The world is changing faster than ever – and so is business. The change applies, for example, to tools and processes, products and services, and to entire organizations. The challenge is to manage this rapid, all-encompassing change. One of the many risks related to organizational transformation is that the ability to process information declines over the years. This may result in a belief that problems regarding documentation and information management are a norm, not an exception.
We are here to tell you that this belief is wrong. You just need a coordinated process to monitor how information is created, shared, stored, managed, and updated in your organization. In addition, you need to define roles and responsibilities and assign owners for each document and piece of information.
1. Make information faster and easier to find
Technical information is often stored in various different locations, such as file servers, document management systems, and personal storages. Cloud-based storage has not eliminated the more traditional options, it has just been added to the selection as one more place to store data.
The question is, are all these tools and systems managed and updated appropriately? The focus should be on maintaining the availability and usability of the information by, for example, defining metadata and updating technical hierarchies and functional locations.
When used and managed properly, tools and systems provide an excellent way to harmonize documentation practices. In many cases, the operations and plant maintenance staff have limited visibility into the plant equipment’s current state due to poor documentation practices. This not only impacts staff productivity and efficiency but also creates a compliance risk as well as a risk of extended downtime if repairs are hindered by poor documentation.
2. Make change management rules easy to follow
To ensure that technical documentation and engineering information is consistent and accurate, you must specify rules and procedures for updating the data. You also need to make sure that everyone knows the rules and procedures and is aware of the importance of updating all relevant documents to reflect any changes made to the related assets. In some cases, it may not be enough to update existing documents but new documents must be created instead. Maintaining technical hierarchy and bill of materials (BOM) in a plant maintenance system is also required.
The Plant Manager in 2020
The Plant Manager in 2020
3. Improve the accuracy of your as-built and legacy data
Accuracy problems related to asset information are often connected to as-built documentation created during the installation and commissioning phases. As-built or red-pen information is required for new investments, modernizations, and upgrades, and should be updated to original drawings and documents.
Another common source for inaccuracies is legacy data that has not been maintained. Small upgrades to technical systems or equipment may not have been documented at all. This may lead to the need to double-check and verify the information before using it for maintenance planning or new investments.
4. Clarify the ownership of your asset information
Traditionally, asset information management has been considered a storage or an IT issue when in fact it is fundamentally a business challenge. Money invested in asset information management can usually be recouped many times over. The general principle is that technical information is owned by the business unit accountable for it. Accountability ensures that the agreed policies, procedures, and instructions are communicated and monitored properly. Every document and piece of information, that is, all intellectual property, should be identified and stored by the accountable organization.
5. Define roles and responsibilities
A common problem related to asset information management is that roles, responsibilities, and processes have not been properly defined. Information is seen both as something that belongs to everyone yet is no one’s property. This can be solved by setting governance policies, methodologies, and standards for all documentation. Examples of such standards include plant hierarchy, CAD methodology, templates, position numbering schemes, version control, and checking and approval procedures for publishing up-to-date information. These are particularly important in investment projects with large project organizations including various contractors and subcontractors. If the original documentation is defective or inaccurate, it is likely that the problems are compounded later on.