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The Greatest Challenges in Asset Management have this One Common Factor

March 9, 2021

The Greatest Challenges in Asset Management have this One Common Factor

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mainstream Conference. Cliff Williams dives into this year’s research report to provide his perspective on the main themes and shows how they all tie into one common factor.

I’ve been involved in the Mainstream community for many years. Every year I enjoy reading their annual research report to find out the biggest challenges facing asset management professionals. There’s one theme I’ve noticed that links most of these challenges together – and that’s change.

For every one of the concerns to be addressed, something needs to change.

This may sound overly simple, but in my experience, change is always the biggest stumbling block in any improvement journey.

Here’s my take on three of the key themes from the 2021 Mainstream Research Report and my thoughts on how they relate to change.

Theme 1: Putting People at the Centre of Asset Management

Since the introduction of ISO 55000 our focus has shifted from the physical asset to the one asset that is essential for deriving value for the organisation – people.

Everybody has heard the clichés around “our people are our greatest asset” but very few manage their people as assets. It was mostly just a catchy phrase. If we look at the human aspect of asset management, when we try to put this in the centre of all things, we can see this is a huge change.

So many organisations are challenged by this because ultimately it means culture change. A lot of organizations are not really set up for this sort of change and it’s going to push them to look at things in a completely different way. How they develop the human asset, how they maintain the human asset, how they retain the human asset. It's putting a completely different perspective on how organisations view what gives them value.

It’s not just a cliché. People can be our greatest assets, especially good people. So, we must invest, train, engage and empower them so they can help us derive value from our other physical assets. Changing the way people behave, perform and view themselves, requires a whole lot of management.

Theme 2: Digitizing Your Asset Management

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. The technology that's available today allows us to take what was just raw data and (if we manage it properly) turn it into wisdom for our organisations.

But this is not going to happen by osmosis. We can't carry on doing what we're doing and suddenly find that we've digitized our asset management. It's not going to happen.

It's going to require a combination of change, not just with the technology, but with your people, processes, and strategy as well. And it's going to require us to change over and over again.

This is a great opportunity, but if the change isn't managed properly then we're not going to make the advances that we could through the digitization of our asset management programs.

Organisations are now being offered a choice and some may choose to stay as they are, viewing themselves as successful in their current state. Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that if you’re not moving forward, you’re actually moving backwards – so even to keep up you’ll need to make some changes.

Theme 3: Adopting an Asset Management Mindset

The current mindset of “keep it running for as long as we can” will need to a take a slight curve in its approach. Yes, you’ve got to keep your assets running, but only as long as it's providing value to the organisation. Adding this ‘as long as it provides value’ caveat is going to be a challenging mindset change for some asset intensive organisations.

The other change that happens when we shift this mindset is that we start to look at things from a life cycle perspective. Instead of looking at the cheapest (or what seems to be the cheapest) option, we look at our assets from concept to disposal and consider the whole-of-life costs, concerns and risks. Are we designing this so that it will help us derive value? Are we designing this so that our human assets can utilize it in a more effective way?

COVID-19 has taught us nothing if we haven’t learned we need to be more flexible and agile than we’ve ever been. Things can change and suddenly what you thought was your five-year plan is shot.

That's a key part of the asset management mindset: understanding what the requirements are, and being able to adjust and flex to meet the needs of your stakeholders.

Let’s start to change change

At every conference I’ve attended in the last twenty-five years change has been a major theme. And it seems this year’s Mainstream Conference will be no different.

So why hasn’t anything changed? We obviously have some great tools, technologies, processes, and systems available – so why haven’t the results changed?

The answer is there is one aspect that hasn’t changed – the “execution” of change. We attend seminars, read books, prepare plans, and initiate the implementation, only to see it be resisted or ignored or paid lip service through people simply ticking boxes. This needs to change so organisations can start to derive the value they are capable of.

Join me at Mainstream Conference 2021 where I’ll reveal my 9 strategies for making change stick.

About the Author

Cliff has worked in the steel, pulp and paper industries as well as for food giants Coca Cola, Kraft and Wrigleys,  and up until September 2020, he was the Corporate Maintenance Manager with Canadian Chemical manufacturer, ERCO Worldwide. Cliff is author of the best selling maintenance novel ‘People – A Reliability Success Story’

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22 March 2023

Esplanade Fremantle, Perth

See you there!