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September 19, 2013

Safety in Work and Asset Management- Part II

The Risk Assessment

For the safety department, the prime responsibility is to ensure an environment which is safe for both the personnel working in the work site as well as the other impacted stakeholders. They get started with the risk assessment to identify hazard associated with the work in the turbine. Few things to consider here: how safe is it to perform repairs in the premise with the existing heat and high pressure zone hazard? or to continue without?; Any history of failure and knowledge of associated damages?; Any financial repercussions of shutdown followed by a cold start etc. etc. 

Risk Assesment Matrix.JPG

Risk Assessment Matrix

The Risk Assessment starts with the identification of the work associated hazards. Initial Risk Factor is defined for each hazard with the help of Risk Assessment Matrix. This is followed by mapping the consequences with the probability of hazard occurrence. After the risk assessment relevant controls in the form of precautionary measures are applied to the Hazard. Residual Risk Assessment, which measure the inevitable risks post control measures is also performed. Though a risk assessment is predominantly a Safety function, it cannot and should not operate in isolation. For the matrix above, while the safety team is the one to determine the impact of risks suggest possible measure to avert any dangers, the likelihood of the Asset failure and behavior under particular conditions can be best predicted by work management team. They know the pulse of Asset they manage. Again, if work management department were to be all by themselves then such Risk assessment would be biased with an overly Asset focus, ignoring external implications such as threat to environment is therefore very essential that they work as one unit, perform mutual tradeoffs where applicable and definitely, not at the cost of safety!

Isolation and Control

Steam leakage! Now what comes to your mind, escaping white fumes maybe? Superheated steam is invisible to human eye and with temperature ranging more than 500oC, an accidental exposure for even few seconds can lead to serious consequences. Isolation is a technique used to cordon off such safety critical items from the work to ensure an environment conducive for work. Isolations consist of both hard and soft Isolations. The soft isolations are called Tag-out procedures which in this example would be a "do not cross tape"; works really well for the obedient one's but for the curious folks, there is a need for hard Isolation, also known as Lockout. This essentially means a complete physical locking out of the work area. Isolations are required to bring asset/location in a safe mode to start work on it. Once the asset/location is isolated, the required work can be executed on it. Once the work is executed, reverse isolation steps are carried out to bring the asset/location back to operating state. With the dynamism involved in the work, the Isolation process associated with an Assets and Locations changes, it is therefore essential to continuously evaluate the work progress and put in place a modified Isolation to parallel such developments. In our case, let's say that the inlet of the pipe section was locked out for inspection, but as no problems were identified, the team moved on with subsequent inspection step; which could have required additional Isolations. So should the work management team just be allowed to proceed as normally practiced in a traditional Work Management system? Remember, the clearances for the work were already provided so no one holds the Work Management team accountable if something goes wrong! Here comes the importance of a dynamic safety plan which quickly modifies itself, sets a new set of control through a revised risk assessment and modified Isolations, requiring one to get new set of approvals. This essentially operates through a shift in ownership back to safety unit followed by set of evaluation and clearances. This adds to the dynamism in work and requires tighter control in terms of both Safety and Work Management working closely.

The work management complimented with strong safety fundamentals is imperative for a systematic evaluation of various risks associated with a Work. Safety is an important point of consideration prior to execution of any tasks and needs to be imbibed within the work management culture. It makes allowance for risk elimination/mitigation thereby making the work place safer. Implementation of a safe Work and Asset Management system can only be successful if all the stakeholders understand the importance and commit to their respective responsibilities. The golden rule of safety "No work is so urgent to be executed if not safe" holds good under any circumstances. Here's wishing you all a happy and safe Work and Asset management!


Safety in Work and Asset Management- Part I

Safety is an important aspect of Work and Asset Management (WAM) process. The Safety standards form an important evaluation criterion for Work and adherence to the safety norms are scrutinized thoroughly. For industries like Oil & Gas, Nuclear, Aerospace, Energy and Utilities etc. dealing with high risk Assets, safety is a critical factor and a mandate to follow. So if we already have such a high standard and even a higher scrutiny, why do we keep hearing about safety related incidents? The reason here could be a missing link of control, accountability and information exchange between the Safety and WAM function. Now why do we say that? Here's why..

Traditional work management measured work through the gauges of ROI, asset criticality etc., once found feasible on these measures, the work were authorized and all set to be executed. The safety function typically operated in silos and performed the blessing act by providing the necessary clearances strictly going by the defined procedures. The work is dynamic and the safety condition keeps changing, but who cares as long as the work goes on! This approach thus lacked the much required accountability and the capability to handle the dynamism of work management and is causing some fundamental issues we face today within Work and Asset Management process.

Safety concepts like Risk Assessments and Isolations & Controls forms strong premise to ensure a safe environment. Together they are combined in a package called Work Permit which acts as an authorization to work on assets and/ or locations that could pose serious hazards. When a work has a potential to cause serious impact to environment and health, it is necessary to formalize an agreed upon work procedures with all the stakeholders. This prevents instructions from being missed, forgotten or misinterpreted and work permit helps in accomplishing this. Through this blog, we would like to provide an overview on these important constituents of work permits which integrates Safety and Work and Asset management and strives to create a safer working atmosphere.

Let's consider an example of a work requiring safety and work management team to work in tandem and discuss on bringing in the coordination part in the important areas of safety. The operations teams at one of the thermal power generating unit were monitoring the turbine speed; this was part of their investigation process to find possible causes for reduction in the power generation. The team was suspecting a leakage on a recently refurbished pipe cross-section resulting in pressure drop of steam driving the turbine thereby causing a downward trend in speed. The issue had to be corrected soon. Any work in the high pressure turbine zone as per standards required safety clearances; it was therefore decided to loop in the safety experts to get their opinion on this. The idea was to get the required approvals and get the fix in place as soon as possible. The KPIs were at stake, and with the winter approaching, the operations were not doing great with their wattage numbers. In the Part II of this blog, through this example, we will discuss Risk Assessment and Isolation & Control process and touch upon the element of team work among the two critical units, the Safety and WAM


September 12, 2013

Smarter Partnering for Smarter Business

IBM conducts an annual event for its business partners. Generally this is a three days event spread over one full and two half days. This event has many objectives -Connect with IBM senior leadership, understand IBM's plans and commitment towards business partners and new offerings / solutions from IBM -  to name a few. The event was in its seventh year and event participation is only invitation based. From ECS ADT, IBM invited me to attend. As I am an avid networker, hence didn't want to miss this.

This year's theme was "Smarter Partnering theme for Smarter Business" with emphasis on key technologies like Mobile, Social, Business Analytics, Big Data, Cloud and Expert Integrated Systems. The event was in Kochi, Kerala - God's own country. Alas, I saw the city only during airport transfer.

Event started in evening on 1st day with welcome session and two plenary sessions - (i) Driving Growth with CSIs and (ii) IBM software capabilities to grow high value business. Speakers from both the sessions presented their views on why and how business partners are critical to IBM' success and how working together results into a win-win situation.

After the session, had a one-on-one session with Lauren States (Vice President, Strategy & Transformation, IBM Software Group). She is also the executive sponsor of Infosys relationship. Lauren promised all of IBM support in order to grow Infosys' IBM business. No doubt, we get excellent support from IBM. During the closing session, our host - Himanshu Shah - reminded us to be on time next day and promised a surprise. Had a networking dinner along with some mesmerizing performance by a Kathakali dancer (

So, next morning surprise was a DrumJam session by Roberto Narain (, which was entertaining and refreshing. Anyways, this was not a surprise for me, as our IBM alliance lead informed me about this previous night.

Had multiple sessions and the most interesting for me was Deepak Advani - General Manager - Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure. Deepak spoke about integrated infrastructure and how lots of information is coming to mobile devices now.  With this change, infrastructure does just not mean data centers but it is extended to mobile and cloud as well now. IBM calls it "smart" now, due to embedded analytics capabilities in IBM offerings. He also spoke about IBM's desperate need to partner with SIs for Asset Management as opportunities are huge in this area. He also emphasized on analytics and mentioned that IBM has done more than 16 BUSD acquisitions since 2005 in this area. Some of those are Cognos, iLog, SPSS, Core Metrics, Emptoris, Vivisimo and many others, as world is moving from reactive to proactive.

Next session I attended was on IBM's new offering IOC - Intelligent Operations Center ( IBM has lots of focus on this offering and leaving no stone unturned in marketing this. IBM had already conducted some session on this before to our Infosys team in last few months. IOC is mainly an integrated offering of many IBM products helping cities in responding faster to incidents, thus making cities smarter. IBM already has  multiple use cases configured for this offering - Water, Transportation, Public Safety and City Planning & Operations. The entire offering has typically four layers - (i) SCADA, (ii) EAM, ERP, CRM and GIS, (iii) Integrated view of Operations and Infrastructure and (iv) Advanced Analytics.

Next on our list was Infosys meeting with Deepak Advani. As we had multiple Infosys teams, hence discussion was in all the directions - IMS, Cloud, Mobility, Asset Management and Analytics. As per him, the key focus areas in market are - Mobile, Analytics, Integration of event management on Asset Management and Cloud. I spoke about Infosys getting all the support from IBM on enablement but lacking joint go-to-market activities. Deepak promised to look into this and had some action items on his team.

Attended one more session with our RCL team about various hosting offerings IBM and Infosys can jointly propose to market.

Was a long day but had some entertainment waiting for us in form of
(i) Devdutt Pattanaik - A motivational speaker who explained various ancient Hindu mythologies and their relevance in today's business management. A very inspiring and entertaining session. Difficult to pen, but if you want to read more than follow
(ii) Vasundhara Das - A famous singer performed for us during dinner

Next day, was a short day as the event got over by 11 AM. Nothing important to write about this day, other than that one of our Infosys Colleague got first prize in a lucky draw.

For me it was a quite useful event as it helped me in opening newer discussion channels with few more IBM executives. I have few action items on me to follow up with them.

September 11, 2013

Knitting Agile with Asset Maintenance - a perspective on Agile Asset Maintenance

"Agile", a very well-known business jargon in the software industry has changed the way software development was executed in the modern times. This new methodology has paved the path for delivering software within schedule and with exceptional quality adopting agile practices. Software community has seen a paradigm shift in the product development life cycle after following 'Agile' methodology. Visualizing the benefits of various new techniques such as Just in Time, Business Process Re-engineering, Kaizen, Lean, Six Sigma, ISO 9001, etc., in the relevant industries, experts in other industry segments have tried to adopt the philosophies tailoring to their line of businesses and have reaped phenomenal benefits. Agile is one such philosophy which has got traction in recent times and business functions such as Marketing, Human Resource, Operations, Management and Customer Services have all seen the transformation on incorporating the frameworks from the techniques interwoven into their processes.

Agile in Maintenance:

Walking through the analogous victory lane, in a perspective view, "Maintenance" - one of the vital support business functions in any organization stands on the podium as a potential customer to adopt the best practices offered by Agile Methodology. As a precautionary note, I am not introducing a new Maintenance approach. Rather, it is a radical thought on a maintenance execution methodology resulting in a paradigm shift. Let us analyze why we need Agile in Maintenance.

Agile Maintenance - a Need or Fantasy:

Agility, in simple terms is response to change. Things are changing in all quarters of business organization in recent times. Maintenance business function is no different. As we analyze the factor of change in maintenance, we face two major components - things which are changing & things which need change.

Things which are changing:

As maintenance is closely linked with Operations, things which are changing rapidly over time are

• Focus on improving equipment productivity with less resources
• Urge for Automating equipments to reduce manual intervention
• Reducing Equipment downtime to increase equipment availability
• Reducing Maintenance Cost by optimizing resources and reducing downtime
• Reduce maintenance budget to increase margins

Things which needs change:

Whenever we discuss about maintenance, the main topic focused is 'Reducing Maintenance Cost'. Widely accepted argument is that cost optimization is achieved by following proactive maintenance approaches like Predictive Maintenance and Reliability Centered maintenance. These maintenance approaches provide the strategy on 'When' to execute a repair - scheduled / predicted. However, there are certain aspects which are hidden behind the screens of these philosophies, without which maintenance optimization is least realized - such as:

• Equipment usage - Underutilization / Over utilization / improper operations
• Knowledge levels of Maintenance Technicians
• Improper execution of maintenance procedures
• Quality of spares used
• Effective Test runs / load runs before sending for operation
• Retro fitments, Enhancements, Design changes during operation
• User satisfaction on the operability of equipment

Agile as a need:

From the aspects which are changing and which needs change, we could clearly understand that change is inevitable at People, Equipment and Support resource levels. To cope up with the change, focusing on maintenance approaches alone is not sufficient. We need a cultural shift on turning our focus on the aspects discussed above. As Peter F. Drucker says "If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old",  I feel that renovating the Agile principles suiting to changing facets of Maintenance business function will 'turn the lights on' to look through the possibilities to extract significant insights and knitting them appropriately to bring in the benefits. I would like to formulate the principles for maintenance business function as follows:

1. Giving prominence to Individuals and group interactions (Workforce oriented initiatives - providing platform for Innovation from the team) OVER focusing only on implementing Maintenance philosophies

2. Driving primary objective to improve Asset availability (by improving % of wrench time) OVER time spent by employees on intensive paperwork

3. Improving collaboration among working force OVER following a structured protocol for asset maintenance (operations & maintenance teams working in silos)

4. Responding and adapting to customer requirements (mainly internal customer - Operations department) OVER adhering to traditional maintenance procedures.

5. Introducing a collaborative platform for the operations, engineering and maintenance teams using technology tools such as Troubleshooting guide, Online Chat, etc.

As agility is implemented using various tools, EAM applications are shaping up themselves to make the shift to support agility in Maintenance. It is a long journey to fine tune the above principles in line with agility and I am eager to get opinion on expanding this to a reality.

September 9, 2013

Instance Consolidation Strategy

One of the major challenges that a globally scattered organization faces today is their technology landscape. With multiple applications catering to local requirements the organization's overall technology landscape becomes extremely complex. There exists an opportunity to simplify the organization's technology landscape by consolidating application instances when the organization decides to harmonize their global processes. 

There are factors that can help an organization to decide the optimum number of application instances.  These factors can be grouped under three categories - Benefits, Risks and Standard Parameters.


  • Avoid multiple sources of truth - With single / reduced number of instances the number of databases will be less.
  • Consistent Business Intelligence - BI metrics can be obtained consistently across the entire business banking on the foundation of single version of master data.
  • Economies of Scale - Through a single common instance, it is easier to centralize business functions that may currently be distributed, thereby leveraging economies of scale.
  • Quick onboarding - With single/fewer instances it will be easier to onboard new sites/ regions/accounts etc.
  • Reduced Maintenance Cost - Changes due to presence of consolidated instances gets clubbed and made more efficiently. Also license costs can be reduced for OS, 3rd party software etc.  
  • Reduced Technology Cost - Reduce IT infrastructure costs and improve IT asset utilization by consolidation of underlying server and other IT infrastructure.





  • Impact of change during sustenance - A major change coming from any particular region/account/site etc will have an extended change window, which may be a challenge change done for one region/site/account may impact configuration for others.
  • Stability and Performance issues - With the number of sites/regions and users increasing with every deployment it is possible that the application may not scale to cater to this magnitude of load without causing performance issues.
  • Integration with collocated systems and data - Data synchronization for routines for various satellite systems might get complex and need to be tightly coupled.
  • Conflicts in Customer/ Site/ Account specific configurations - Some accounts/ sites may call for unique configurations and some of those may create potential conflicts in existing application configuration.
  • Internationalization - As this is a global platform, the expected internationalization may also lead into some issues. For example, regulatory restrictions on certain data sharing across geographic boundaries may inhibit the use of single instance.
  • Future Scalability - With growth in organization business, a single instance may also pose potential inhibitors to growth due to unpredictable quality of service variations.


Standard Parameters:

  • Load (Volume, cycle time) Parameters - Performance profile, transaction loads, data volumes and response time expectations across sites and across the business.
  • Configuration Requirements and Variance - Extent of common configuration across all accounts/sites vs. extent of variance/unique configurations (conflicting business rules/validations, or conflicting static data items/value lists).
  • Non-Functional Requirements - Other NFRs such as availability and maintainability requirements
  • Integration Requirements - - Integration capabilities required by organization between To-Be solution and its external applications
  • Network Performance - with single instance network latency issues would become a point to address as the user base is global.
  • Local Constraints - Like local application security, local data requirements, network security, local compliance etc


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