Having spent a few years in different industries – mining, manufacturing, processing, timber, building and construction: one question not asked enough is how do we improve our assets. Total life of asset, to ensure the net gain from this asset is positive.

Some of the key problems encountered in this area, is that major assets outlast the people responsible for these assets. Most major assets has a working life in excess of 25 years. Yet, most Asset Engineers / Reliability Engineers do not work that long with the same asset in the same position.

Another problem is the short sightedness and ego-tistical reasoning of some Asset Managers, where they will be willing to ‘sweat the asset’ for short term (mostly personal) gain. Make no mistake – there is no wrong or right asset strategy, some are more effective than others – in different aspects. To ‘sweat the asset’ is a perfectly fine strategy – if the maintenance plan, breakdown management and manning strategy can sustain it effectively, while not endangering people or asset integrity.

So what should we do? All key assets should have an ‘Asset Life Management Plan (ALMP)’. No, not the planned maintenance work orders coming out of your CMMS. This ALMP should contain key information like initial asset cost, expected life, key maintenance strategy, as well as key risks. These risks should include all aspects of potential major failures, potential asset loss, potential safety risks.

Your key asset strategy would be Preventative Maintenance (PM) or Run to Failure (RTF) or some other overarching strategy. This strategy will determine key CAPEX required, as well as your manning strategy. It will determine your balance between shift maintenance crew requirements and normal day shift crews. It will determine your allocated budget to planned work vs. unplanned work.

But the ALMP should not just become another document somewhere in a library, where no one looks at it. This ALMP should be a live document – where key upgrades, major failures, and other impacts can be documented continuously. The asset maintenance cost and manning profile should also be recorded on an annual basis – to ensure a clear understanding is gained on the asset care that has been given – as this will be a key indicator as to the asset care that will be required in the short to medium term.

When a strategic change to the Asset Strategy takes place – like changing from Preventative Maintenance to a Run to Failure strategy, the ALMP should be updated, and reviewed from a key risk point of view. It also need to reflect what will be required in Medium to Long Term to maintain asset life as initially expected. Or, it could be increased or decreased, depending on strategy. This strategy will enable key asset information being transferred from Asset Engineer to Asset Engineer. And therefore assist businesses to better manage the overall return on their investment, and ultimately shareholder value.