One of the hot initiatives these days seems to be asset management. It’s about time. Companies are finally coming to the realization that caring for their physical assets and even making them increasingly productive, instead of letting them deteriorate, is good business.
Asset management, of course, is what good plant engineering and maintenance have always been about.
Some years ago, I suggested a new slogan for our magazine: PLANT ENGINEERING covers your assets . I couldn’t sell it to our management. We even had some bumper stickers made that I thought we could sell. We couldn’t give them away. I finally gave up on the idea, concluding that most people at that time were pretty tight in regard to their assets. I still think it’s a good slogan for the plant engineering function.
Maybe the thing that gets everybody’s attention these days is that word management . As if that’s a new twist. But it isn’t. Thirty-five years ago, when I entered this business, I was taught that plant engineers were in charge of — and managed — the plant’s assets.
When it comes to asset management, plant engineers are key players. Whether it’s for design, specification, installation, modification, maintenance, rebuild, retrofit, or disposal, they’re the go-to guys.
The only area they may have been weak in over the years is financial analysis. Oh, sure, there has always been plenty of talk about the life-cycle cost of machines and equipment. But that never seemed to be a convincing argument for the bean counters that were worried about this month or this quarter. Now they’re more interested.
And the old attitudes about ceasing to care about or for equipment once it was amortized are also changing. We’re realizing that assets have a useful life far beyond their accounting value. Managing assets is much more than a bookkeeping exercise.
Perhaps the greatest benefit from the asset management movement is that it raises the visibility of plant assets in the eyes of top management and helps to integrate their management with all the other aspects of running a plant. As a result, asset management focuses new attention on those in plant engineering and maintenance, providing them new opportunities for influence and expanded roles.
Employment of new technologies and better asset management are the drivers behind the tremendous growth in productivity over the past few years. Many plants can now operate well beyond their design capacities thanks to these efforts. Improvements in plant engineering and maintenance have been major contributors.
Now is the time, as economic conditions improve, to renew your efforts to cover your assets in such a way that management recognizes their life-cycle value and continues to invest in them.