The need for asset management

The systematic design and application of asset management and maintenance needs a strategic approach throughout its life cycle in order to optimise benefits in terms of technical and business risk. Professor of Maintenance Systems at Cranfield University, Andrew Starr explains.

Asset management encapsulates the design; planning; implementation; operation; maintenance; repair; overhaul; life extension; feedback to design, and re-use of engineered products and systems.

It can be considered in two contexts:

  • high value systems; for example, optimised maintenance planning for automated manufacturing plant in automotive assembly to maximise productivity;
  • provision of services to customers to assure the delivery or performance of products in service throughout life; for example, the guarantee of availability of trains to a railway services operator by a build-own-operate contract.

Advanced asset management is important today because our global businesses have access to the same technologies, similar levels of staffing, similar training, and certainly the same demands for competitiveness.

Hence the building blocks for a business are similar world-wide.

It is inviting to believe that costs of living are the dominant factor, but we require long-term relationships with providers of services for our critical systems, such as aero engines and hospitals.

Developing countries which can offer competitive services are also rapidly acquiring a developed economy.

But without doubt, developed-world economies have an expensive starting-point, and must work smartly to achieve competitiveness worthy of export.

Strategy

The best asset management is delivered through strategy. High-value products and services often have life cycles which outlast us all.

That is, the planning for reliability of a new nuclear power station, for example, must exceed the interests of our current cohort of apprentices, let alone our senior decision-making colleagues.

The short-term effects of the “quick win” and local politics may have negative effects in the longer term. And the expense of personnel, spare parts and down-time means that we are fundamentally interested in:

  • minimising interventions through management of equipment health; condition based maintenance rather than time-based repair and replacement;
  • use of technology to reduce travel, automate monitoring, integrate intelligence, support on-the-spot training, and to improve the “corporate memory” by information management – so-called e-maintenance.

Leadership of asset management and the importance of training

The leadership of asset management needs the best people to be prepared. They must be able to lead businesses’ future ambitions to become globally competitive.

However, they must be technically literate as well as fluent in the language of business. We are not solely concerned with business administration, and the ability to scan the technical horizon for future benefits, will be critical.

Training is essential, and this needs to extend to postgraduate level qualifications.

Cranfield University is launching a new suite of short courses in asset management. This is aimed at ambitious individuals in asset management and maintenance in a wide range of businesses.

With modules in management and technology, not only is the learning designed to develop individuals, but the networking between delegates will generate benchmarking, sharing of best practice, and generation of new ideas.

Assessment through workplace assignment will provide early benefit to employers.

The Asset Management programme joins an established part-time MSc programme for professionals in Through-life Systems Sustainment, supported by Rolls-Royce, Bombardier Transportation and The Manufacturer.

Asset management is a contributor to the bottom line, and is part of the value chain. New strategies are required to offer a complete life-cycle plan.

The integration of technical and business know-how is essential for competitiveness, and is fostered by the best people educated to the highest possible level in a syllabus and environment designed for through-life support professionals.