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Asset Convergence

15 November 2007

The traditional use of separate systems to manage IT and enterprise assets is adding untenable cost and business risk. Robin Martin explains the need to bring building and IT management systems together

Rugeley Power Station

IN AN INCREASINGLY LITIGIOUS and regulated business environment, any asset rich organisation needs to ensure all assets and equipment is well maintained. Stringent health and safety requirements combined with the high penalties associated with asset failure - from fines to reputation damage - have placed proactive maintenance high on the agenda.

Yet the majority of organisations still persist in running two distinct asset management systems - one for 'traditional' assets such as lifts, pumps and track, and another for IT equipment. Given the increasing convergence of such assets and the growing use of embedded technology within the traditional asset portfolio, such a distinction makes no commercial sense.

By persisting with this outdated strategy organisations are not only adding cost but also actively creating unnecessary risk. From ensuring each system is updated in tandem to support new regulations to allocating separate resource to handle maintenance on each asset, the opportunities for errors and inconsistency are significant. So why are organisations failing to recognise the business significance of asset convergence?

From the lift with integrated control systems to the smart metering technology being piloted by utility companies and the use of sensors to gather information on asset performance, technology has become a fundamental component of a growing number of key business assets.

Growing concern
The number of assets with embedded technology grows daily. From the adoption of Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tagging to improved monitoring and control, smarter diagnostics and embedded failure prediction, asset capability is being transformed. This technology is increasingly commonplace. For example, almost every elevator installed since 2002/2003 by one of the four leading suppliers will have the capability of integrating the lift control system with an event management tool set to receive notifications/alerts regarding problems and elevator performance.

Furthermore, since the end of 2001 it has been a requirement for all elevators in the UK to have a means of connecting to a central control room in the event of a person being trapped within. This has resulted in lift suppliers retro-fitting thousands of Remote Monitoring Units to the existing elevator asset base. Similar technology has also been applied to escalators and high end door systems.

Sensors are now a standard component of many assets - from building management systems to manufacturing production lines and instrumentation used within the control centre by utilities, oil and gas companies. Asset convergence is a reality.

By embedding technology in these devices, manufacturers may have indeed made them far more useful - and expensive - but they have also added considerable complexity to the maintenance process. Newer assets routinely include electronic monitoring of health, performance and conditions that may require further analysis and action.

The traditional maintenance schedule associated with general assets - such as the quarterly service - is now supplemented by more frequent checks and monitoring of the embedded technology. The result is multiple visits to the same asset, by different teams, which only adds to the amount of time the asset is out of use.

Furthermore, there is a growing asset ownership battle in progress with the operations department wanting to manage and control all aspects of the asset, whilst IT, understandably, claims to be the only department capable to maintaining and managing the IT related asset. Sensors can be used to send an emergency work order to get a maintenance engineer to investigate the problem when an alarm is raised. But without an integrated maintenance operation, ensuring the alarm and attendant repair, is received and carried out by the correct team is far from a streamlined process, resulting in delays and potential SLA breaches.

Yet these assets with embedded technology are typically the most valuable within the business, costing up to 100 times more than the equivalent 'unintelligent' equipment. Their business value is significant - and failure could significantly jeopardise business reputation. Risking their operational performance by failing to effectively coordinate the maintenance programme is, quite frankly, madness.

Integrated approach
Managing all assets within one system and by one team transforms effectiveness, reduces costs and removes instances of conflict or confusion. Asset ownership and responsibility is clear and, critically, the entire track history of every asset - from software upgrades to physical repairs - is available immediately, in one place. By creating a single source of all asset information, organisations can begin to streamline processes to improve overall availability. For example, resource scheduling can be managed to support all components of the asset, combining proactive maintenance as necessary to reduce overall downtime.

Combining the information provided by sensors, light controllers and actuators such as switches and pumps with historical asset information within one system provides unprecedented insight into asset performance, supporting further process transformation. Critically, with only one system to update, organisations can feel confident in their compliance to key regulations, from health and safety onwards.

Global economies of scale and consistency
International Power is an independent power generation company with interests in 40 power stations, and some closely linked businesses, across 19 countries around the world. It operates a range of power plant technologies including thermal, hydro, pumped storage and wind. Established in 2000, following the demerger of National Power PLC, it needed to implement systems quickly and consistently at its plants across the world. With a small IT team, the company was keen to fast-track the deployment of a single maintenance management system across each plant. Andrew Dickinson, IT Director, International Power, explains, "Deploying a single system globally provides economies of scale and global consistency. It also enables International Power to rotate staff across various sites which is a key component of the corporate strategy. To enable a rapid, cost effective deployment, International Power required an asset and maintenance management product that could meet the business objectives of improved effectiveness and cost control and was supported in all the territories of the world."

Having assessed the market, the company opted to implement IBM's Maximo asset management solution.

IBM's extensive experience in delivering asset and maintenance management solutions to power stations proved valuable during the initial replacement of an SAP system at Rugeley Power Station. "Having created a framework for the IBM Maximo deployment, International Power can now typically implement the maintenance management software at a new site anywhere in the world within five months," Dickinson explains.

The IBM Maximo solution is now used at International Power sites from the UK to Asia, the Middle East to Australia, with over 1,600 users. "By opting for stand alone implementations of IBM Maximo at each site, International Power has gained consistency and standardisation whilst retaining the flexibility to rapidly acquire and divest organisations and joint ventures," Dickinson explains. "The IBM Maximo solution is already in use in Saudi Arabia, with one centralised system supporting four cogeneration plants and a head office via satellite links. By providing widespread access to IBM Maximo, engineers have far greater visibility of information, assets and working structures which creates a strong maintenance culture. By delivering significant savings, this rapid implementation of IBM Maximo asset and maintenance management is a very quick win for International Power." IBM Maximo is used not only for mainstream maintenance, purchasing, contracting and stores but also for routine preventative maintenance tasks, such as oil filter changes and calibration checks. Detailed reporting on routines by department and frequency has been used to maximise productivity through more efficient scheduling. The company can also use the system to effectively plan work to be carried out during complete or part plant shut down.

Linking asset information with inventory also provides rapid insight into the availability of spare parts for a specific task, the cost of each part and the location within the stores - enabling engineers to rapidly source the right piece of equipment. Improved insight into the use of spare parts is driving down inventory costs across the group. The company is also leveraging IBM Maximo's integrated inventory, procurement and maintenance solution to manage contracts with external suppliers. Engineers now have access to complete contract information, including cost of hire and labour rates and can use IBM Maximo to automatically create a work instruction for a contractor. This information will also provide the company with improved insight into contractor performance.

.... Robin Martin is Managing Director of MRO Software, an IBM Company


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