Face book, Twitter and Asset Management
Last month, we were discussing our new Maximo Utilities Amplifier Solution with Ralph Rio, Research Director, ARC Advisory Group (http://www.arcweb.com/analysts/pages/ralph-rio.aspx). This Amplifier solution would help Electric Utilities clients in better realization of their work management goals in the area of Capital works, Budgeting, Work Scheduling, Regulatory compliance and Customer Self Service. It also brings in the much required process automation and adherence, thereby ensuring a robust process adherence and control mechanism.
While Ralph was quite appreciative of our thought process and efforts, he also brought a new dimension to Customer Self Service. Ralph gave it a name "Crowdsourced-Driven Reliability", where the people who are near the assets, can sense the problem in advance and report to maintenance department for a preventive action; thus prevent the asset failure.
These people could be the operators who operate those assets or users using the assets or even citizens walking on the streets and finding out a water leak or reporting a pothole. Ralph's report further mentions about a software company CitySourced (www.citysourced.com) offering Smartphone applications which can be used by citizens to report these kinds of problems. These reported problems would further go to maintenance planner and schedulers for their daily/weekly planning, work & labor assignments for job completion. Ralph further linked it to social networking such as Facebook or Twitter where assets could be friends, asset classes could be groups and so on. News feed and comments would become work log or history, covering a good amount of Asset Management gamut.
This whole new lateral thinking generated lots of interest within our Infosys' Asset Management Community and two of our experts (Gopi Krishnan GR, Practice Manager - Business Application and Services - Retail CPG, Logistics and Life Sciences and Rejeesh Gopalan, Consultant - Asset Management - Energy and Utilities) had their further opinion on this.
Gopi Krishnan -
As regards operator driven maintenance, I see examples of the self-service concept here. And why not? Self-service has become all pervasive in service-heavy industries, especially in economies where labor costs tend to be prohibitive - like the banks putting in ATMs making end-users like us do more and more banking tasks to home improvement industry encouraging more of Do-It-Yourself tasks. If one goes beyond "reporting an issue" to "doing first level repairs", the caveat I see is that many a time, warranties become null & void, if a "non-authorized" person touches any equipment. So that needs to be factored in the crowdsourced maintenance discussion as well. Many large product/equipment vendors make more money through warranties and repair, especially when these happen onsite, so there could be some resistance there.
The Facebook parallel is a great example of lateral thinking - of applying concepts learnt in one place to a totally different context. Where I am still a bit of the skeptic is the idea of replacing people in facebook with assets and its friends. It might be possible for assets to auto-publish their assets and for their "friend" assets to figure out what those statuses are sometime in the future, but for now, I'm guessing it's the operator who has to feed these into an internal facebook (read: something like salesforce.com's Chatter) equivalent. That would mean a clear reason for incentivization - what would motivate an operator to spend his precious shift-time to update asset status on a regular basis?
My early days as heavy equipment engineer gave me an opportunity to witness an "operator driven maintenance" pilot program targeted toward a fleet of the company's equipment operating on remote gas pipeline Right of Way. The equipment worked in harsh conditions and demanded an enhanced and frequent maintenance. Ironically, the equipment was less service due to their remote locations, causing many failures. This was when they realized a need to delegate "must-have and less skill" tasks to the operators by providing them basic training. Having the first hand information on a specific equipment condition; which could potentially lead to a failure, the operators were able to provide the required first aid before the maintenance crew reached the work site. This helped in reducing the failure rates, maintenance cost and loss in production time.
EAM can often become a tedious exercise for a public organization due to its inherent nature of spread and unavailability of dedicated workforce for continuous monitoring of Assets. Citysourced, with the CDR innovation, extends the IT enabled EAM to the general public. By offering a platform via smartphone apps for an easy incident reporting and a channelized routing of the issues to respective responsibilities, it enables a fast tracking of information exchange and resolution process. As Gopi indicated, for the crowdsourced maintenance to be a success there needs to a motivation to encourage participation to contribute directly to the company's work management. Talking about motivation, for an equipment operator, it could come from sense of participation and ownership of task at hand and most importantly an enhanced profile. Rewarding points per issue reported though CDR and redeeming them for a reduction in my utility bill, I would certainly love it!
Ralph's EAM - Facebook model is an emphasis on an effective information exchange in work management space. Information capture mechanism from various sources would form an excellent front end to the underlying EAM programs which can interpret and convert them into meaningful maintenance programs. The highlighted work accountability factor can be addressed by auto assignments and related notifications taking it a long way in ensuring a controlled work management.