By Suren Naidoo, Vice President: Services, Anglophone Africa at Schneider Electric

According to ISO 55000 (International Standard, Citation 2014), an asset can be defined as “an item, thing or entity that has potential or actual value to an organisation”.  Furthermore, asset management is a “coordinated activity of an organisation to realise value from assets”.

To derive the most value from assets, it must be managed and maintained that in turn optimises equipment reliability and availability whilst reducing the operation and maintenance costs.

Which brings us to the next important point, investing in assets should go together with after-sales maintenance, service, and repair.  One can go as far as saying it’s non-negotiable as no business can realistically afford downtime or worst yet, complete, and catastrophic failure of equipment.

A recent research paper An approach to improve asset maintenance and management priorities using machine learning techniques describes asset maintenance and management activities typical services provided by a physical asset maintenance firm.

“A combination of these services would result in an optimised asset management solution that would satisfy the needs and challenges of the asset operators to improve the asset system availability and reduce the downtime of the assets while following a systematic planning of operation and maintenance activities,” cites the research paper.

It is therefore paramount that organisations choose the right partner for the job.  Your asset maintenance partner should be reputable, knowledgeable and understand your environment and the equipment that runs it.

Investing in the asset management partner, backed by a robust maintenance programme must form part of business operations and resultant OPEX expenditure.  Not only do these programmes run systems efficiently and maximise equipment expectancy, but it also plays a fundamental role in mitigating downtime and system failure.

Let’s start at the very beginning

The saying “It’s a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make things simple” couldn’t be more apt when choosing an asset maintenance partner.  In a nutshell, these are five attributes an organisation should look for choosing a partner:

  1. Expertise of the maintenance personnel.
  2. Quality assurance.
  3. Onsite response time.
  4. Remote monitoring capability.
  5. Comprehensive onsite inspection.

Human error can often lead to operations issues which is why it’s so important to ensure the service personnel are experts.  Your asset maintenance partner should feature a pool of system specialists who receive ongoing training which includes safety protocols and are certified by regulatory bodies such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

The service and maintenance team must have access to the necessary vendor tools and software that allow for system diagnostics and newest field service bulletins, created by the system vendors, that alert them to trending issues.

Also, access to international support that features technical experts from various regions, as well as global case studies, will provide valuable insight into particular challenges organisations might face.

Remote monitoring and onsite inspection

Both remote monitoring and onsite inspection play an all-important role in preventive maintenance.  Remote connectivity for example allows for quicker diagnostics of problems, which can be addressed without having to send a technician to visit the site

However, onsite visits are extremely important and can provide the following benefits:

  • A visual inspection will in a non-invasive way identify potential problems like dust or debris on a condenser, dirty condenser coils, bloated or leaky batteries, etc.
  • An environmental inspection will allow the specialist to assess how a system can be impacted by humidity, air, and water quality. This all can have a direct impact on the function and life of the system.

Lastly, technologies such as data analytics and AI now play a vital role in asset maintenance and repair.  The more connected and smarter services become, the more your service provider will become an invaluable and trusted advisor.

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