Tips To Optimize Your Plant Asset Management
Industrial plants are complex labor- and capital-intensive systems which demand a high attention to detail in order to run at maximum output. Proper asset management is at the heart of a plant’s success. Because of this, improving management strategies and tactics can massively impact productivity. Ignoring best practices will result in poor productivity, elevated risks to your employees, and dangerous environmental effects. Let’s review some industry standards on how to optimize your plant asset management.
What Are Plant Assets?
Let’s start by categorizing what in your plant is an asset and what is a more transient element of your workflow. In the context of a manufacturing plant, plant assets are long-held items used directly in day-to-day production. Generally, they are held for over a year and can be largely grouped into five categories: office equipment, machinery, land, buildings, and facility enhancement investments.
As these tend to be long-term, capital-intensive assets, it is best to consider their costs with a depreciation calculation (or amortization for intangible assets) rather than a simple sticker price.
What Is Asset Management?
While the above is a generic overview of plant assets, each industry has specific examples in each asset category and, further, has distinct and detailed asset management strategies. Plant managers must have extensive knowledge of industry standards and of their own equipment in order to take smart care of their facilities.
Much of the purpose of asset management best practices is to maximize the value and lifetime of an asset while minimizing downtime and costs. Detailed asset management strategies, particularly when it comes to maintenance and repair, can significantly extend the lifetime of expensive equipment and increase overall productivity. Proper maximization of each generation of asset will ensure that there is adequate budget for future investment and upgrades when a given asset reaches the end of its usable life cycle. Knowing this turnover point and proactively maintaining plant assets will reduce downtime when an asset fails.
In your workflow, such strategies are best delegated across teams and those most directly involved with the assets. It’s critical that plant managers — who have a high-level operations perspective — communicate effectively with those on the facility floor, who have equipment expertise and on-the-floor experience with any given asset.
How To Optimize Your Plant Management
While your industry will certainly have specific tactics for plant asset management, there are some general strategies that apply across industries. Let’s take a moment to talk about them here; hopefully this will inspire you to seek out domain-specific strategies.
Find an Asset Management System
Making asset management decisions on the fly is a stressful and potentially inconsistent approach to asset management. Knowing this, there are several providers who have developed customizable asset management systems to handle and present data that will allow you to make consistent, qualified decisions across your plant operations.
These software packages offer numerous functionalities that enable intelligent decision-making. This includes optimized preventative maintenance scheduling, budgetary recommendations, and productivity metrics. Using this information can help improve plant efficiency, minimize unnecessary costs, and ensure consistent financial information and reporting. This final feature is crucial for interfacing with the business and regulatory aspects of your plant’s operations and allows for much better integration from the plant floor to management.
Perform Regular Maintenance
The most crucial aspect of asset performance is the ability to keep the assets operational and running at peak capacity for the longest amount of time. Regular, proactive maintenance is the best way to ensure that your assets, and thereby the entire factory, will meet performance goals. Certain maintenance strategies are better for different asset classes, but it is a good idea to get a sense of the options out there!
Also known as predictive maintenance, condition-based maintenance attempts to spot defects and inefficiencies in both assets and processes. It is meant to detect both random and systemic failures. After detection, maintenance plans are developed by operational priority. Such active maintenance and detection strategies are more expensive up front, but do wonders for the longevity and performance of assets.
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
TPM is all about maintaining production at maximum operational efficiency. A holistic process built on careful engagement with employees and those who directly interface with equipment, TPM aims to meet goals and objectives by eliminating inefficiencies, enhancing employee morale and human inputs, and focusing on productivity. TPM uses eight pillars as its core directives:
- Autonomous maintenance
- Focused improvement
- Planned maintenance
- Quality maintenance
- Early equipment adoption
- Education and training
- Administrative optimization
- Environmental awareness
Often referred to as preventative maintenance, time-based maintenance tries to get ahead of any failures by performing check-ups and repairs at regular intervals before any major failure events or productivity decreases can occur. This strategy is also meant to control and schedule downtime across the system before an unexpected breakdown occurs.
When all else fails, corrective maintenance is useful when a plant is anticipating a crisis from sudden equipment failures. Relying on this strategy may not provide the operational optimum, but having such failure contingencies is crucial in a dynamic plant operational system.
As easy as it can be to focus on the capital-intensive and bulky assets that make your plant run, you can’t ignore the critical role your employees play in plant operations. Properly trained employees who follow best practices can massively reduce the strain on your equipment and optimize your output. This ensures that you are maximizing the returns both on the price of the asset and the cost of the labor. The better the employees understand their role in an operation and the constraints under which your assets operate best, the better they can help you meet productivity goals. Plant managers should focus on active, on-the-job training in asset use and should promote and reward workplace safety.
Adopt New Technologies
As good as it feels to maximize the assets that you have installed in your plant, continuous improvement to operational technology means there are always potential productivity upgrades on the table. It is important to continuously evaluate your performance and compare it to the potential benefits of more modern technology. If the benefits of an upgrade outweigh the costs (something that is much easier to calculate with an asset management system), it is well worth the effort — even if your current processes and employee training are already high-quality.
Given the depth of expertise required to operate and maintain certain assets, it is a good idea to outsource select improvements to companies that have the required domain knowledge to do it efficiently. Technologies such as robotic tank cleaners or cloud networking services are best managed by companies that know exactly how to meet your needs in such an area. Adopting and implementing new technologies and strategies can improve workplace safety, lower costs, and increase overall efficiency.
Ecorobotics Can Help With Asset Maintenance
Plant operations have never been more complicated or seen higher stakes. That’s why proper management and maintenance of valuable assets is crucial to the success of your plant. This can mean implementing software and strategies to help you manage your operations, starting new maintenance practices, upgrading technology, or investing in employee training.
If your plant maintains fuel or storage tanks, Ecorobotics can serve as a great partner. We offer sludge removal services and robotic tank cleaning technology that eliminates human confined space entry. Keep your employees safe and minimize downtime — check out our sludge removal services.