NOT a Revolution

I was wrong. Movement from maintenance to asset management, to strategic asset management is NOT a revolution. Why not?

In 2018, for the IPWEA’s online journal, Jeff Roorda and I sketched out what we saw as the general pattern of these individual journeys and what this suggested about where we would go next.  At the time there was a lot of discussion about the third (and for some) the fourth industrial revolution. We needed a sexy title for our paper so we called it ‘The third AM Revolution’. 

We saw AM moving from the pre-AM stage of maintenance only to the first stage of data collection, or ‘asset inventory’, to the second stage of performance and alignment, or what we call ’Strategic asset management’ – the stage we believe most of Australia is now in –  to a new third stage, our ‘third revolution’ that we are calling ‘infrastructure decision support’.

We now see that ‘revolution’ was the wrong word.

Revolutions have connotations of what was previously important getting the chop – quite literally in the French Revolution!  Although each of the three stages we identified are still important because they represent different mindsets and approaches, different groups of players and different techniques, they do not discard what went before.  Instead they increase our understanding of their value and make them stronger.

Let’s see how that works. 

0. Before AM there was maintenance. Maintenance specialists firmly believed in the value of their work, and they were right.  Unfortunately they were unable to convince others, especially finance.  When AM came along it provided a framework to demonstrate that not only was maintenance able to fix what was currently broken – it could also help prevent more breaking down in the future. That is why so many maintenance engineers were keen to see AM adopted by their organisations.

1The first stage of AM, naturally, was to establish an asset inventory. We needed to know what we had to manage. 

2. With enough basic data we were enabled to take the next step use the data collected for performance improvement. When we did this, we became much more aware of data quality and coverage. That first stage of data collection did not get the chop, now we wanted more.  Instead of data being required simply for a mandated balance sheet (e.g. a storage location) it was increasingly seen as  necessary, indeed essential for progress, and so demand for more data, and for data of a higher quality with greater coverage has continued.  

3. The coming third stage is what will bring all of these stages – maintenance, data collection and performance improvement or strategic asset management – together, for it is at this third stage that asset managers finally reach the stage that they have desired for a long time. Asset management is able to get (and worth a) place at the board table! 

So not a revolution.  But what?   

We could simply call them ‘three stages’ and be done with it. This, however, would not show the connection between them, how each builds on what went previously, so we are calling them waves, for like waves they build on each other and get stronger. 

Why is this important?

Because now that it is so easy to access detailed information about the second wave of strategic asset management or performance improvement (IIMM, PAS55, ISO 55,000) there is a temptation is to dive in at this level.  But without attention to the first wave of data collection and without strengthening the pre-AM stage of maintenance, such attempts lead to failure. Under-developed countries wanting, and needing, to do fast catch up with the developed world are at particular risk. 

They are being pressured ‘to do asset management’ in order to get the strategic asset management, second wave, benefits but the importance of funding and training at the earlier stages, particularly maintenance is not being recognised and dealt with.    Every stage – maintenance/pre-AM, data collection/asset inventory, and strategic asset management/performance improvement or alignment –  requires a different focus, different tools, different groups of players.  

I will talk about Wave 3 – where we go next – in a later post.

Q: Does this development pattern make sense to you?  

Can you recognise it in your own organisation or others?  Is it obvious, or do you see an alternative pattern to your own asset management journey? 

Coming Next: The Three Waves

Why understanding them can help you move closer to your ultimate goal.

6 Thoughts on “NOT a Revolution

  1. Jacqui B on June 16, 2020 at 10:17 am said:

    It’s been an interesting evolution. I’m not sure most of Australia is at stage 3. For most organisations it’s a journey they on and they are somewhere along that 1-3 stage.

    Too much data can give data paralysis, stage 3 needs an understanding of the key data levers for decision making within the specific organisation.

    • Penny on June 19, 2020 at 9:43 am said:

      Hi Jaqui. I would say that hardly any of Australia is yet at Stage 3! Why and how wee get there is our next challenge.

    • Yes, I agree with Jacqui B about ‘data paralysis’.

      And I take somewhat of a counter view, Penny.
      I would like to see Strategic Asset Management (SAM) come first, when only high level data (the ‘key levers) is required for strategic decisions.
      When in SA Govt, I witnessed how the SAM information system (SAMIS) was built up from a plethora of detailed maintenance data. This was completely unworkable in my view. Data paralysis!
      It is worth noting that Chinese always take big picture view followed by next level down. For example, the year date comes first, followed by month and day (reverse to ours).

  2. Thanks Penny
    Totally agree. It’s like accrual accounting. We don’t abandon cash accounting. Rather we build on good maintenance, good data and keep our eye on the future needs of our country and organisation. All together.

  3. RUTH WALLSGROVE on June 29, 2020 at 11:35 pm said:

    Penny, a colleague used the idea of these waves in a webinar last week aimed at USA state Departments of Transportation (DOT) – to capture how we don’t want to get stuck in Wave 1, on Asset Inventory. It is such a useful way to frame the issues! Couldn’t agree more with David, that thinking how you want to make decisions – and therefore what data you will need – should come before spending a lot of money on databases, but for some reason most people don’t do this. And roads seem such a good example.

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