Future Perfect Assets and the need for Blocking and Tackling

Posted by Matt Midas on June 10, 2020

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Rich MacInnes talked a lot about Future Perfect where data could be used to tell us when assets would need to be fixed, and what spare parts they needed, which would drive the delivery of those parts at the right time. 

There is a lot more to it than that, but let’s start there and think about the foundational data needed to support that.  The precept was moving towards zero asset TCO (total cost of ownership). 

I enjoyed listening to Rich and reading his book Strategic MRO: A Roadmap for Transforming Assets into Competitive Advantage. The concept of Future Perfect simplified the entire maintenance repair and operations side of any asset heavy industry to improve the bottom line.  With everything around us now with respect to the digital transformation, Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), we should be seeing results from the “Future Perfect” asset.  Look at the significant improvements in the available technology. 

The one question that keeps haunting me is: Why is so much potential still sitting on the table with all these new technologies that we have at our fingertips?

My answer: “Blocking and Tackling”!

It has been seventeen years since Strategic MRO was published and we are now talking about a connected world, not just connected assets, via digital transformation. What shocks me when I speak with a plant manager or a maintenance manager about these concepts, is a similar story across different initiatives.  “We are not ready for this, we have some basic blocking and tackling to address”. 

Connected Assets, Disconnected Processes - An Example

I think back on some of the things my previous team and I were able to accomplish when we first implemented IBM Maximo EAM in the 90s.  Even back then, I had connected assets – in a caveman type approach. We had some HVAC systems in a few buildings that were pretty advanced for the time, but we were not doing the right PMs at the right time and we were terrible when it came to spare parts.  We used what ever we had.  This was a major problem and,  at the same time, low hanging fruit in my opinion. 

So, I set a course to make some changes which resulted in some pretty significant improvements.  Simple things, really.

  1. Identify the correct spare parts, e.g., filters and belts
  2. Revamp the PM to include the right filters
  3. Have a tech capture the reading of the magnehelic pressure gauge across the filter bank once a week - This might be a good indicator of when the filters should be replaced
  4. Set up Maximo to manually capture the readings
  5. Set up the PM to generate when the reading hits a certain point

Reduced Cost, Improved Customer Satisfaction

Instead of sending a crew out to clean the diffusers in the ceiling and replace the wrong filters with the wrong filters every time the building owner called, which was once a month, we now had a process in place to do the right work at the right time with the right spare parts. 

The results:

  • a substantial reduction in the number of times we sent a crew (labor hours and travel time) to the building 
  • a substantial reduction in the cost of spare parts (filters)
  • our customer, the building owner, had a higher level of satisfaction in what we were doing

To top it off, we had 186 buildings where we could replicate this win.  We started small and grew into large scale improvements starting with the low hanging fruit (which should be the top 25% of your critical assets).  These simple things were all data related and that seems to be the underlying factor.  There was static data, the stuff that doesn’t change, and dynamic data, the stuff that does change – the meter reading.  Either way, the data has to be correct!  If the static data on the job plan was wrong………

Blocking and Tackling - Heavier Loads and Critical Foundations of EAM

Let’s talk about blocking and tackling.  Stick with me for a second on this history lesson.  According to the Leonis Adobe Museum’s website, the Block and Tackle was invented by Archimedes around 250 BC.  A Block is a set of pulleys on an axle fixed inside a housing, known as a Tackle.  We all learned this stuff in school – right.  The idea is to use the block and tackle to lift heavy objects with a lesser force.  The result is called mechanical advantage.  If you are not sure of how this works, there is a formula to figure out the required force to lift a load based on the number of pulleys in the block and tackle.  While the block and tackle is still used today, it has been largely replaced with electric winches.  The point is, with a block and tackle, we can lift heavier loads with less effort.  Think efficiency, wrench time, performance as it relates to the data in our EAM systems.

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Why do I bring this up?  How many times have you heard someone say “we’re just not ready for__________(fill in the blank), we need to do some blocking and tackling?”  Blocking and tackling can also be seen as the foundational pieces that we need to have in place to be more efficient, and to create a culture of continuous improvement.

According to The Free Dictionary, blocking and tackling are the basic fundamental skills, tasks, or roles necessary to the function of something. Used especially in business, it is a reference to American football in which blockers and tacklers have the least glamorous positions but are critically important to the team as a whole, and the business objectives. 

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The following can commonly be seen as the foundational basics when it comes to maintenance. We can associate these as the necessary elements when somebody is talking about blocking and tackling. To be clear, typically the need for blocking and tackling in a certain area, centers around the data which needs to be accurate and complete.

Foundational basics:

  • Asset registry
  • Identification of critical assets
  • Maintenance strategy
  • Failure codes
  • Work types
  • PMs
  • Job Plans
  • Bill of materials
  • Specialty tools
  • Lock out tag out
  • Safety
  • Processes
  • Roles

Many years ago, I read an article in which a CEO talked about success (I wish I had the article, but I’ll paraphrase).  It basically stated that the key to success is the employee’s ability to execute the fundamentals, the blocking and tackling.  There were no superstars, just a solid team of folks doing all the things that were fundamental and doing them exceptionally well.

If we had the fundamental data, accurate and complete, think of the extraordinary results we could achieve.  This is so important today with all the advances in IIot, the digital transformation, and digital twins. Let’s focus on the blocking and tackling and get the data right so we are ready for the next wave. 

Where to start? Visualize. Align. Act.

The questions that I have struggled with over the years have been where to start, what needs to be fixed and how am I going to fix it.  When it comes to data, visibility is critical.  Not just seeing the data, but having the ability to visualize the data in a meaningful way is what makes the difference.  We all know there are issues with the data, but we just can’t see them that easily and when we do have a chance to see an issue, we typically do not have time to fix it. 

What's Next? A Culture of Continuous Improvement

A final step that needs to be part of the improvement effort makes the effort one of continuous improvement.  Once you are done, take another look at the data and make sure it is still complete and accurate.  Continuously reviewing and looking for another area to improve.  Perfection?  Maybe, but according to Rich MacInnes, while perfection may not be achievable, it is directionally correct.  We should always be striving for perfection, because it may end in excellence.

If we want the same results, let’s just keep doing the same thing.  But, if you want different results, let’s make a change. 

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." - Bill Gates

Our Propel tool is a Performance Management solution that helps you visualize your asset and work execution data, and monitor your process performance so that you can quickly see where you stand and take the necessary action to adjust.  

This tool paired with the industry, business process, and system expertise of our team enables organizations to foster a culture of continuous improvement.

What are your thoughts on blocking and tackling and future perfect assets? Let us know in the comments below or join the discussion over on LinkedIn.

Topics: Data Quality, Asset Lifecycle Management, performance management for asset management

Written by Matt Midas

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