The rapid growth of Australia's energy sector has presented enormous new opportunities for industry players, as demonstrated by the range of projects underway.
From traditional coal and gas-fired power stations through to CSG-LNG exports.
But this proliferation also presents a growing risk for all companies involved – the underutilisation and improper management of their burgeoning, expensive and geographically-diverse assets.
More than ever, proper asset management remains the key to ensuring companies remain competitive in the commercial market.
Major players in Australia's energy industry have been quick to embrace computerised maintenance management software (CMMS) to keep up with the changing priorities in this asset rich environment.
But as the industry continues to transform and evolve, there is a growing need for CMMS which is more than just a mechanism to capture data, asset details and maintenance strategies.
Asset management strategies and processes need to be constantly challenging the status quo and striving for best practice, while at the same time remaining vigilant with costs of production and maintenance, as well as plant and staff safety.
Ultimately, companies in the energy sector need their CMMS to work for, rather than against, them by ensuring it meets the following four effectiveness checks.
Check One – Connectability
Few players in the energy sector operate in a single location, yet there is a need for centralised reporting. Individual maintenance departments on each site require a CMMS through which they can organise, schedule and complete scheduled and planned work as well as adhoc repairs.
At the same time, a central location needs to be able to analyse the results of the work order history and review assets and compare their failure codes to find any commonality between failure types of similar equipment. The most effective CMMS aligns different business units to common standards, regardless of the geographic area covered.
Check Two - Adaptability
Having computerised maintenance management software integrated with broader business management systems (eg accounting, human resources) sounds great on paper. However, this eventually limits the organisation when change occurs and in the dynamic energy sector, change is guaranteed which means any alterations to the CMMS means a costly and unappealing upgrade to the entire business management system.
The ideal CMMS still needs to integrate with the organisation's existing IT infrastructure, but, so it can be quickly and cost-effectively adapted to suit the changing business, it also operates best as a stand-alone module.
Check Three - Mobility
Diverse geographic locations and transient workforces demand mobility. Desktop computers are no use to anyone working in more than one location. Mobile devices, such as iPads and iPhones, are increasingly being integrated into business operations.
In fact, worldwide mobile device sales grew 13.8% in the second quarter of 2010 but there is a dilemma as many CMMS systems have not been designed for these devices. For example, many CMMS use Flash and Java which have limitations - particularly on Apple devices which don’t recognise these platforms at all.
With this in mind, companies need to identify computerised maintenance management software which uses Microsoft's Silverlight, a free web browser add-on, similar to Flash or Java, which is powered by the Microsoft .NET framework and is more compatible and interactive than their competitors.
Silverlight also offers greater graphic capability and its compatibility with mobile devices allows for enhanced visual representations of assets and maintenance while on the move.
Check Four - Information capture and decision making
It is the insights afforded by accurate reporting of assets, their performance and their maintenance, which provide the true cost savings for businesses. As a result, a CMMS needs to be robust so that it captures information from people from all locations and roles, but also needs to be user-friendly to accommodate diverse workforces.
This information then needs to be easily accessed so that decision makers can clearly see current assets, their maintenance history, costs, measures of how well the organisation is managing its assets and areas of weakness. Those energy industry players who can access and act on this information will be those who remain competitive by keeping a reign on their growing asset base, and its associated maintenance and cost.