Today’s asset tracking technology gives us the power to know more about our equipment than ever before. If just thinking about all that data (and its potential) gives you a buzz, you’re not alone.
Data is supposed to make things easier. But it’s hard work extracting good quality data from assets, analyzing it, and putting it to good use. In fact, it’s common to spend 80% of your time simply collecting, cleaning, and organizing data.
What is asset tracking?
Asset tracking is the act of monitoring the usage, performance, and costs of a fixed asset, such as a bottling machine.
“My end goal was to see the financial impact of maintenance on a piece of equipment. That included everything from downtime to labour, to parts, and how all that impacted production. Ultimately, this information helped me keep assets healthy and forecast an accurate budget.”
Asset tracking metrics: What you should measure
We have to give a disclaimer here: This won’t be a definitive list of asset tracking metrics. Every facility and business is going to measure things differently. Instead, we’ll look at some broader KPIs so you can decide for yourself what metrics make sense to you.
“One of the subjects we talked about at the start of almost every meeting was safety,” says Jason speaking of his experience on the shop floor.
Health, safety, and compliance metrics usually focus on stats like the number of accidents and the number of hours lost. While this data has its merit, there a few other metrics that help you track how well your facility is at getting ahead of safety risks:
- Percentage of safety audits and compliance tasks completed on time
- Percentage of sub-standard conditions identified and corrected
- Percentage of employees with adequate training
“The only language everyone understands is money,” says Juan Ruiz, an operations manager at a manufacturing facility.
“If you can translate all your equipment problems equipment into dollar signs and show how to solve it, it goes a long way to justifying your strategy and the costs that go with it,” says Juan.
“When there’s downtime, you’re paying people to stand around and losing money from lost production,” says Jason.
“You need to identify bad actors on the floor and focus on fixing their root problems.”
“If you can understand what happens in that time between failures and repairs, you can understand where to improve your recovery process and your recovery time,” says Juan
“Ultimately, different industries are going to have different metrics, but they need to be rooted in reliability and the useful life of equipment to control costs.”
Throughput and Quality
“There’s always a need to balance the quality and quantity of production with costs,” says Jason.
“If you’re putting 100 units a minute through a machine, but can only use 90 of them, your capacity and uptime numbers a lot less meaningful.”
Tracking throughput and quality is the fuel for long-term planning.
“When you have data across two or three years, you’ll be able to see where your equipment is in its lifecycle, how healthy it is, when to repair, replace, or upgrade it, and how demand from customers changes performance,” says Juan.
“From there, you can forecast your plant’s long-term capacity.”
The classic metric for measuring throughput and quality is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). OEE looks at the availability, performance, and quality of equipment to determine operational efficiency.
OEE can be used in two ways.
The first is to find the assets that are underperforming and identify the reason why. Is the problem caused by a new product running on the machine? Is it because of misalignment parts? Does the whole production process need to be rethought?
The other is to make a more informed choice when purchasing new equipment. If the current machine has a 70% OEE, the machine replacing it with should be above that mark.
Asset tracking tools
“The biggest challenge… is being inundated with data and not knowing how to sort through it and use it effectively and efficiently,” says Joe Kuhn, CMRP, owner of Lean Reliability.
Equipment maintenance logs
Equipment maintenance logs are often an untapped source of asset information. We explored the data-driven potential of maintenance-log/”>equipment maintenance logs, but here’s a quick rundown of some best practices for extracting numbers from them:
- Use a standard maintenance log template for every asset. This creates a steady baseline for each machine, eliminates errors, and makes data analysis easier.
- Keep your logs in a designated location, preferably on a cloud-based CMMS, for quick access and a lower risk of losing them.
- Always exchange logs between shift changes so everyone has the data they need to be safer and productive.
Six ways you can use equipment maintenance logs to make data-driven decisions
Maintenance software and technology
EAM software provides a holistic view of your physical assets and infrastructure through their entire lifecycle, from design and procurement to disposal and replacement
MES technology controls all activities on the production floor to create high-quality items quickly with fewer costs
- They’re tools, not silver bullets: Without the proper people, processes, and culture in place, the potential benefits of maintenance technology are lost.“The main goal of all the tools…is to make better decisions with the information we have,” says Joe. “Technology is a tool. If you don’t use the tool to achieve fundamental business results, it doesn’t help you. A KPI without action doesn’t mean anything.”
- They have to talk to each other: When you integrate systems, you allow them to share information and work together. You may have sensors, PLCs, a CMMS, and ERP“>ERP software, but if they aren’t integrated, they’re much less effective. Data will be difficult to collect and analyze, less accurate, and deliver a lower ROI.
The PDCA model: Bring the data to life
“You have to have a target to aim for,” says Juan.
The next phase is to develop processes and methods for hitting that number. This includes:
- Preventive maintenance schedules and work orders
- Audit and compliance tasks
- Inventory purchasing plans
- Scheduled upgrades to equipment
- Hiring plans
Once you have your plan, it’s time to execute it. Do what you said you’d do. This is when having asset tracking tools and processes in place is crucial as it creates a baseline for the next step.
After you’ve been following your plan for a while, it’s time for a check-in. Make sure:
- You’re actually doing what you said you’d do
- What you see in your records matches real life (and there’s no pencil whipping)
- The plan is leading to positive outcomes
Jason and Juan say that frequent reporting is a key part of this phase.
“Schedule automated reports to yourself every day,” says Jason.
“You can’t be there 24/7, so reports are key to knowing how assets are running at all times.”
Find the areas where your plan has broken down by looking at red flags in your KPIs (safety, costs, throughput, and quality). Link them to maintenance metrics and drill down on tasks that aren’t working. Are there too many or too few PMs on an asset? Are your condition-monitoring baselines off?
The final step is to act on the information you’ve gathered. There are four options for each part of your plan:
Eliminate the ineffective task
Modify the task to improve outcomes
Find ways to optimize the task for further gains
Claim victory and ask, “What’s next?”
Using the data to design with reliability in mind
At this point, you could call it a day and go home proud. But there are other ways to use your hard-earned asset data to improve your operation. One huge area is designing for reliability-maintenance-and-reliability-fiix/”>reliability.
One example comes to mind for Juan when he thinks about equipment design. The story starts when his organization was designing an expensive replacement for an older machine.
“We analyzed all the faults that happened on the asset and saw 20% of them were creating 80% of downtime. The reason was that the machine wasn’t able to run some of the new products.”
The data allowed Juan’s maintenance-teams-can-avoid-the-top-osha-violations/” >team to trace downtime to specific maintenance tasks. This led them to identify defective parts that were causing problems. The machine was redesigned with these parts in mind. The result was equipment that had a longer life cycle, required fewer resources to maintain, a higher availability, and produced higher quality products.
This example just skims the surface of what’s possible. If you want to learn more about using asset data for equipment design and life cycle management, check out this Plant Services article by Certified Reliability Engineer Michael Blanchard.
Learn to love the numbers: Why asset tracking matters
Asset tracking data might not be easy to get, but once you have it, you want to spend it wisely. It’s important to have the right measurements, tools, and processes in place. This allows you to get clean data and make the most of it without spending too much time. Getting just one of these elements right takes time. It’s a journey. Just remember to embrace the power of numbers to impact the success of both maintenance success and the entire organization.