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By David Berger, P.Eng.
Your customers seek suppliers that can consistently provide the greatest value for money in terms of quality, service delivery and price. Therefore, to stay competitive, you must strive to deliver products and services more efficiently and effectively, through a series of end-to-end processes that start and finish with the customer. Continuous process improvement helps you create value and eliminate waste as defined by the customer.
Note that processes need not directly involve end customers, such as work order management, spare parts procurement and preventive maintenance processes. However, your customers don’t wish to pay for any processes that either directly or indirectly drive costs up, increase lead times or reduce product quality. Thus, there’s potential for gaining a significant competitive edge through continuous improvement of asset management processes. This includes configuring your CMMS in support of improved processes.
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Process mapping is a technique that allows users to represent key processes graphically to more easily discuss and evaluate their effectiveness. By comparing “current state” process maps with “future state” maps, users can visualize the changes required to achieve expected savings and benefits. At a more detailed level, process maps also show how systems such as your CMMS support the process flow.
One of the grave mistakes many companies make in implementing or upgrading a CMMS stems from a lack of understanding priorities. The first order of business isn’t to get the system up and running, although this is all too often the key driver. Nor is organizational restructuring a good starting point, although this is a typical first step, especially when a new leader takes over an organizational unit and wants to send a message that things are going to change.
“The top swim lane should be reserved for the customer or business partner to ensure there is always a clear line of vision.”- David Berger, P.Eng.
The top priority always should be defining success in the eyes of key stakeholders, both qualitatively and quantitatively. In the area of asset management, this means developing goals, objectives, performance measures and targets, and an action plan that ensures stakeholders such as maintenance, operations, engineering, IT, materials management and finance are focused on the right things. This strategic plan for asset management uses a participatory approach involving representatives from each stakeholder group.
The next step is to identify process improvement opportunities in light of the asset management plan, using a process mapping methodology. To optimize processes, determine the CMMS technical specifications required to support the new processes. The final step is to determine the organizational structure that best aligns with the new processes and supporting systems.
For example, suppose a key driver of the asset management plan is reducing response time when critical assets fail or, even better, reducing the frequency, duration and severity of failure. If critical assets are spread across remote locations, one possible process improvement might be to provide mobile devices to technicians so the one closest to the problem is dispatched more quickly. Alternatively, consider building an interface with shop-floor data collection equipment (programmable controller) for condition-based maintenance, so a maintainer is dispatched to take corrective action before a critical asset fails. Of course, either improvement idea might affect the organizational structure.
Although process-mapping methodologies abound, look for the following key elements: