Process in 5 Steps
1. Analyze Existing Processes and Look for Opportunities
The starting point for any company looking to improve maintenance processes is to analyze the systems they already have in place. Yet few companies take this approach.
Most companies focus on upgrading their assets without diving into the issues that are causing failures and inefficiencies. It is akin to treating the symptom but not the cause. Instead, data should be gathered and analyzed by operations experts to identify opportunities where asset performance or lifespan can be improved.
Look into your processes as well. What’s working? What could be more efficient or effective? These are all opportunities to improve and generate better business results.
2. Map Out Practical Strategies and Create New Processes
With opportunities in hand and data to justify your decisions, the next step is to start creating new processes. This could include changing schedules, upgrading legacy assets to better performing models over time, or investing in new technology like asset analytics to enable predictive maintenance.
The information that you gathered in the first step will be key here. Physical asset management expert Daryl Mather has found that maintenance policy designers typically lack hard data to base their judgments on. In his experience, companies use information made up of just 30 percent% hard data and 70 percent knowledge and experience.¹ Make sure your decisions are based on a more equal combination of experience and hard data that you can present to stakeholders to support your decisions.
Of course, it’s also not enough to create new policies, you need to build a roadmap that outlines how they will be implemented. Creating new processes should include timelines, key asset maintenance tools, and optimizing your maintenance team’s makeup and schedule. If you need to hire new employees to make your plan work, lay out your hiring plan and how long it will take.
3. Train Employees and Implement Changes
If your new policies are to be successful, it is crucial that your maintenance team understands them so that they can be properly implemented. If you need to hire new staff to carry out your new policies, the new hires will need to be trained to a sufficient level before policies will truly be effective.
Don’t get cold feet and don’t delay implementing your changes. The faster you carry out changes, the sooner you will start to see results.
Benchmark your progress to the roadmap you created in the last step. If you are behind, identify why and do what you can adjust to catch up. Don’t get discouraged or lose focus if the process is long. While maintenance changes may be implemented immediately, it can take years to upgrade assets and invest in new technologies. Stick to your plan, adjusting when necessary based on your data so your asset maintenance process is as effective as possible.
4. Measure the Efficacy of New Processes and Benchmark Results
Regularly compare your new process with the baseline of your old process and asset data that you collected in the very first step. This will allow you to determine how the process is affecting your business and whether new processes and policies are reducing asset failure.
Benchmarking may seem avoidable or unnecessary, but it is an essential step. According to a study on maintenance efficiency by T.A. Cook, 86 percent of companies that regularly conduct benchmarks are able to increase efficiency as a result.² Benchmarking is one of the best ways to make sure that your asset maintenance processes are developing as expected.
5. Make the Move to Predictive Maintenance
Streamlining maintenance work is the first step in achieving effective maintenance strategies, and can result in major business improvements. That doesn’t mean you should end your process here, however. One of the most effective ways to improve your asset maintenance process it to make the move to a predictive maintenance solution powered by AI and IoT asset management tools.
Not all companies are ready for this step, but for those that are, there are major business benefits. Why? Because preventative maintenance can only do so much to increase asset longevity. Data on asset failure patterns from four different studies show that only 18 percent of assets have an age-related failure pattern and 82 percent exhibit a random pattern on average.³
Predictive maintenance deals with this issue proactively. Predictive maintenance uses advanced analytics and machine learning to process large quantities of data in real time. The system identifies patterns and the most common indicators that assets are likely to underperform or fail, even those that humans can’t don’t typically notice. Predictive maintenance steps in at this point, servicing assets when they need it, but before a problem actually occurs.
The result is an asset maintenance process that requires less work from your team, incurs fewer costs, and reliably improves asset performance.
Incorporate the Move to Predictive Maintenance in Your Improvement Process
There is a lot that can be achieved once improved asset maintenance processes have been put in place. If your company is ready to move to predictive maintenance, incorporate the change in your optimization process. You’ll need to adjust the steps in this article, including predictive maintenance as one of your top opportunities in step one and mapping out the technology you need to make it happen in step two. Most companies choose to enable predictive asset maintenance with advanced asset analytics applications, but other tools can also be used.
More proactive, predictive and effective policies can have a significant impact on the longevity of physical assets. Uptimes can also be improved, as well as safety. With both of those benefits comes the additional one of increased regulatory compliance. Ultimately, however, the more efficient and effective enterprise asset maintenance processes become, the lower a company’s maintenance cost to asset value ratio becomes. And the more profitable a company’s assets become as a result.