Enterprise Asset Management Gaining the Competitive Edge


Research shows that many companies are under performing in areas such as reliability, throughput and availability. To address these issues, management needs to better understand maintenance and overall plant performance. This article explains how an effective asset management strategy can help managers realise a better return on their investments, remain competitive, and maintain a stable and predictable operating environment.

Philip Lawson

Philip Lawson

Asset Management Solutions

Emerson Process



Numerous research organisations, including the ARC Advisory Group, have reported year after year that companies are typically under performing in the above mentioned areas of reliability, throughput and availability by as much as twenty per cent. Over the last ten to fifteen years there has been little improvement to this statistic. The burning question therefore is, despite investment in new technology and redesigned and improved plant equipment, why have there been no significant improvements? In addition, organisations are struggling to answer some fundamental questions that would help them to better understand maintenance and overall plant performance and where to focus their efforts. These may include:

  • Is maintenance focusing on the right assets?
  • Is the organisation realising its investment made in predictive maintenance tools?
  • Is the maintenance budget being spent effectively?
  • Which assets fail most often and what are the direct costs associated with each failure?
  • Which assets represent the greatest risk to safety and plant availability?

Many managers know the answers to these questions however; retrieving the supporting statistics is very difficult as they remain hidden in existing asset related data “silos” that are scattered around business systems.

It is widely believed that new technology implemented within a process manufacturing site, rarely delivers all that it promises, despite well-defined customer Functional Design Specifications (FDS) and Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT). The most likely reason for underperforming plants or even individual assets, is that personnel and management are so deeply involved in “fire fighting” incidents that looking into the future is a luxury they can ill afford. Very few organisations have a fully trained and qualified Asset Manager, with the key role of establishing and maintaining an asset management strategy. This would ensure bottom to top compliance/ adherence to policy, full deployment and exploitation of diagnostics, and action taken based on Asset Health and not solely reliant on Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) maintenance manuals.


Figure 1. Plant Hierarchy.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Modern intelligent devices deliver diagnostic information back to the Enterprise Asset Management system to help operators better understand the status of their plant.

With the relatively recent introduction of PAS 55 guidelines, which help organisations focus on how an asset management strategy should be developed and deployed, it is possible that performance might significantly improve. The importance of corporate governance will force change over time, but fundamental changes on how data is retrieved and correlated will still be required. The importance of demonstrating both historical stability and predictive trends will be crucial if a company wishes to meet the new ISO55000 standard for Asset Management, due to be released in the next few years.

The Need to Change

In today’s competitive global market, an organisation can truly differentiate itself from others by installing a boardroom-to-shopfloor Asset Management strategy that can direct not only “day-to-day” activity, but also provide a plan for the next 5 years. The organisation needs to create and develop a vision with its stakeholders, on how it is going to track and chart its performance. Most organisations monitor their businesses through “Silo Data Centres”. Metrics are obtained from individual departments or systems and the information is correlated to help understand how the business is performing against its own objectives.

With the introduction of plant-wide Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems, there has been a slight improvement in performance, but the main improvements have resulted from cost accounting identification of department spends or asset failures. Predominantly therefore, the information is retrospective. Figure 1 shows the structure of a typical process industry company, with the base process layer at the bottom, rising through to the business layer where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) level software operates. Even in the most efficient organisations, the challenge of retrieving and acting upon data throughout these levels is difficult and requires multiple interfaces.


Making the connection between Assets and EAM/ERP systems will enable measurements to be taken at all levels of the organisation, irrespective of department or discipline. Figure 1 shows that with the introduction of Asset Performance Management software, it is possible for data to flow from each level and be correlated and analysed. This data can then help managers and key stakeholders identify potential preventative maintenance downtime, based on asset condition health or maintenance schedule spares, and stock for the next maintenance window. This insight gives tangible benefits across all departments, such as lower stock levels, reduced intrusive maintenance and identifying the appropriate resource levels required.

Studies have shown that predictive maintenance is less expensive than time-based (preventative) maintenance. The deployment of an asset management strategy incorporates technologies, work processes and resources for all critical assets on the plant. This can result in a three to five per cent increase in overall plant revenues. Deployment of asset management can take on a variety of forms because there are so many different kinds of critical production assets. These range from mechanical and process equipment, to instruments and valves for improving the operation of each part of the process. An integrated asset strategy is needed for maximum return.

With the introduction of new integrated asset management software solutions, information can be organised for the first time, in a way that is the most helpful to the end user, whether it is a technician or maintenance manager. There is now the ability to sort information by location, asset type, description, health index or significance to plant reliability, with the highest priority presented on a single dashboard. This provides end users with a broader view of the current operating conditions of the mechanical and process equipment, as well as field instruments and valves throughout the plant.

Having a huge amount of data at your fingertips is not a recent phenomenon, but the ability to call upon multiple data sources at any one time to create a holistic view of the plant is certainly a new development. With this information, key decision makers can start to address immediate issues and those likely to occur in the foreseeable future, with a high degree of certainty. Customers want to make fact-based decisions that impact the bottom line, and these decisions are based on information from thousands of pieces of equipment running continuously 24/7, or in a batch process.

Trending and charting key performance indicators can help the maintenance teams to identify which actions have improved the situation and which have had no effect. For example, a motor or gearbox which is showing high vibration may also require an increase in energy usage to make it function at the desired output. The end user could track energy used over time, overlaid with a trend of vibration readings over time, to discover the correlation of vibration and energy usage. This ability to combine information that was previously stored in database silos creates the opportunity for a whole new level of plant improvements.


An email generated from the Asset Performance Management system provides an alert that the plant is not running as efficiently as it should. The email shows that Key Performance Indicators for Overall Equipment Effectiveness are beginning to dip in one of the process units. A link in the email directs the user to a personal customised asset management home page, which provides further information on the decline in efficiency.

By looking at the active alerts for the unit, it is possible to see a critical valve that has several travel deviation alerts, causing a problem with fluid levels down the line. Another link enables recommendations to be viewed, including a historical record of actions taken when this issue happened previously. A work order is created, with recommendations attached and sent to the EAM/CMMS system for immediate attention by maintenance.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Enterprise Asset Management software allows operators to access a dashboard of asset performance information to identify and prioritise production risks.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Offline data that is collected in the field should also be incorporated into an enterprise management system to ensure operators have a complete picture of their plant.

Progress of the work order can then be monitored throughout the day to ensure the issue is resolved. Status updates can even be emailed to key people in the organisation. Think about your own current processes. Wouldn’t access to this crucial information support your decisions and allow you to improve the plant’s operation, reliability and profitability?

To fundamentally change the way we manage our physical assets, we have to “decode” or “turn on” the embedded diagnostics that are an integral part of most modern technology. Even with non-smart instrumentation or equipment, handheld devices integrated in operator rounds can produce useful data that can be trended, correlated or extrapolated to give predictive health information. Reported benefits from organisations using this type of approach to asset management include:

  • maintenance savings of €10M within a year of implementation related to the identification of “badly performing assets”
  • reductions in reactive maintenance by 40 per cent in less than a year
  • improvements in availability totalling €3– 5M per plant, per year.


Organisations continue to strive to compete in a global market place, but still struggle to change the way they view their assets and, in particular, their plant performance. With the introduction of enterprise-wide asset management solutions, the opportunity to change is in the grasp of most progressive organisations. Those businesses willing to embrace the connectivity of their field devices, mechanical equipment or operator rounds will realise a return on their investments in a relatively short time, remain competitive, and maintain a stable and predictable operating environment.

»»Who is Philip Lawson? Philip has been with Emerson Process Management for the past ten years, working across multiple industry sectors developing and deploying asset management solutions using a combination of technology and services. Philip’s current role within Emerson is a Pan- European business development manager, identifying market needs for Enterprise Asset Management and helping organisations define their asset management strategies.

»»References: 1) Diagnostic Information Helps Plants Increase Reliability with Lower Costs – progressive companies practice predictive maintenance and manage asset performance, by Amy Davidson – Emerson Process Management. 2) Achieving a Higher Level of Maintenance and Reliability by Augie DiGiovanni & John Renick.