Each year we take part in AMPEAK, the Annual conference of the AM Council, Australia’s peak professional body for Asset Management. The conference is a meeting place for Asset Management professionals and facilities an exchange between a broad range of industries and decision makers.

AMPEAK received a record number of registrations this year, with over 100 speakers, running over three days at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle, Western Australia. The audience comprised of individuals from organisations who manage assets across the planning, acquisition, operation & maintenance, and disposal phases of the asset lifecycle. The individuals represented numerous industries such as infrastructure, finance, mining, oil & gas, defence, utilities, facilities, risk & reliability and occupational health and safety.

This year, we were represented by Sandy Dunn – Managing Director and Gary West – Associate Director, along with Senior Consultant, Stewart Kiely. 

Sandy and Gary presented the following papers, which were both extremely well received and generated a lot of discussion:

  • ‘Asset Management Strategy vs SAMP – Has ISO got it wrong?’ – Sandy Dunn
  • ‘Asset Performance Management – the promise versus reality’ – Gary West

We have put together a list of the key takeaways gained from the knowledge shared amongst Australia’s top Asset Management professionals at the 2019 conference:

The digital twin

There was lots of discussion regarding the digital twin – but the term itself is not well defined. For some, the digital twin is just having a digital representation of the physical asset (i.e. a scan/3-D physical model/CAD representation). For others, it is that, plus the associated attributes (e.g., for a pump, its make/model/warranty detail etc). For yet others, it is all this plus performance attributes (e.g. flow rates (target and actual), pressures etc.) plus perhaps maintenance history. For some it is all of this plus a simulation models (e.g. reliability block models, throughput/capacity models, financial models etc.). 

The last of these is probably the ultimate end goal (at least for critical assets/systems), but there are varying levels of maturity along the way. Digital twin modelling allows stakeholders, asset managers, operators, planners and project managers the opportunity to visualise their assets, in a digital world. This in turn gives them the ability to determine where opportunity lies and conflict may arise.

Big data and technology

There were two schools of thought here. One was “collect everything, because even though you may not have a tool that can make use of it now, maybe one day you will”. The other was “Only collect the data that you really need in order to solve the problems that you need to solve”. 

Organisations are increasingly collecting more and more data. Dealing with the volume of data and making sure that it is being used in an effective manner is becoming an increasing problem.

Plant equipment is providing a lot more data now, more so than ever before, due to technological changes within manufacturing processes, i.e. plant and equipment is being fitted with more and more sophisticated data collection sensors.

Keeping up with the tracking of this performance, with the myriad of information coming back from those machines and plant equipment, is creating a challenge for business. How to deal with this big data and ensure that is it being used in a real time system or being able to be interpreted properly is a very real issue for organisations and their AM systems.

A lot of data and information and analysis for AM systems these days is being collected by new and innovative technology. Drones and autonomous equipment seem to be on the rise assisting with this new digital age in collecting the data. So now not only do we need to understand the AM landscape we will have all to be computer re-programmers to be able to use the equipment to retrieve these results. 

Quantitative, evidence-based decision making and data quality

There is definitely a desire towards more quantitative/evidence-based decision-making, and there are a number of tools which facilitate this. Artificial Intelligence, mathematics and mathematical analysis are helping to analyse this data and give it meaning and substance for organisations about their assets, using cloud-based systems. This is also being seen in the use of visualisation (GIS, Dashboards etc) as a mechanism to convert big data into consumable information.

A lot of the technology that was presented is cloud-based. Partly for ease of access – anywhere anytime, and partly because the large volumes of data and significant processing power required for these tools is more efficiently hosted in the cloud.

However, the quality of the outputs of these tools largely depends on the quality of the data that is input into these tools. Almost all presenters offering these tools bewailed the current level of data quality – but few offered practical solutions for addressing the issue. 

Government and ISO 55000 and training, training, training

Many of the government organisations that we spoke to are under pressure to conform with industry standards, including ISO 55001, but are given little funding to achieve this. Accordingly, they intend to achieve this using existing in-house resources. They recognise, however, that they do not yet have the required competence in-house to perform this work and are, therefore, keen to have some of their key staff trained so that they are better equipped to traverse the Asset Management waters on their voyage towards creating an ISO 55001-aligned Asset Management system.

Aligning with ISO 55000 but not certifying

Almost everyone we spoke to doesn’t want to certify to ISO 55001, but do wish to become aligned with the standard. They see the benefits that this brings, and they all believe that this is the way the future of their industries is going. They want to get ahead of the ball game and ensure that, if and certification does become mandated, they are already one step ahead and don’t have to undertake a mad scramble and spend a lot of money to suddenly have to rush in new policies and procedures achieve certification.  

Senior management buy-in

It appears that one of the greatest challenges for industry is to have their higher-level executives buy into the Asset Management landscape. It appears that either senior leadership teams are very open minded and willing to embrace implementing better Asset Management as a strategic initiative, or they are not. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of middle ground. Effective Change Management at this level is going to be a very large factor in determining the success of implementing Asset Management within organisations.

Return on your ISO investment

Organisations that are adopting ISO 55001 appear to not be as focused on measuring the ROI of effective Asset Management but are focused more on the general benefits that an effective Asset Management system will bring to their business. This includes the benefits that accrue from greater efficiencies, cultural change, engagement and buy in. Where ROI was discussed, a figure of around 7% appeared to be the consensus. However, the driving force behind implementing improved Asset Management appeared to be the benefit that it will bring to systems and business in general rather than purely ROI.

Appeasing the auditors

Business in general is being held more and more accountable. Government agencies and companies that are providing a public service, appear to be under more and more scrutiny these days. This is driving a need for greater efficiency as well as adherence to standards. Implementing certified Asset Management systems is reducing the need for ongoing audits of these businesses. A requirement for greater financial accountability has moved beyond a focus purely on dollars and cents and is now extending into the tangible world of assets and how they are managed.

The changing nature of work, and the leadership skills needed to adapt to this

Automation and Artificial Intelligence is removing a lot of routine work from people’s jobs – and this applies to both White Collar and Blue-Collar workers. For example, a lot of simple design work has the capability to be automated, improving engineering design productivity and reducing demand for design engineers. 

Production of weekly maintenance schedules has the potential to be automated, reducing the requirement for maintenance planners and schedulers. Tradespeople will potentially be able to access troubleshooting help from bots/smart tools via their mobile phones, reducing the need for technical experts in the field. 

Future jobs will be less routine and more knowledge-based, requiring higher order thinking and greater knowledge of the technologies available to assist decision-making. Specialist expertise will be devolved from a few people, with most people having instant access to that expertise via technology. 

Everyone, therefore, has the potential to be an independent expert. But organisational success will require the effective coordination of these experts. Collaboration and teamworking become key, and therefore the skills required of leaders will continue to move away from being “experts” and “authorities” to being “facilitators of group performance”. 

In addition, people are becoming more and more self-aware and more and more in-tune with themselves and how they are perceived within the world and in business. The world has become a smaller and smaller place with the connectivity that we have and the technology that is being developed.

We are all under and ever-increasing microscope. Looking after yourself these days doesn’t just mean hitting the gym every other day for three hours. How we interact with each other, how we behave in the workplace and how we manage our internal self is now something that we must listen to.

We hope this has given you some insight into the key issues, trends and lessons taken from the 2019 AMPEAK conference. We hope to see you there next year.

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