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The Challenge of Sustaining Asset Management Success

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The Challenge of Sustaining Asset Management Success

  • Posted by: Art Durnan
  • Category: Asset Management, Leadership Development, Maintenance Management

I returned from some work up in British Columbia assisting with an advanced technology implementation at a Copper Mine. It just happened that at the end of the week the district was celebrating Mining Days. It was a small town event and the team I was working with were invited and in fact we were able to demo the software.

There were a few dignitaries who made speeches including Christy Clark the Premier of British Columbia.

As this is an election year in BC there was a lot of politicking going on. What struck me though is that the Premier asked the crowd how much in taxes was returned from the district to Victoria. No one could guess of course, but the answer was $750 million per year! That is Canadian dollars so don’t get too excited. There has apparently been a push by the city dwelling population to stop mining, logging, oil and gas, ranching and anything that has to do with the resource economy in British Columbia and I must admit it is an incredibly beautiful place and deserves to remain so. However, when I thought about the minerals extracted that provide the copper for all the computers and cell phones that the city population uses, I still find it hard to believe that people cannot connect their consumptive behavior with the effects on the environment. I always stop and think about the anti-coal lobby that can’t seem to connect throwing on the light switch and understand that it is only possible because some miner got out of bed in the morning, maybe to work an underground shift on his knees in a narrow seam for 8 hours. Or the people who are against fracking, but heat their homes with cheap natural gas.

In A Sand Hills Almanac, Aldo Leopold wrote what many consider to be the first work on the land ethic. His proposition is that consumption creates pollution and the consumers are responsible. Mining, agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, and industry have a long legacy of screwing up the environment to live down so it goes without saying regulation and oversight are still needed. I remember a saying that I first heard in a college ecology class “ If you crap in your nest long enough pretty soon you will be nesting in your crap.” My point about this is really to just make mention that sustainability of anything whether it be the environment or an Asset Management Improvement Program is many faceted.

One thing is pretty clear to me after many years of delivering improvement work and implementing predictive programs. Upper management just doesn’t get it! Sometimes they make a try but for the most part they get distracted. I have seen terrible waste in organizations when software goes unused and trained reliability people are the first to go when a downturn rears its ugly head. So we keep relearning what we knew but couldn’t hold on to. The thing for me that has been most frustrating is that programs get to 95% and then lose support. An organization can tear down work much faster than it can build it up. Having work that you put your heart into torn down can be soul destroying so don’t discount the human effect. In my own experience I know how much perseverance it takes to get these programs off the ground, keep them going and continually justifying them.

I asked myself after years of re-implementing Asset Management Improvement programs what is the root cause of the failure? The answer is Leadership! Or should I say a lack of it. There are also many other symptoms of poor leadership that get used as excuses. Here is my list:

  1. Manpower shortage-during the boom
  2. Skills shortage (all the baby boomers are leaving!)
  3. Inexperienced leaders who have no business leading a maintenance organization
  4. Diversity for diversity sake especially in the appointment of diversity candidates to meet quotas.
  5. Having a disinterested production manager do a year tour as a maintenance manager to punch a ticket.

But the biggest problem I see is that organizations just don’t hold sustainability as a core value. They spend and build during the booms and reduce and destroy during the busts.

I don’t have all the answers but at XRT one of our offerings is building leaders through mentoring. I had great mentors growing up in industry and it helped me enormously.

Getting to the end of summer. Winter is just around the corner.



Author: Art Durnan
With over 45 years of industry experience primarily in Asset Management, Art is an pioneer in Asset Management. Previously Art held positions in project management, engineering design, and process engineering in hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes.

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