Getting the most from EAM Software – Part 1

By Carlo Odoardi: Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software is a powerful tool for those responsible for maximizing value of industrial assets as well as those who perform maintenance work on those assets. But often, EAM software falls short of delivering all of the benefits it could. Why is this?

Let’s examine the reasons companies that implement EAM software may not derive the full benefit it could deliver. We’ll also offer advice to circumvent some of these stumbling blocks and realize the promise of EAM.

Over the past 15 to 25 years, industry has focused primarily on design and product reliability. But more and more, these days, we are being asked to investigate, explore and perform asset design and reliability, which poses its own unique set of challenges. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is well understood as a tool to facilitate business processes, and implementation is normally accompanied by business process re-engineering. But EAM is really no different. There is a need to extract the value from the software investment, so when a company selects whatever software solution they choose to implement, they are getting that value intended from the investment.

EAM implementation must be accompanied by a process, that while perhaps not as wide ranging as the planning process that accompanies ERP implementation, involves four essential tasks:

1. Correcting Limited Thinking: A lack of understanding is evident in the way many of us talk about proactive maintenance.

2. Changing the Cultural Mindset: There is absolutely, without a doubt, a certain way people think, act and behave in any organization, and oftentimes this needs to be changed.

3. Eliminating Shelfware: One of the problems in industry is the senior management team invest a lot of money into software products that are guaranteed by the vendor to deliver on the value promise. However, they end up sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust – poorly used, underutilized or not implemented at all. This is an obvious impediment to realizing value.

4. Implement Best Practices: Your organization is not the only one dealing with the challenges that you face every day. The ability to use EAM software to facilitate and automate best practices is an obvious way to maximize benefits delivered by the software investment.

Limited Thinking

We need to change how we think about the maintenance processes EAM software facilitates … and that change must take place at a very core level. In the past, I have heard people say something like this: “Our goal is to achieve high plant availability at low cost.” However, really, today, in the current state of affairs of industry, the goal should be to preserve our health, work safely, maintain environmental integrity, be efficient at what we do, and achieve high quality, not just high plant availability at a low cost. So our goal must be to espouse HSEO in all that we do – we’re basically talking about Health, Safety, the Environment and Operations. That is a misconception that we need to dispel.

A second misconception is that proactive maintenance is about preventing asset failures. This runs counter to reality because today, we realize some assets will fail – it is inevitable. There is no question that physical assets will eventually fail. Our job, therefore, is not to just prevent the assets from failing. In situations where preventing failure is possible and cost effective, certainly we can do that. However, our primary job is to prevent the consequences of the asset failures. So think about how to put means and methods in place to prevent the horrific incidents – with terrible consequences – when (not ‘if’) the assets fail. That planning and mitigation work becomes our primary job.

A third misconception is the idea that OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) or maintenance staff should develop proactive programs for preventive maintenance. However, today, we now know that the best proactive maintenance programs are created by teams of OEMs, users, and maintainers who know the operating context of the physical asset best. Those are the ideal people who are most qualified to create apropos maintenance programs, and EAM software must be implemented in such a way as to take advantage of these different parties’ collective wisdom and knowledge.

A final misconception is evident when people say something like; “We are too small. We are too busy. We just can’t afford proactive maintenance.” However, in today’s economy no one can afford to neglect proactive maintenance. We have to dig deep and find ways to perform the proactive maintenance necessary to avoid those nasty consequences of asset failure that, from time to time, happen and are costing us dearly from a Health, Safety, Environmental and Operating perspective. The cost of reactive maintenance is at least three to four times that of proactive maintenance (source: SMRP).

Addressing the cultural mindset, one remark you often hear on the plant floor, among the tradesmen or craftsmen, are words to this effect: “Some things need to change around here.” This is a leading indicator that there is likely a mal-adaptive culture in place in the organization. This culture is not the corporate mission statement or reflected in the policy manual. Rather, it is a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the company personnel learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which worked well enough to be considered valid. As such, those shared basic assumptions are taught to new hires as the correct way to perceive, think, feel and behave in relation to those and new problems.

To maximize return on investment for our reliability improvement initiatives that we perform within EAM software, we need to consider these tacit or non-tangibles factors in all that we do. Culture is something that has a definite effect on our ability to adjust to complexity, globalization, and methodologies like Just-In-Time. At times, in undertaking a reliability initiative, it is important for us to retrain people by unfreezing the way they currently think and then transition these people to a new way of thinking. We then refreeze that new knowledge in these people. The founder of social psychology, Kurt Lewin, focused his work on how this freeze-phase approach works in industry — and it is definitely successful. So by retraining of people’s beliefs, unfreezing, transitioning them so they can learn new beliefs, and then refreezing that new knowledge, we can help form a new culture with time and practice. This approach can help us form the new belief systems that are helpful to “changing things around here” – as they say.

Behaviors are driven by beliefs and attitudes, and that is one reason why we want to retrain people to use new and updated processes, tactics and technologies. Once we have those new processes, tactics and technologies in place, the key here is to measure that processes are being followed as expected. It is crucial to use of KPIs to reward good behavior and that goes a long way to changing the beliefs and attitudes. On-task behaviors need to be rewarded — anything less is a compromise. In keeping with Peter Drucker’s teaching, you need to measure so that you can control something, and once you have control of it, you can manage it.

A more esoteric way to “change things around here” is through the Yin-Yang of business model. As one may surmise, it is based on Eastern philosophy and offers a balanced, perpetual business cycle, with senior management presiding over the company staff. Management, in that role, supplies resources, (which I call the ‘Yin’ in the model) to the staff. These resources may include people, time, money and other things. However, it is the staff who returns the results (which I call the ‘Yang’ in the model) to the management in a timely fashion.

Management always expects products to be produced or fabricated and delivered along with services and reports (and other management tools) back to the executive management team. So, between that Yin and Yang, you have a third component that is called ‘middle management’ and that middle management should allow all the available resources, or Yin, to flow from senior management down to the staff. And that middle management should also allow all the available results, the Yang, to flow from the staff back up to the senior management. Ideally, that process should be done transparently, unfiltered. Problems result when this is not the case, for reasons that are sometimes obvious and other times not so obvious. Middle managers may resist acting transparently for a number of reasons including: a need for control or power, job security, personal recognition and other reward mechanisms.

EAM software can help change culture in a number of ways while solving a number of problems. The tradespeople in industry are retiring as the baby boom ages, and these have a vast storehouse of vital company knowledge in their heads. We need to capture that knowledge somehow, and EAM software can be configured to help do that.

Industrial organizations are also under pressure to compete in the global arena, which places a premium on avoiding business risk. The ability of EAM software to facilitate the HSEO approach of Health, Safety, Environment and Operations becomes critical when we are maintaining facilities in distant parts of the world, where the way we treat the local workforce and environment have real impact on profitability and liability.


This article was originally provided by Carlo Odoardi. He is a Maintenance & Reliability professional with a passion for helping asset-intensive companies achieve sustainable, world-class operational performance. For more than 25 years he has consulted extensively on industrial culture change, business transformation, advanced industrial technologies, and Management Information Systems. Today, he specializes in the design and implementation of physical asset reliability standards, practices, processes, and enabling technologies. Carlo holds a Master of Engineering degree from the Intelligent Machines and Manufacturing Research Centre (IMMRC) at McMaster University and an Associate’s degree in Electronics Engineering Technology from Ryerson University. He is the past Chair, Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) Ontario Chapter. Carlo is an Associate of Conscious Asset.