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The Digital Asset Evolution: Harness computers to manage asset data through the entire life cycle



Enterprise asset management (EAM) is evolving fast. We’re now able to collect more conditions-based data on assets than ever before, but in order to make effective management decisions, we need to be able to integrate and analyze all this data. Plant engineers and maintenance leaders need powerful tools that incorporate conditions data with baseline operational data from asset manufacturers, information from installation contractors and more — tools that allow them to look at the performance of the asset from different angles, quickly alerting them to trends and filtering out the information that’s most critical.

Enter EAM software platforms, which can do all that and more. Using these programs is recommended in PAS 55 (the Publicly Available Specification: 55-1:2008 for Asset Management), which is rapidly being recognized around the globe as the best guidance for optimizing asset management (AM) systems and processes. “For asset-intensive businesses to effectively adopt PAS 55,” a recent PAS report states, “they need a standardized method for identifying, tracking and managing the condition of every known asset, managing risk before it becomes a problem, standardizing the asset-registry process and generating reports that show compliance to plans and strategic direction.”

While widespread use of EAM is still to come, PEM has sought out the perspectives of three providers about what these systems can provide, and how to best integrate the use of the software — from the day a piece of equipment is installed until it’s time to replace it.

Computing power
One of the most valuable aspects of EAM software platforms is their ability to analyze large amounts of data and provide solid automated AM decisions.

“We now have the convergence of real-time operational data from an asset — conditions monitoring data gathered with mobile devices or gathered automatically, and so on — with transactional data, which is baseline data indicating how a machine should optimally be performing,” says John Benders, vice-president of product management at Ventyx (parent company ABB). “We want companies to look at their production targets and how various assets support that, and based on that, what assets are considered critical.” Unexpected downtime with these assets must be avoided, and he says EAM software is the best way to assess their condition and manage them appropriately. “The power of such software is found is its ability to focus in on which parts of the information coming in is critical, and pick up on the important trends,” he notes. “It’s not just about gathering more data, but analyzing it efficiently.”

Kevin Price agrees the data-integrating power of EAM software is what makes it worth integrating. “When an asset is commissioned, it is relatively easy to keep it running and thoroughly maintained for the first while, but efficiency declines,” says the director and senior product manager for Infor’s Infor10 EAM software product suite.

“Preventive time-based work orders ‘reenergize’ the asset, but EAM software allows you to go beyond this. It will integrate and analyze everything, and may determine that preventative maintenance should be accelerated.” He calls this next level of AM ‘predictive,’ where preventative maintenance schedules are integrated with analysis of heat/vibration/oil, ongoing inspection and assessment data, power consumption anomalies, and manufacturers’ specifications.

“The result of the software’s use is that theoretically, the asset will run as it was when it was first operated,” Price notes, “which is the ultimate achievement.”


Energy consumption
Energy consumption by assets is something often not examined, according to Price — and it should be. “ ‘Consumptive asset management’ is a way to diagnose asset health by looking at energy consumption,” he explains. “The City of Des Moines is a case-study customer of ours. It has 60,000 pumps in their water and sewage system, and using consumptive asset management with our software, they’ve saved a lot of money not just on asset management itself but with savings in energy consumption. We look at power or water, air, gas, consumption, either from sensors on the asset, or even from readings of the consumption of your plant lighting circuit or HVAC circuit at various intervals.”

The value of EAM software is also found in its inherent centralization of all data, says Patrick Zirnhelt, director of sales (asset-intensive industries) at IFS North America. “You certainly need the right data-gathering technologies and systems in place, but ideally, EAM software provides that critical one place for data to be held and worked with, that everyone who’s in the company or who comes in from outside to work on assets interacts with, and that’s centrally updated on an ongoing basis over the entire asset life cycle.”
It’s tremendously risky, he says, when workers have to go to different sources (binders, files or computers) for information on assets. “Millions of dollars can be lost in wasted time, and in sub-par asset management decisions,” he asserts. “It’s truly shocking how many companies are still using spreadsheets, tons of them, and sometimes they’re not on networked computers.

“This means data access can be limited for those who need it, and it poses security risks and the risk of data loss as well.”

EAM software, such as IFS Applications, features project management as an integrated component. This supports phases of an asset life cycle, including equipment or asset design, construction and commissioning — or decommissioning and asset retirement. Secondly, it allows for effective management of plant shut downs and other large projects that take place during the asset life cycle. And finally, it allows the entirety of an asset life cycle to be managed as a single years- or decades-long project that executives can manage for profit.

IFS has worked with several clients where EAM software replaced thousands of spreadsheets. “That’s a lot of threat eliminated,” he says, adding, “It’s also very hard for executives to be able to estimate the value of their equipment in this type of situation and with EAM software, you can do this analysis with complete confidence.”

Mobile computing
Benders foresees that mobile computing will become more and more important in effective asset management — and in maximizing the benefit of EAM software. “When personnel are doing manual maintenance inspections, it takes a while sometimes for this information to make it into the CMMS and there might be input errors made, undermining people’s confidence in the information,” he notes. “Mobile device are less subjective, allowing a worker to choose a level, like low, or medium or high from a drop down menu, or to gather an actual number value from a mobile sensor device — and it’s also available to the software to analyze right away or very quickly.”

In terms of the future, Benders adds, “The volume of data with asset management will only increase, and the shift to using computer power to analyze and filter this information to get optimized automated decisions has only just started.”


Treena Hein is a freelance writer based in Pembroke, Ont.