Sunday, 8 December 2019
All Planned Work is Scheduled...Opinion Piece from Adrian Beer, ABB
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All Planned Work is Scheduled...Opinion Piece from Adrian Beer, ABB

Written by Adrian Beer, Global Head of Mining for ABB Enterprise Software

On the surface, it’s not the most profound of statements. However, when we think about this in terms of asset intensive industries, particularly continuous process industries like mining, achieving this objective can be extremely challenging - but also extremely rewarding.

Speaking recently with one of the commodity group CFO’s for one of the big 5 miners, it was clear that their business focused on this operating model. Our discussion centered on what “success” looked like for them, how they measured it, and where the return on investment turned up for them. With Enterprise Asset Management, a common answer is usually around savings in maintenance costs, increased asset availability, or managing the efficient deployment of scarce resource within operations and the like. However, we got a different response this time;

“…success is when all our planned work is scheduled.”

At first, it sounded so simple - certainly was not what we had expected from an organisation of this size and experience. As we discussed his response in more detail, the profound benefits of achieving this seemingly simple objective were clear. The team shared with us three items that demonstrated the benefit of this simple philosophy;

  • Performance dashboard for Operations – The team measured when work orders and requests were generated, relative to when the work was to be completed. When planned work was targeted less than a few weeks out, it was not considered scheduled. This was captured with a simple set of charts showing work requests and work orders ranked by number of weeks ahead of work date.
  • Full use of their system -- The second item they shared was the amount of planned work that could be captured within the standard enterprise systems. We had been working through optimizing the use of the existing tools they had in their business ahead of an upgrade project. Their objective here was to eliminate the multiple satellite systems that had crept into the business over the years, and to get “back to basics” in using readily available tools to perform everyday activities. They were not trying to do this to reduce cost of maintaining these different systems (although that was clearly a secondary benefit), but to use their standard systems to ensure that everyone could have visibility of the upcoming work required to be undertaken.
  • The results – The final piece was simply their process control chart, showing total tonnes of production. What was significant was the direct relationship between scheduling the planned work and production volumes. The greater number of planned activities that had been scheduled further ahead in time, the more their production increased. As work was less scheduled, so too production was less. Whilst volume itself was a significant benefit, the team were more excited about the flow on effects:

“We have far less issues around getting the right skills or equipment to do the work, we have improved safety outcomes, we can make sure the best of everything can be available, when and where we need it, at no additional cost”.

While the concept, at first glance, may not seem to be that monumental, the benefits of scheduling all planned work resonated throughout their organisation. All aspects of their performance, from production and operations, maintenance, supply chain and safety gained significant measurable benefits.

As an industry, we often look to the future application of technology, and role of the industrial cloud, of machine learning, data and analytics, and how they will impact the future of work. What this discussion reminded us is that one real opportunity for many of our asset intensive industries is very straight forward…make sure that all planned work is scheduled!

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