The Ten-Question “Audit”

By: Matthew Grant

We recently published an article on how we’ve revised our approach to reviewing and assessing our clients’ asset management practice and capabilities.

One of our main goals was to simplify the assessment process by making them less granular and removing repetitive questions. But although we’re happy that we’ve struck the right balance with the size and detail of our tools, we had another internal discussion around the following question:

Is it possible to reduce an “audit” to no more than ten questions, while still giving a business enough information to understand how they can improve their asset management practices?

The result of that conversation is our Ten-Question Asset Management Assessment, which we’re pleased to make available for anyone to use. You can download it here.

Although we think there’s always a place for more detailed questions to help understand how to improve, the Ten-Question Assessment is designed to be a way for a site to “hold up the mirror” in the first instance, and identify where they can improve. It’s based on the most common opportunities we observe when we work with clients.

The full assessment tool has more information to help sites assess themselves, but the basic questions are as follows:

Question 1: Do you have asset management objectives, targets, and standards for your business that are clear, consistent, relevant, and understood?

It sounds basic, but we’ve worked with many businesses who don’t have clear performance targets, standards or processes, don’t communicate them to the whole team, or prepare their targets in silos, leading to misalignment of goals.

A team needs to have a common picture of what “good” looks like, what they’re trying to achieve, and what’s expected them (both collectively and individually). It doesn’t have to be complex; it just has to be enough for leaders to clearly and continually talk about them with their team to keep them focussed and demonstrate progress.

Question 2: Do you know what your critical assets are, and what makes them critical?

As much as we’d love to have unlimited resources, we all know that isn’t how things work. Asset management requires prioritisation of time, equipment, and cost, so it’s important that we commit them to not simply the assets, but the failure modes with the potential to destroy the most value if they’re not managed.

Again, it’s easy to over-complicate these types of analysis (a common mistake is to tie them too closely to your risk management processes, which typically leads to all sorts of fanciful “what-if” scenarios, leaving you unable to prioritise because everything ends up as “critical”). What’s important is that the whole team knows where they need to focus their efforts to manage the risk of asset failures, and where it’s important to develop effective asset management plans, which are executed with discipline.

Question 3: Do you have quality asset management plans for your assets that cover their whole life cycle?

The most effective sites think about their assets over their whole life cycle in terms of how to maximise their value. A short-term focus almost invariably leads to under-investment in your assets, leading to the classic “maintenance debt”.

The term “quality asset management plan” is, of course, somewhat subjective. To us, quality plans need to contain not only a clear set of targets to maximise the asset’s lifetime value, but a plan to achieve them, supported by the necessary resources. We outline our approach to effective asset management planning in this article.

Question 4: Are your PM checklists and task instruction sheets adequate to allow your team to execute the Asset Management Plans?

Plans and tactics are useless unless they are put into PM checklists or task instructions for maintainers to follow. It’s critical that tasks fully reflect the requirements of your asset management plans and tactics, and are easily understood by maintainers. Effective task sheets also contain clear acceptable limits and tolerances for tasks, as well as instructions on what to do if they are exceeded (eg raise a subsequent notification for the defect, or correct the defect immediately if it’s critical).

In some cases, we find sites who only produce task instructions for PM’s, and ignore corrective or breakdown tasks. Having task instructions prepared for these other tasks is just as important, because they speed up and improve not only the planning process, but the task execution quality. They don’t have to duplicate the OEM material, but should instead focus on the site-specific requirements that make the task safer and faster.

Question 5: Are maintenance and shutdown plans/schedules of sufficient quality, and do all relevant teams collaborate in building them?

Virtually every site understands the importance of planning and scheduling; it’s probably the most process-intensive, most reviewed, most trained aspect of asset management. It also has the most metrics (which any competent planner knows how to fudge). So rather than focus on metrics, look at what’s happening through the process.

Firstly, are all of the relevant teams involved? Are production, supply, engineering etc attending the weekly planning meetings, and signing off the plan, or is it just maintenance? Secondly, what actually happens when the jobs are executed? Have maintainers been set up for success with resources and information, or are they unclear on what’s happening, missing parts, or waiting for production to release and clear equipment?

In Part Two, we’ll look at the final five questions.

Download the Ten-Question Assessment Worksheet here.