Businesses are increasingly discovering the benefits of implementing good asset management practices in their organizations, in line with ISO 55001, the standard for asset management systems. The implementation and maintenance of these practices are no different from the pursuit of excellence in any sphere of life – in order to do something well, it is necessary to have the appropriate training and development. It would be impossible to envisage the crop of elite athletes currently preparing to participate in the Olympic Games not being trained to an extremely high level.
The wide range of activities associated with the practice of asset management provides a unique challenge in developing people appropriately. The path to excellence involves the introduction of new practices as well as improving the existing ones. Asset management involves not only the more ‘technical’ aspects such as life cycle costing and risk management but is also hugely influenced by the more human aspects such as culture and behavior. It goes without saying that many organizations are already using excellent practices, whether this is project management, maintenance planning, or whatever, but the discipline of asset management requires a holistic approach to all the activities of the business to ensure that decisions take the wider business into account and not just the area most immediately affected. Of course, it is also critically important to remember that the training and development of staff have more to do with outcomes than processes. Too often this activity in businesses focuses too much on the latter and not enough on the former. There are numerous benefits resulting from the training and development of staff in asset management and numerous acronyms to describe these. In this case, we have taken a variation on the fundamentals expressed in ISO 55000 and selected the acronym VALUE. It is not intended that every facet of asset management is covered under these headings, but it provides one view. The five components, which are closely interlinked, are dealt with below.
1. Value Creation and Enhancement
One of the main benefits of asset management according to ISO 55001 is the enhancement of value in the business. In order to achieve this successfully it is necessary for those whose work creates this value to understand what value represents to the organization. Value can be enhanced significantly by optimizing the cost, risk, and performance of the assets. Fundamental to all of this is the capacity for good decision-making including the setting of clear criteria and the development of critical analytical skills.
This refers to alignment in both the vertical and horizontal directions. The successful implementation of good asset management practices requires good alignment from the top-down and from the bottom up. The Strategic Asset Management Plan, or SAMP, sets the direction for the business in determining what is to be done to the assets over the coming years and determines the detailed plans. It is vital that those people implementing these plans should have an adequate understanding of the source of these plans. The alignment, however, is also required from the bottom up. Those same people who are implementing the plans should have the opportunity to input to the strategy. Strategies are generally set by those at or near the top of the hierarchy whereas the vast bulk of the detailed knowledge of the assets is held by those further down and omitting to involve these in the process will deliver a less favorable outcome.
In addition to vertical alignment, it is necessary to have horizontal alignment, that is between the various stages of the lifecycle of the assets. In particular, decisions taken at the initial stage profoundly affect the later stages and input to the planning and design process from areas such as Maintenance and Operations is vital. This all requires that training be provided to facilitate this approach and lead to better decision-making.
According to ISO 55000 Leadership and workplace culture are determinants of realization of value. The standard requires a number of specific things from leaders such as ensuring that the asset management policy, SAMP, and objectives are created and maintained, and ensuring the integration of the asset management system requirements into the organization’s business processes. As all business leaders are aware the leadership style sets the tone for the organization and has a profound effect on the performance of the business. However, leadership at lower levels needs to propagate the top-level view throughout the organisation and middle managers, supervisors and team leaders all need to be adequately developed to do this. Culture in the workplace is set by the example staff see both in their direct superiors and in the signals that come from top management.
It is not unreasonable to assume that staff who have a good understanding of the business will focus their efforts better on what is important and, as referred to above, contribute to value generation. Asset management, by definition, requires a holistic approach and the concept of understanding and awareness of the business context applies equally to the three elements above, as well as many others. It is a question of staff seeing the ‘big picture’, and not just the tools and techniques. The so-called enablers feature very strongly in this area with information, communication, participation and culture all being vital elements of good asset management practice.
Ultimately good asset management is not only about doing things well but doing the right things in the first place and improving the way we do them. Too often in organizations, we continue to improve the way we carry out tasks without stopping to consider whether it is the right task in the first place. People need to be developed to ask the right questions of the right people and to be supported in this by management. Coupled with this is the need for individuals to understand the management of change process to manage risk appropriately and review the changes made to ensure that they are more effective. All of this, of course, needs to be integrated into a continual improvement philosophy within the organization and focused training and development of staff contributes enormously to this.
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