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, 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.