Three priorities for 1999

There's a lot of talk these days about a downturn next year. And that kind of talk always gets us thinking about such things as cutbacks, downsizing, and outsourcing.


There's a lot of talk these days about a downturn next year. And that kind of talk always gets us thinking about such things as cutbacks, downsizing, and outsourcing.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness by forward-thinking companies that their physical assets -- their plant and equipment -- are an important strategic advantage, not just a financial drain. But the strategic positioning of plant engineering and maintenance (that is, asset productivity, asset effectiveness, or asset management) is still far from clear in most companies. And the prospect of a downturn always renews evaluation of that positioning. Since your job is directly related to this strategy, you should put a high priority on how you can influence it. Here are three ideas that we think could help you.

- Foster the recognition of a chief plant officer. An individual who is expert in plant engineering and maintenance should be a member of every plant's top management team right along with representatives of finance, human resources, production, product development, sales/marketing, information services, and other essential functions. Top plants today recognize the impact of the plant engineering and maintenance function on their ability to produce and compete.

- Begin benchmarking or increase your current benchmarking efforts. Build an arsenal of measurable performance indicators you can use to show your effectiveness in business and finance terms that other members of management can easily understand and identify with. Learn how top plants use plant engineering and maintenance as strategic advantages and adapt those principles and processes to your plant.

- Develop your knowledge and expertise concerning outsourcing. To one extent or another, outsourcing is a factor in just about every plant's strategic plan these days. You should be part of the discussion and decision making on any outsourcing that affects your responsibilities. And when outsourcing of any of your operations is necessary or desirable, you should be the person to manage that outsourcing.

In the months ahead, we'll be providing information to help you pursue these objectives. In January, we'll discuss maintenance benchmarking and provide an exclusive table of benchmark metrics to help you begin evaluating your own plant's performance. In March, we'll talk about outsourcing. And in every issue, we'll try to be your problem-solving resource.

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