Every executive and manager wants a magic wand that instantly makes their asset-management practices more effective, efficient and profitable. Of course, this magical solution doesn’t exist; yet they still dream of a quick fix. Too often, this secret longing leads asset-intensive companies to invest massive amounts of money in new technology. Leaders hope an enterprise asset management (EAM) system will give the company a boost or upgrading to the system a competitor uses will help them steal some market share.
Asset-management technology — while a powerful operations, maintenance and safety tool — is not a panacea. Even the most robust system can’t solve culture or process issues. Implementing a solution without understanding the problem is an expensive way to end up right back where you started.
Fix people problems first
Even in our era of advanced technology, people are still the key to company success. The formula has never changed: Hire the right people, train them well, and motivate them to succeed. This yields better results than an untrained or unmotivated workforce with even the most advanced technological tools.
Culture is built from the top down. It is up to leaders to communicate goals and inspire workers to achieve them. A successful organization is focused on customers and looks at the big picture. When that foundation is lacking, no number of technological bells and whistles can make up for it.
It takes research to identify the reason targets are not being met. Leaders need to listen to the workers on the front lines. They should ask employees how they do their jobs and learn about the challenges they face. Processes tend to degrade over time with employee turnover. People forget why procedures are in place and stop observing them. They may use the current asset-management system in ways it was not intended to be used in response to changes in the external culture or customer behavior.
This research may reveal that the problem does indeed lie in the EAM system. Or it could show process optimization is the way to go. Replacing functioning technology while leaving cumbersome processes in place is ineffective and expensive. Armed with this knowledge, leaders can make an informed decision about how to achieve their goals.
Understand your tools
When leaders hear about asset-management problems, they should check if the tools to address the challenges are already in the system. EAM systems are complex. Many companies do not use all of the features. Workers may not even know about all the tools available to them. Before blindly migrating to the latest and greatest technology, company leaders should make sure their legacy systems are being leveraged to their full potential.
In order to get the most out of an EAM system, companies need to invest in training. It is neither fair nor practical to expect workers to figure out these complex systems on their own. Training is an essential component of implementing a new system. But after the initial onboarding, it is often put to the side. By making ongoing training an integral part of the company culture, leaders make sure the system is being used as intended.
If an update is needed, training will help persuade employees to be on board with the change. Employees are less likely to resist a system upgrade when they understand the reason for it. System changes are disruptive, and workers resent change made for its own sake. Communication is key throughout the implementation of a new system. Employees need to understand the new system’s capabilities and how to use it. Administrators need to understand workers’ needs and day-to-day challenges. This two-way flow of communication ensures employees have access to the features they need and the system is used to its maximum potential.
Check your processes
Companies can’t use technology to solve problems they don’t understand. For example, low throughputs might be a failure of the EAM system — or a result of poor processes. Upgrading the technology seems like the easier fix. But if the system was not the cause of the problem, disappointing results will persist.
Sustaining success over the long term requires a commitment to continuous improvement. Before blindly investing in a new system, empower workers to find ways to optimize their routines. Companies in the habit of upgrading their technology on a regular basis may find they save a fortune by regularly optimizing processes instead.
Technology is a tool more akin to a hammer than a magic wand. How well it does its job is directly related to how it is used. Before investing in new EAM technology, company leaders should think about what outcomes they hope to achieve. They may find the solution they need is in the toolbox they had all along.