Many companies blame the software as the source of their challenges, however, in many cases, the lack of an application’s success involves other factors. These factors can include poor work processes and data, a lack of understanding of the software, or a miscommunication of the total and ongoing program costs to management.
Whether you’re looking to implement a new application for your facility or are trying to improve your current system, we’ve developed four tips to help you maximize the value of your technology based on our team’s experience implementing a variety of applications across multiple industries:
Tip #1: Assess and Prioritize Your Business Needs
The first tip to maximize your technology is to assess and prioritize your needs based on the problem you’re trying to solve. It can be challenging to know which specific application out of the hundreds of available software solutions will work best for your facility. While assessing and prioritizing your business needs may seem like an obvious first step, we’ve seen many companies experience frustration with their software because they selected an application based on specific features that did not align with their business needs. It’s important to evaluate and prioritize your business requirements based on the level of criticality prior to assessing applications. Some of your needs may strictly be nice to have while others are more critical.
It’s also important to validate the functionality of your technology solution through a pilot or evaluation period to ensure the application meets your facility’s needs. For example, an Inspection Data Management Software (IDMS) vendor may state that they have an interface with SAP, but what does that actually mean? Does the interface include equipment, recommendations, and task scheduling? Can the interface be modified to meet SAP configuration? A pilot can help you validate these types of questions and provide you with an opportunity to flesh out the application’s features.
Every application has its unique pros and cons and taking the time to truly assess how the capabilities of the application align with your facility’s needs and business goals will prevent you from having to spend time further down the road fixing preventable issues. The key to a successful implementation and maintenance of an applications is to identify what is important to your company and ensure that the strengths of the application match your mandatory requirements.
Tip #2: Paint a Full Picture of Value, Costs, and Challenges
The second tip to maximize the value of your technology is to identify the value, costs, and challenges of the application to secure management buy-in. Whether you’re implementing an application for the first time or trying to improve your current system, identifying this information and securing management support is critical to the long-term success of the application.
Most companies are able to easily identify the initial implementation costs since they are provided by the vendor. However, many companies often overlook other factors that can impact a project’s success and long-term costs. For example, one area that is often overlooked is the application’s impact on resources. Implementing a new program or application often involves the addition of new roles and responsibilities. For example, if you’re implementing an RBI program, you will need to identify an RBI analyst who can help manage the program. Many companies do not think through the impact of the application on specific roles and are left scrambling to justify and fill the position.
Another factor that influences the cost and success of an application is the current state of your program. For example, if you are trying to implement a mechanical integrity (MI) program, you will need to have an accurate master equipment list, hierarchy, and equipment taxonomy. If you are implementing a piping program, you will need to circuitize your piping. Without the completion of these steps, your program will not operate efficiently or effectively, and you may need to take on additional costs to get your program to where it needs to be. Understanding the current state of your program and identifying the key components that are required to make your program successful will be critical to the successful integration of an application into your program.
Finally, the best approach to addressing all aspects of value, cost, and challenges is to develop an effective change management strategy. Change management is a discipline that has evolved over the past 70 years as a framework for managing the people side of change. Typically, many facilities want to maintain their current work practices with a new system. However, many old processes conflict with the application’s intended processes. Communication, starting with the highest level of management, will help users understand the value and impact of the application on the company. Additionally, we find the most successful method in adapting a new application is to understand the new application’s work processes, identify your current ones, and then meld the two together into a new process. Greater acceptance and less reluctance to change is typically experienced when this information has effectively and consistently been shared.
Tip #3: Optimize Your Program to Ensure Value
The third tip to maximize the value of your technology is to optimize your program by ensuring you have accurate data and identifying and executing appropriate asset strategies. Accurate, centralized information is foundational to the success of all programs and many facilities struggle to maintain this information properly.
The quality of your data often becomes apparent when migrating to a new application. In many cases, facilities do not take the opportunity to clean their data before migrating to a new application. Not taking the time to transfer clean data into a new system will lead to frustration and will ultimately cause end-users to lose confidence in the system. We strongly recommend that facilities only load accurate information into the new system to ensure the data migration is successful.
Identifying and executing appropriate asset strategies is also critical to optimizing your program to ensure value. To identify the appropriate strategies, you must understand the likelihood and consequence of your damage mechanisms and failure modes occurring and then develop strategies based on the prevalent damage mechanisms and failures modes.
Many facilities take a “scattershot” approach to developing asset strategies. With this approach, facilities compile a list of activities to mitigate future failures as failure occurs. A “scattershot” approach often results in higher maintenance costs, a higher number of failures, lost production, or unnecessary shutdowns. A targeted approach that aligns your strategies with your risks will allow you to optimize your resources effectively by focusing them on the expected damage mechanisms and failure modes at the appropriate intervals and will allow you to reduce risk, have lower maintenance costs, and increase production.
Tip #4: Harness the Power of Dashboards and Metrics
The fourth tip to maximizing the value of your technology is to harness the power of dashboards to manage your program. Dashboards can help you drive improvements in your program by highlighting key information and risks that exist within your facility. Figure 1 below is an example of a dashboard with a widget called “TML Remaining Life Graph” which highlights thickness monitoring locations (TMLs) that will reach minimum thickness within the next five years, 15 years, and 25 years. This widget allows you to drill down into each of these areas and users can select the red area of the chart to display all the TMLs that fall within a specific category, down to an individual TML level. Having the ability to drill down into the TMLs that fall into this category allow the end user to know the exact TMLs that need to be investigated.
Dashboards are also effective at helping you manage your day-to-day MI program with widgets for inspections that are coming up, past due, or awaiting approval. Dashboards allow you to combine the benefits of accurate data and optimized strategies with the visualization of key data to provide a more comprehensive picture of the health of your program. In addition to identifying at-risk assets and facilitating day-to-day activities, dashboards also allow you to assess the effectiveness of your program.
There are a variety of tools that can be used to build dashboards. Here are some tips for creating effective dashboards:
Applications can be used to solve a variety of challenges facing process industries and can help you achieve better integrate asset performance management into your processes. Integrating the above four tips into your technology selection and implementation process will ensure you maximize the value of your selected platform:
- Assess and prioritize your business needs and compare to application capabilities and strengths/weaknesses
- Provide management with full picture of value, costs, and challenges to gain their support
- Optimize your program to ensure value
- Harness the power of dashboards to manage your program and its overall effectiveness and integrate key data to provide fuller picture