Why Asset Management is Inevitable for Field Service Businesses

Posted by Heather Dewing on July 17, 2017

Asset Management

Let’s face it the field engineer can be the unsung hero, working up and down the country right now to maintain and service appliances, machinery, fridges, pumps, buildings, critical infrastructure and other built assets. They are often there to ensure that customers get outstanding levels of service when they need it, whilst delivering this service cost efficiently for their parent organisations.

The standard ‘fix on fail’ approach works. A customer calls for an engineer when their appliance breaks and someone is sent to fix it, simple! A pragmatic approach that has consistently delivered where customers don’t mind waiting for a fix.

If ‘Fix on Fail’ works, why change?

In our 24/7 on-demand world customers have rightly become more demanding! They’re not happy to wait for repairs and may have established commercial penalties for delays or service interruptions. Critical assets may cause reputational or financial damage when they aren’t working (power plants, broadcast services). Customers expect effective service delivery to stringent Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and a “fix on fail” approach can become very costly (fines, rebates, penalty costs for failures, costs of temporary fixes to assets to maintain services and so on).

Fundamentally, if you want to run an efficient operation in these scenarios, you need to consider implementing proper proactive asset management decision making, rather than simply a reactive response to things that fail.  Ultimately, you’re now incentivised to minimise or avoid service interruptions to meet your customer’s expectations.

3 key principles to help prevent or minimise service interruption

An asset or its components have a finite asset life – it won’t last forever, but you there are a few key processes you can put in place to ensure your service isn’t affected during your asset’s down time:

  1. Understand which components will need replacing more frequently
  2. Know which components to store as critical spares.
  3. Have a contingency plan in place to maintain service for components that have a long lead time once broken

The need to maintain service and reduce down-time is driving us to evolve our stocking & spares strategy, our logistics, contingency planning and our understanding of asset reliability and whole-life cost of ownership.

What else can you do to maintain service?

The asset will also undoubtedly have specific components that need regular replacement or servicing. Effective servicing and preventative maintenance regimes:

  • Help to keep on top of wear and tear and keep the asset in good running order
  • Provide a cost-effective alternative to sweating the asset and waiting for it to fail
  • Help identify problems before they happen

In today’s operations, data informs this picture rather than just a best guess based on how the asset performed last year or the year before.

When should I stop repairing and maintaining my asset?

Over time an asset will start to become less reliable, prone to breaking down more often.  This is where asset reliability and the whole-life-cost of ownership will be critical. There will always be a tipping point where it’s more cost effective to replace / renew the asset, than keeping repairing it (particularly factoring in the penalty costs of service failures).  The hard part is knowing the optimum time to replace rather than maintain an asset.  Again, data is key to informing this decision.

Fix and replace before assets break

Once you’ve established the fundamental asset management capabilities you can then start to push the boundaries and move into remote asset monitoring, automated alarm handling, automated job creation and ultimately predictive analytics.

Investment may be required in asset performance monitoring to enable the asset to give a richer picture about its health and performance.  The asset may be able to diagnose a fault before it causes a service impact. Alternatively, monitoring may be in place to notice an unexpected variance in performance before anyone else notices a problem. This is the start of the journey towards predictive analytics and smart asset monitoring technology and maximising the true benefits from Internet of Things (IOT).

Get help from tech and good data management

To inform robust asset management decision making, implementation of effective technology and access to lots of good asset management data will be critical. You will need to understand:

  • What assets do you have – Makes, models, age, condition?
  • What work has been completed on them to-date – What was done, when and how much did it cost?
  • What was the availability of different assets – Their downtime, their utilisation?
  • What was the cost profile of assets? – How much has been spent on maintaining them over time? How effective was that spend?

This focus on asset data and the need for a suitable asset management system in which to store this information is another major shift for many organisations. It’s critical to have a good volume of data (3 – 5 years typically) to be statistically robust and support decision making.

How we can help

As industry leaders in workforce management, we have helped many companies with large workforces make the transition between a “fix on fail” service to a business that makes informed asset management decisions. If people are your biggest asset, make sure that your assets aren’t letting your people down!

Give us a call on +44 844 414 5707 or email enquiries@leadentsolutions.com for an informal chat to discuss how we can make a real difference to your asset management approach.