This is the second article of series of three articles on Asset Performance Management Systems.
In our first article we noted increasing levels of interest in Asset Performance Management systems across capital intensive industries. We discussed the typical capabilities supported by APM systems including Asset Health and Condition Monitoring, Maintenance Strategy Development, Asset Integrity Management, Defect Elimination, Modelling (Reliability and Lifecycle Cost) and finally Reliability Analytics.
We also looked at where APM systems fit within the overall ecosystem of Asset Management information systems and the types of data shared within that ecosystem.
Finally, we looked at what most businesses hope to achieve by implementing an APM systems.
As noted in the first article, we have supported various clients in developing and refining their APM business requirements, testing the market for suitable solutions, and then proceed to implementation. We are also actively using client APM systems to develop and optimise equipment maintenance strategies for greenfield and brownfield assets.
In this article, we want to share with you the challenges that we have observed our clients struggle with as they have implemented their APM solutions, and share with you our thoughts on some things you might do to avoid falling for these same traps.
As mentioned, our team has either supported or observed a number of APM implementations. Like most IT projects, none have gone smoothly – generally not due to the software itself, but more due to unrealistic expectations and often a desire to run before learning to walk.
While far from a complete list, some of the more common challenges I have observed are described below.
Overspecification in design.
APM is a tool for engineers, and engineers love to gold plate things. In one case, the APM solution was to be used to support fleet replacement decision using life cycle costing, and experts from within the business were engaged to specify business requirements. The APM tools was modified to deliver the required solution, and the tool was deployed. The result … zero up-take of the LCC tool by the sites as it was seen as too complicated.
Sorting out the overlaps.
APM tools provide a wide range of capabilities that often overlap with other tools. For example, they provide visualisation tool and dashboards, but many businesses are using other tools for this purpose – Spotfire, Tableau, PowerBI to name a few. Similarly, many of the APM tools provide rules engines to trigger events based on live streams of machine data etc. Again, there is an increasing array of tools capable of filling this space, some of which may already exist in the business. Finally, some APM solutions provide mobility tools for dispatching work generated by the APM solution, and collecting results – these tools need to be considered in the broader context of other mobility solutions linked direct to the ERP/EAM to support maintenance execution.
Reality of integration.
There is often an expectation of seamless integration – particularly between the strategy development/optimisation modules and the ERP/EAM. The reality is that the complexity of sequencing data build within the ERP requires complex interfaces, and given that each business structures its data quite differently, ‘out of the box’ interfaces do not exist. So, in many cases, businesses are left moving data between ERP/EAM and APM using load sheets. Similarly, the sheer volumes of online condition data generated by machines will drown most APM solutions. So, this data is likely to require pre-processing to simplify ingestion, meaning that it’s not just a matter of integrating, but rather developing a complete data strategy.
Introducing new processes.
Introduction of the APM typically introduces new processed into the business. In some cases, these will be processes that have not been performed in the past and will require additional resourcing, in other cases processes will be simplified and require less resources. Sometimes these processes will have been performed using other tools, and so there will be the challenge migrating users to use APM. Change Management is therefore a key challenge for any implementation.
A final challenge is implementation timeframes. The gestation period for a large implementation can be anywhere up to two years – with the technical implementation component taking anywhere up to nine months. Having got the business excited at the prospect of a holistic reliability toolset, and then taking two years to deliver leaves the door open for niche solutions to fill the gap, and these are then often well entrenched by APM go-live and complicate the change management process.
Avoiding implementation pitfalls
Despite the challenges we have seen our clients experience, the benefits of a functional APM system are there. APM systems bring together asset related information in a way that supports enhanced asset related decision making and provides the tools to optimise asset performance. However, they can be expensive and time consuming to implement, and slow to deliver value.
But there are some things you can do to realise value sooner.
- Be clear what you want. Beware of gold-plating, and sensitive to the maturity of your business processes and readiness for deployment and tune your requirement accordingly.
- Don’t get stuck in the ‘one stop shop’ mindset. APM solutions can cover a range of functionality. But you may have existing systems or tools that overlap and meet your requirements better. Beware the ‘one stop shop’ approach as it may yield a poorer outcome.
- Start to think about your data today. One of the biggest challenges I have observed relates to data. I want work order, failure codes, and costs in APM, but I don’t book time to work orders and only occasionally complete failure codes. I want historian data in my APM solution, but each plant structures its data differently. I expect to deploy central strategies across global fleets, but they all use different equipment structures. Start to work on these data challenges today.
- Remember it is your people that will make the difference. John Mowbray, the author of RCMII, used to say RCM is about ‘thought-ware’ not software. The best tools without the right people supported by appropriate change management and training will not deliver change in your business. So, focus on organisational capability first, and software second.
It doesn’t all have to happen today. Finally, don’t be forced into a ‘big bang’ implementation. Select a tool that will support the change you are trying to make today, but that can grow with you over time to meet your future aspirations.
In this second in a series of four articles relating to Asset Performance Management we have considered some of key challenges that we see our clients struggling with as they implement Asset Performance Management System, and some of the things that you might consider to avoid falling for these same traps.
In other articles, we explore
If you would like to receive early notification of publication of future articles, sign up for our newsletter now. In the meantime, if you would like assistance to explore the potential for an Asset Performance Management system within your business, or to identify opportunities to optimise the use of your existing APM system, please contact us. We would be delighted to assist you.