Asset Management Basics


Maintenance and reliability is a field in which there are many differing philosophies (RCM, TPM, etc.) which all have some degree of complexity involved. Computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) are now a standard across the industry and these are becoming more and more complicated as technology advances. To gain any advantage from the complexities of maintenance philosophies and the reporting and functionality available through the CMMS, the basics of asset management must first be achieved. This article deals with the essential elements for achieving success in asset management.

Scott Moseley

Scott Moseley

Product Development


Interflow Pty Ltd

Many companies rely on the use of specialised assets in order to provide a service or product to generate profits. Loss of asset capability through degradation or failure has a significant impact on the ability of an organisation to meet their objectives [1]. The challenge facing asset intensive organisations is to increase revenue whilst simultaneously reducing capital, operating, and support costs. These organisations must also attain unprecedented levels of reliability, maintainability, and hence availability [2].

To provide the benefits associated with the asset management functions many organisations go down the path of one of many available maintenance processes such as reliability centred maintenance, total productive maintenance, or lean maintenance. In my experience as a consultant and working in the maintenance industry, most companies do not reap the full benefits of the complex maintenance processes because they do not have the essential asset management basics in order. Having the basics of asset management performed to a high level would provide significant advantages in its own right, but would also allow maintenance organisations to obtain the full value of the more complicated maintenance processes.

Figure 1

Figure 1. An example asset referencing system. The referencing system is also a good point to define asset types, naming conventions, etc.


Figure 2. Reliability over time for cutters based on Weibull analysis. It was highly likely that the cutters would break down before coming in for a “service”.

Table 1. Basic information for asset management.


Know What You Are Maintaining

Whilst it may sound obvious, many organisations do not have a comprehensive list of the assets that they are responsible for maintaining. The list of assets is crucial as “fast, flexible access to reliable, current, and comprehensive information” is necessary for the maintenance department to make decisions based on knowledge rather than intuition [3]. In some cases where assets are listed they are missing crucial information necessary to make decisions regarding maintenance. To maintain an asset effectively the following information (Table 1), where it exists, must be readily available, i.e. stored within the CMMS.

Criticality refers to the importance of an asset to a business. It must take into account several factors such as effect on operations, capital value, safety and environmental impacts. Criticality is essential for prioritising work requests.

As well as obtaining a comprehensive list of assets, the list must be arranged in a way that makes locating a specific asset simple. This is generally performed via the CMMS using one of two methods; searching by the assets name or searching through the asset hierarchy.

To be able to locate assets by the asset name the asset needs to be clearly labelled with the correct reference. The label should be located in an obvious spot and be immediately visible upon viewing the asset. In order to locate an asset using the hierarchy function the hierarchy must be structured in a logical and consistent manner. An asset referencing system is crucial to achieve this. It sets out how the hierarchy is to be structured and where assets are to be located within the hierarchy. An asset referencing system is essential, especially as a hierarchy can contain more than 10,000 assets.

Know How You are Maintaining It

There are many ways to maintain an asset; the most cost efficient depends on many factors such as operational criticality, statutory requirements, replacement value, failure characteristics (Weibull parameter), etc. Strategies range from the simple, such as run to failure, to the complicated such as condition- based maintenance.

No matter what the strategy is, it must be readily available when viewing an asset. A maintenance strategy for a specific asset should include:

  • the type of maintenance strategy, e.g. run to failure or time-based preventative maintenance (PM)
  • specific actions to be performed by a certain trade type using defined tools and parts at a set interval
  • where condition based maintenance is chosen alarm limits must be set and these limits must have a corresponding action.

Many organisations’ maintenance strategies are ill defined and are based on knee jerk reactions to failure rather than proper engineering analysis. As such the system becomes cluttered with preventative maintenance tasks that offer no value.

At Interflow the maintenance strategy for our fleet of “cutting” robots (cutters) was defined as fixed time PM. The interval was four months and the PM procedure was invasive as it required disassembly of the entire robot. Weibull analysis showed how ineffective this strategy was; there was only a 20– 35 % chance of a cutter reaching the service without failure. Additional analysis showed that the reliability characteristics of a cutter were nearly identical following a service as they were following a repair.

The maintenance strategy has since been updated to run to failure. At each failure we measure and record different values and perform additional repairs based on these results.

Know Your Processes

The maintenance process is defined as “The combination of generic maintenance activities or actions that are repeated and transforms input into output” [4]. They define which person performs specific tasks, when they perform them, and how they are to be performed. The processes define how work is reported, planned, scheduled and executed. The processes can also define the standard that tasks are to be performed to.

Whilst maintenance processes will always exist, they are rarely formalised or documented. This lack of documentation raises the following issues:

  • you cannot audit compliance to a process that is not agreed on and signed off by management
  • you cannot readily review and improve processes when they do not exist in a tangible format
  • when staff turns over you cannot guarantee consistency.

Documented maintenance processes ensure that all parties involved with the maintenance function know their roles and responsibilities and what is expected from them in various situations. The processes are crucial for achieving the following:

  • defects are reported in a timely manner and to the required standard
  • work is planned to a defined standard
  • maintenance schedules are created and followed
  • breakdowns are managed effectively
  • work is performed safely and effectively
  • improvements are made to maintenance strategies
  • the design of assets is improved.

Make Your CMMS Work for You

A CMMS on its own will not create significant culture change or demonstrate lasting benefits. For organisations that have demonstrated benefits from a CMMS, clear business goals have been defined and the system is integrated with the organisational culture [5]. A CMMS will not offer any advantage unless it is linked to well defined maintenance processes.

In modern asset management the vast majority of organisations will use a CMMS. This means that the maintenance processes will almost always involve some form of interaction with the CMMS. When the processes are defined they should detail these interactions so that the CMMS is used consistently to the required standard.

Many fields in a CMMS are configurable, which means that the terminology used in the maintenance processes can be replicated in the CMMS. By having configurable fields such as work type, priority, asset type, etc. match those defined in the maintenance processes, reporting is greatly improved as you are viewing data that relates directly to the process. In many instances configurable fields are left as default values, which have no relation to the maintenance processes. Figure 3 shows poorly defined definitions for the priority field on a work order. What we see here is that 3 of the 6 options have never been used.


Figure 3. Work orders by priority. The results in this report offer little value for improvement, as the options have not been properly defined.

Document Everything

Physical maintenance tasks, i.e. performing a repair or preventative maintenance routine, typically start and finish with documentation [6]. A major issue with many maintenance departments is the complete lack of documentation outside the physical maintenance work. This is especially true for the maintenance processes. Documentation is vital, because until it exists the stakeholders in the process have nothing to refer to. Documenting the maintenance process allows all stakeholders to physically see and understand what is happening. In this way many misconceptions about how the process is intended to work can be cleared up, and when drawn up improvements can be more readily identified.

Additional improvements to the maintenance processes, maintenance strategies, or any other aspect of asset management can use the documentation as a starting point. This eliminates the need to redo work that has already been done, and will greatly increase the effectiveness of improvement activities as they have a solid foundation from the outset.

Documentation also allows for your asset management programme to be audited. Day to day activities can be assessed against the documentation and this ensures consistency in the way that tasks are carried out. As well as this some documentation should include auditing sheets, which greatly simplify the auditing process, and allow consistency in auditing.

»»References 1. D. Anderson, P. Keleher and P. Smith, “Towards an assessment tool for the strategic management of asset criticality”, Australian Journal of Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 5, Iss. 2, 2008, 2. C. A. Schuman and A. C. Brent, “Asset life cycle management: towards improving physical asset performance in the process industry”, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 25 Iss:. 5/6, 2005 3. D Nyman & J Levitt, Maintenance Planning, Scheduling & Coordination, Industrial Press Inc. USA, August 2001 4. P Soderholm,, M Holmgren & B Klefsjo, A Process View of Maintenance and its Stakeholders, Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering, Vol. 13 No. 1, 2007 5. R Jones, Computer-aided Maintenance Management Systems, Computer & Control Engineering Journal, August 1994 6. A Hobbs & J Reason, Managing Maintenance Error, Ashgate Publishing Company, England, 2003.