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Critical How? The Finer Points of Capitalizing on Asset Criticality

ACRs: The Ultimate Cross-Functional Collaborative Tool

A surface-level understanding of asset criticality doesn't emphasize the real power behind this innovative tool.

Asset criticality is in the eye of the beholder. Every asset-intensive industry – be it manufacturing, the energy sector, oil and gas and so forth – differs in opinion as to what makes certain equipment vital to their operations. In truth, criticality also tends to vary widely between different businesses within the same industry. After all, each company possesses goals specific to overcoming its unique tribulations and challenges that will not match up with competitors.

So when advocates of enterprise asset management and reliability-based maintenance talk up asset criticality rankings, they aren't blowing smoke. However, a surface-level understanding of Asset Criticality Ranking (ACR) doesn't emphasize the real power behind this innovative tool. Let's dig deeper, and uncover the finer points of criticality.

Asset criticality: More than just a name

If you were to look over the equipment on your master asset list, could you determine criticality at a glance? Perhaps, but an ACR does far more than merely designate assets as "important" or "unimportant" for two dire reasons.

"Sifting assets into one of two criticality columns ignores the big-picture potential."

First, criticality changes over time. Shifts in seasonal demand or the upper-level direction of a given business can alter how crucial particular assets may be. Variables also reprogram the metric by which companies measure criticality. A robust ACR boasts demonstrable alignment between broad, even abstract leadership objectives and granular, technical elements underpinning productivity. Simply sifting assets into one of two criticality columns ignores the big-picture potential.

Furthermore, consider the impracticality of an ACR if it stopped at the critical-versus-noncritical decision. How would operators, supervisors and maintenance professionals using ACRs glean actionable data to develop more comprehensive RCM engineering or maintenance planning programs if they lacked in-depth data on what criticality means to their businesses?

Criticality maps out risk for greater awareness

To understand the role risk plays in the modern asset-dependent organization, look to a recent Deloitte survey: All respondents – 100 percent – said they already integrated some form of risk management into asset management or planned to do so in the near future. The report went on to explain that in 2009, more than one-fifth of those surveyed in a similar poll had "no intention of incorporating risk management into their asset management process at all."

Like criticality in general, understanding risk requires an in-depth approach. Risk doesn't only tell you whether you're noncompliant but how, why and how often. Similarly, ACRs demonstrate the full breadth of failure risk in both the single asset or component as well as the interoperability of multiple assets in a system. Breakdowns or deficiencies in one piece of equipment might pale in comparison to disruptions downstream. Good thing advanced ACR accounts for the domino effect.

Asset criticality covers and informs all departments, not production only

EAM at its core hopes to grow stronger connections between what happens on the production floor and the administrative backend companies couldn't live without. So while many see asset criticality as a means of gathering business intelligence on high-capital equipment, the focus doesn't have to be so tight. The greater enterprise, its assets and its processes, matter too.

An example put forth by Uptime Magazine bears repeating here. Yes, ACRs can protect advanced human resources and human capital management software by determining downtime risks. If these assets fail, say, during a higher-than-average recruitment push, ACRs could prioritize maintenance accordingly. Moreover, continuing with the same premise, criticality could inform human resources planning, particularly when it comes to training in regards to maintaining recently added equipment or training operators on updated operating procedures during standardization or optimization initiatives.

Maintenance and operational leaders shouldn't see ACRs as a proverbial Who's Who of internal assets. That's more the territory of a master asset list. Rather, advanced criticality tools help businesses fully realize their MALs, get the most out of root cause analysis, integrate real-time asset data into new frontiers throughout the whole business, manage risk and develop keen insight for navigating their industries.

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