Every workman likes to do a good job. If he doesn't I hope he's not working for you! Jokes aside, there has been a big push to incorporate best practices into every aspect of our working day. It seems that corporate business is well on the way to demanding best practice in every department and section, with small business feeling pressured to follow just to stay competitive.
I would like to suggest that doing so is not only counter-productive, but impossible.
Now, before you paint me as an heretic, and round up a posse to tar and feather me, consider this. Does your business handle only one type of job? Do you only have one job a day? If you can answer 'Yes' to either of these questions then congratulations, you have a blessed life indeed. If you are like most businesses; run off your feet, not enough hours in the day, stock not arriving in time, a key workman phoning in sick (or not phoning in at all); then you know all too well the difficulty of trying to reach multiple goals. If all workers turn up and perform all allocated jobs for week, management will be asking you to cut hours, or cram more jobs into each week.
Producing consistently good results from a service operation is hard work. Very hard work indeed.
It is an absolute impossibility for every facet of your operation to conform to "Best Practices". Every player on a football team must forgo a little of his capacity in order for the team to excel. If the winger always performs to his absolute best, then either the centre or the fullback will have to reduce their input, if only by a small margin, in order to give room for the winger to perform. The beauty of a team that works well together is that the team is able to make goals that the individual players cannot.
We have all worked with a (perhaps) brilliant, (perhaps) super-efficient worker that comes across as a prima-dona or rubs others in the team the wrong way. For all the work he performs, you spend time massaging the hurt egos of others, or worse, re-scheduling work that could not be done due to that worker's "best practices". Or, the boss introduces a new system to fix widgets that works really for widgets, but makes an absolute mess of the wigwam repairs; or a new employee work scheduling system is introduced by HR that makes a mockery of your machine servicing schedules.
Think about it for a minute and ask yourself this: Do you want "best practice" or "successful practice"? Just because a method, process, or model is successful in one industry, or even for a competitor, does not mean it has the portability to bring the same results to your shop. And here's another question: What's the difference between "best practice" and "common practice"? If you can't tell the difference why are you changing, and how will you know what to change?
A team is only a team when all players work together to get the desired result. Incremental improvement across all the activities you are responsible for makes for a much more sustainable, and manageable, difference to the bottom line. A one percent (1%) improvement in 100 activities is far, far better than a 100% improvement in just one activity.
There are many challenges to asset management that are common, occur frequently, and simply become grist in the mill for the busy asset manager. However, there are five areas that are truly challenging.
How much of a challenge? Well, these challenges are very real, deep and enduring, and enough to keep you awake at night.
Some might even consider them to be threats, for they contain the potential to destroy both your business and your career.
Here they are in order of importance.
Our assets are becoming increasingly smarter, and increasingly more connected to the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) maybe a new term to you, but it already exists and is growing very quickly indeed. All those items of equipment that you can log into to monitor, control and read data from - they can be hacked. Please don't consider this to be an alarmist statement. Some reports set successful malware attacks as high as 20% of businesses. And many of those victims do not learn their lesson the first time. If you have not been attacked yet, you will be.
Depending on the assets you are responsible for, a successful attack may simply increase your workload for a short, sharp period. Lucky you.
But if the attack damages equipment beyond repair, then financial affliction may occur. And worse still, if the assets you control provide services that people depend upon, and injury or death results from their failure, then that is another world of hurt anyone would want to avoid.
One thing to look out for is the successful attack against a competitor in the same industry. The computer programming code and access scripts are regularly traded across the Internet, and it is not uncommon for there to be a rash of hack attempts following a successful incursion.
2. New technology
There is now a strong push towards real time condition assessment and failure prediction. Technological changes are swift and the burden to remain up-to-date is very real. If your industry is not yet on a perpetual improvement roller-coaster, it soon will be. The pace is punishing! Many companies are finding help from selecting new employees from nearby industry sectors, this cross-pollination providing new ways of looking at things and experience with different technologies.
3. Skilled workforce
With assets becoming increasingly smarter and more complex, there is a need to either locate and secure an appropriate workforce or to train your existing workers in the new technology. The necessity to re-skill and adapt people to meet business needs is very real. You should consider a re-training cycle of about five years. And that period is decreasing.
If you are not specifically considering the safety of your workers in every job, you're on a hiding to nothing. A sloppy attitude towards safety will bring you down one day. It is inevitable. Government legislation has become very specific and very tight. The courts no longer have margin to prevaricate over judgements. The legal eagles have become very skilled at squeezing the last dollar out of errant employers on behalf of their injured employees.
How damaging is the lack of safety. Here are two reports that may open your eyes.
If this is not enough for you to become serious about safety then consider this. Study after study has proven that a serious, genuine safety culture in an organisation can substantially increase net profits.
We all expect there never to be enough money to do things the way we want. But with both CAPEX and OPEX budgets trending downwards, we do need to become better at explaining to our financiers the reason why we need to do things properly.
Shoddy materials or equipment, inadequate training, procedures and processes that have not been critically assessed - these are all things that have no place in asset management.
Operations management and asset management is becoming an increasingly more complex and demanding job. Putting our heads in the sand is not a viable option, nor is a half-hearted attempt to implement changes that look like we care but that don't actually address the needs. My encouragement is to stand up and become a leader; take responsibility and implement true change. There are some hard decisions to be made, but if we are unwilling to make them, then someone else will make them for us. And then we will truly know what a difficult working environment is.