Podcast: A deep dive into asset management - With Gail Peterson

Welcome to the Trend Detection podcast, powered by Senseye, an industry leader in using AI to drive scalable and sustainable asset performance and reliability. This is a new publication designed to help you go away with ideas on how to achieve maintenance efficiencies.


For this 3-part series, I’m joined by Gail Peterson, founder of Fortig, a company that helps organizations get the maximum value from their investment in assets by embracing Industry 4.0.

In the final episode of this series, we look at the key innovators in asset management, the types of data that is critical to collect when monitoring assets at scale and how organizations can go about digitizing their asset management strategy. You can listen to episodes one here and two here.

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Key topics covered (click to jump to the section)

  1. Who are the innovators in asset management?
  2. The key data sources for gaining real asset insights
  3. How to digitize an asset management strategy
  4. Improving PdM with maintenance data

Gail Peterson, Fortig: So speaking the same language, we have to speak with the same breakdown, so we know how these plants actually compare and where the upgrades need to happen, where we need to predict more improvement on one plant than we do in another. These are all very deep issues that we need to think about.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Absolutely. Absolutely. I just wanted to shift the conversation slightly. I wanted to look at examples of innovation within asset management, and maybe you've got some specific examples. We talked about some of the problems. I really want to focus on some of the real, who are the innovators out there and what are they doing? I'm really intrigued to know.


Gail Peterson, Fortig: Well, I know this podcast is being sponsored by Senseye, but I really think that Senseye is one of the innovators.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Oh, thank you very much.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Cutting edge thinking. Leading edge thinking. And it's refreshing. It's exciting to see. I once wrote a paper and the title of the paper was Reliability and Maintenance, and where all the eyes were, I put a dash and then the subtitle of the paper was, "What's missing? Oh, it's the eye for innovation."

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Oh, wow.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Innovation is sometimes paralleled with risk taking. So the risk that my organization is willing to take will be different from yours. We have to know what that risk tolerance is. We also have to know the risk of not innovating, what the cost of that is because the cost of not making a decision is really making a decision as well. Where is innovation coming? Well, energy. With a lot of talk of electronic vehicles, a lot of talk of energy supply. Green. Green. Green steel, green cement.

It was only recently that I learned that the big deal in steel and cement in terms of emissions is really the chemical process in the making of these products, where they're released into the atmosphere. And we've got to make sure that we start striving towards net zero in terms of climate change. A lot of the climate crisis is going to induce a lot of focus on responsibility, sustainability, greenhouse gases, how we run our companies, how clean we are, how green we are, what sort of social citizens we are. Citizens of the planet.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: I guess a great deal of that burden's placed on asset intensive industries. A lot of those industries you mentioned previously carry a lot of that burden, I guess.

Because I actually recently interviewed a person in the metals and mining space and he said there's a contradiction there between, we need to mine stuff like for example, for our phones, for our laptops and stuff that people just maybe naturally they're the big evils against sustainability, but then there's a balance there, like I say because the needs of the world. So it's not as cut and dry, maybe even as I thought before speaking to them. It's a difficult journey to go on.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I completely agree with you. There are a lot of very difficult, complex issues in front of us right now. And you mentioned one, that's really critical mining. We need those minerals, but to get those mineral is a difficult process. Yeah.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Actually, I'm just looking at my next question. It goes towards data again. But it reminded me because in that conversation also, there was a case of having, in metal and mining particularly, where we have much data, but we just don't know what to do with it, or how can we get the most out of this data? Are there examples? I know we talked about different stages of that digitization journey, but is that a key consideration as well, where actually having too much data is an issue and they don't quite know what to do with it?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Yeah. I completely agree with you. We need data historians to filter the data. We need artificial intelligence algorithms to make sense of it. And then machine learning to actually evolve it. The thing that worries me, we need measurement. We need to know if that sensor that's giving me data, did it die? Is that what happened? Or does it need calibrating? Or is it really telling me something worthwhile, where I've got a tolerance of set points and it's not behaving properly? So what's the true story?

We need to have those maintainers investigate and harvest that information. We need data historians. We need to get that information from wherever. You're right, the volume is too much, so we've got to filter it down. Edge computing, all of those tools.

Again, we're talking about innovation, we're talking about new technology, we're talking about cloud. Doing the analysis in the cloud. And partnering. There's billions of dollars being spent on the industrial internet of things, moving towards that industry 4.0. Billions. So why would I, in my company, try to duplicate that effort? It doesn't make sense. I'm not going to be able to stay on the front. I'm not going to be able to compete. So I'm going to partner intelligently and powerfully with a company that I trust that can take me into the future.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. So it's actually, for want of a better term, it's about building the enterprise ecosystem, I guess.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Yes. Yes.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And software platform, it's a different level. You can't go in isolated anymore. It feels like at the enterprise level, you have to go in, say either, "We're partners," or at least you can say, "Oh no, we can integrate easily with this system, this system, this system," et cetera. That's a key component of it, I guess.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Absolutely. Absolutely. I can't agree more. Yes.


Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And what are the sort of data sources that are key getting real insights? Actually, what I didn't mention then, which I wanted to mention, it's about saying the volume of data, but it's about context is the key. And it's what we find is key. It's great having got lots of data, temperature, vibration, but if you don't have the context around... That's where the real gold is, I guess.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I'm going to step back and say that when equipment is designed and built, so I've got an idea, I'm going to design it, I'm going to build it and I'm going to commission it. So as my feasibility, my specifications, my design, my build, those are all three different states of an asset, and I commission it. So as the engineering firm responsible for that aspect of the life cycle of the asset, I walk away. I'm going on to the next project.

Now, as the owner of that asset, I've got the asset. What about the information about the asset? You guys built it. You know everything about that asset, you know what the equipment is, you know who you bought it from, you know the OEM numbers, you know the spare parts attached to it, you know how it was put together, you know how it was shipped. You know everything. You know the vendors.

If I, as the owner, have to regather that information, I will never gather it to the level of integrity that that data has if I, as the owner, require that information to be commissioned at the same time the asset is commissioned and in a format, that I can load it into my enterprise asset management system or computerized maintenance management system. Or I might ask for a bundle that it be already loaded into one of those systems. If I have to regather it, it's going to cost me millions and I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever attain that level of integrity.

So that's one piece of asset information that is absolutely essential and it does provide context. Another thing that provides context is what's critical? We need to look at the principles of reliabilities on our maintenance. Ask the questions. How does this equipment fail? What are the failure modes? What's the risk of downtime failure? The costs are not just the cost of repairing that piece of equipment. It's the production cost. It's the cost of my customer, because I'm not going to be able to deliver on time. So it's understanding that big picture and that context.

Knowing what data, well, that relates a lot to the criticality of the equipment or what happened and what business risk it's imposing on me. If I'm transferring chemicals from a train load to a tank, so the train's just come in, filled with chemicals, I've got a hose, a pump and I'm pumping it into a tank and that pump breaks and I've got chemicals all over, that's pretty serious. That's pretty serious. So I have to know what sort of failures are going to threaten my... What level of severity they have and who needs to be involved to help me out with solving this problem.

Your vendor's a very good source of information. They have troubleshooters. These guys are amazing. These men and women are fantastic at being able to help you solve problems. I don't want this kind of accident to threaten my license to operate, so it's really that big picture understanding of what happens and what data I need and what I need to do about it when I do have problems.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. No, it was interesting what you said about downtime because we did quite a big report last year about the cost of unplanned downtime across multiple industries.

But one of the things that came out of it for me, as someone relatively new at that time to the industry, is actually how it was... Lose my train of thought. No, it was how... Oh, you know when you lose your train of thought sometimes? Well, might have to come back to that, but it was... Might have to edit this.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: You might be referring to the impact of that downtime.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. No, that was it. So it's not just the direct impact of downtime and it going down and that's the cost of stock production, but it's the impacts that you don't initially measure on your reputation or whether you broken contractual agreements with customers or, and just negative PR in general.

So it's just interesting because often downtime, I think is seen as a straight production stops and then you're losing X amount an hour. But there's other hidden costs, which probably have a longer term impact on the bus.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: You've mentioned something very interesting. So we have the asset portfolio at the hub, and that asset portfolio is actually supported by four other assets. One is our people. So we've talked about their skills. Another is finance. We want them to understand what's happening with our assets and what our financial needs are, both CAPEX and OPEX.

The other is technology and data. So we've talked a lot about that. The piece that you mentioned was intangibles, the impact on our reputation, on our brand. And that's huge. So thank you for raising that. That's great. Thank you.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: That's all right. I got there in the end. It was in there somewhere, but I just couldn't find the words for some reason, which is strange for someone hosting a podcast, but there we go. So I just wanted to look ahead to the future.

We talked about it briefly as well about companies being at different stages of digitization. So how do companies that aren't in an early stage, let's say, how do they start to digitize their asset management strategy? And importantly, what's the impact of them not doing it?


Gail Peterson, Fortig: So the how is really a matter of awareness first. You can't do anything without awareness. "Oh, I need to do something? I do?" Make me aware of the challenges. Make me aware of the benefits as you've mentioned as well. What do I need to do to get there? How long is this journey? What are the components? The dangers of not being aware. This train is in motion and it's moving slowly at the moment, but it is moving. It's gathering speed. It's beginning to accelerate. And if I'm not aware, if I'm comfortable in my traditional way of operating and I wake up late to the game or I don't wake up at all... If I wake up late, I may not be able to catch up. I may not be able to afford to catch up. The gap may be too large. So there's a huge risk, I think, in ignoring what's happening today, or maybe not even being aware of what's happening today and the impact on my future as an organization.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Do you also think it'll be a generational thing as well? So not say, as the old older generation retires and a younger, more tech-advanced generation comes in, that it'll just naturally be more like, "Well, what are we doing here? Why aren't we connecting assets? Why aren't we connecting all our data and getting some real insights here and sharing it in this system and this system and collaborating using this system?" Is it something as simple as that, or is that too simplified a response?

Gail Peterson, Fortig:  I think that generation gap you refer to is very interesting. Again, I'm an older employee, I don't want to change. I'm fearful of change. I'm not that comfortable with technology. So you have to show me what's in it for me, and then I would be very interested in being engaged. Our new fresh, young, we need youth. We need youth. They've grown up in the digital world, with gaming and collaboration, and all that, it's going to be expected.

They're going to be looking for those companies that will give them those kinds of opportunities because they're not going to be happy being stuck in the traditional culture. So that gap is really, really interesting, and it's non-trivial, and it speaks to the different way that organizations will operate. You talked about equipment as a service, young people are going to get that immediately. That's my opinion.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. So it won't be education, it'll be just like, "Well, we should be doing this." Or actually, "Why aren't we doing in this?" And we've talked about before, stakeholders and the drive within the organization for change, maybe there's a new generation that's going to do that within these organizations.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Yes. So they'll be demanding something different, that's for sure. They'll be looking for something different, looking for something that is digitally enabled, for sure.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Actually, it's something I wanted to mention earlier because it is interesting as well, when we're talking about getting buy-in from different stakeholders. I think a lot of us work for companies, large companies maybe, where you've been from a high level maybe, with little involvement from other stakeholders that says, "You've got to use this system. We've purchased this system for millions of dollars, pounds, whatever, and you must use this system." And maybe a newer generation would be even less open to that. They'll be challenging that even more. Actually, what's your opinion? Rather than my opinion, it'd be good to hear your view on that.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Well, again, you're touching on a very interesting aspect of the lifecycle of the asset, I think. One of my experiences with that is the maintainers and operators were not involved in the design of the facilities that they had to manage once those assets, those facilities were commissioned. This isn't funny. You would get situations where maintainers could not get at the equipment because the design, there was a pipe in the way, that was not designed for maintainability.

And the same thing speaks to all the changes that are happening is that we need that big picture. We need that total cost of ownership view. We need to collaborate across the lifecycle of the asset, which as you say, with all the stakeholders of the asset and understand where we're going, what we want to achieve, what those business outcomes are going to be, that we, as a C-suite, are set on fulfilling.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Oh, absolutely. While we're talking about a future generation, looking ahead, what I was going to ask is what will an asset-intensive world look like in five to 10 years in your view? Looking into the crystal ball, what sort of changes will be made? What will be the challenges? What will be the new focuses, et cetera?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Five to 10 years is a long time. What I can say with certainty, it'll be very different. The other piece that I want to emphasize is at the end of the day, the lights out factory, I don't think will be a reality. We always will need people. They will be doing things differently, they'll be in different roles, but we always need people. That's a good thing. We want to make their lives easier.

So with predicting failure, that's cool. It makes my life easier. I don't want to deal with a breakdown. I want to make sure that piece of equipment does not break down. So with products such as Senseye are producing, that's all goodness. That changes my future. It makes my life easier.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  So it'll be the embracing from a Senseye perspective, hopefully that's the case, but more embracing of these types of tools, if they're not so already. And obviously, we're seeing that already, but it'll be even more obvious that it'll become even more of a necessity. I guess it won't be an optional thing, it'll be, "No. Actually, we do need this technology in order to keep our competitive advantage," on that side of things.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Absolutely. Again, building that awareness is key to being and to even think about it or solve that problem and move towards that vision.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Actually, on that note, I don't need to be biased towards Senseye here, but which technologies will be at the forefront of that innovation? So which technology is going to be absolutely crucial to driving asset management forward in the next few years?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I think this shift is already happening to modularization of these massive suites of ERP or EAM or CMS systems. They're going to be modularized and I'm going to pick and choose which ones suit me, and they're all going to fit together like Lego or like a puzzle. That's, I think one shift that's going to happen for sure. It's already starting, there are already some leaders in the industry that are doing that. It's a loaded question.

Yeah. I'm not sure there are definitive clear answers yet. It's the evolving turf, that's for sure.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  I guess what you'd also say just, just on that is in five years' time, who knows what technology is going to be available then. Maybe augmented reality is often talked about the next frontier. So is that going to be at the center? But again, it's about what we talked about before, it's about joined up systems and integrated systems as well, so none of these... That's probably more, the key is that system shouldn't be working in isolation of each other, whether it's across a plant or multiple plants, it should be a completely joined up enterprise.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Right. You mentioned augmented reality. I was witness to a demonstration by Japan Airlines some years ago, where jet engine, and take it apart virtually, the sensors have information on them, so they become devices. So I don't have to rely on my people, or I don't actually provide that information, it's right here at my fingertips. I know how to disassemble it. I know how to reassemble it. So it's going to make that complex jet engine much easier for me to reassemble properly, to repair it properly, to disassemble it properly. These are all amazing tools. Again, make my life easier. Make my life easier. And they're becoming affordable.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Yeah. That's at the heart of it, isn't it? "Make my life easier," you said there. Yeah. Ultimately, any system's got to do that in order to become invested in it and want to use it. You're not going to use a system that's cumbersome and it doesn't have the value.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: No

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  It really is as simple as that. I just wanted to finish, and I know you dived into it a little bit earlier on about sustainability. So I just wanted to finish on that and talk about how that relates to an asset management strategy, both now and in the future. Again, asking to look ahead a bit, but we could focus on the now and what companies are doing at the minute to integrate that into their strategy.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I think it's a huge driver. A huge driver. And it is going to be a greater driver. It's a huge driver, especially for asset intensive organizations, industries. It's going to be top of mind. The C-suite is going to have to be accountable to their board of directors and to their community and to the globe. It's a huge driver. Thank you for mentioning that.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Fine. No problem.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: It's a big deal. It's a big deal.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Yeah. I guess sustainability, if we're talking, what's the biggest stakeholder of all, some might say, but again, it's something driven from the C-suite. So as a C-suite, let's say initiative, how do they drive the importance of that to stakeholders below the new organization?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: If you look at triple bottom line, so I have environment, social and finance, that's a great place to start. So I've got responsibility to my community, I've got responsibility to the environment, I've got responsibility to my shareholders in terms of profitability, and to my employees, make sure that they are safe and that they have well paying jobs to support their families.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  That's it. That's a nice summary. No, fantastic. So yeah, it's been really great to speak to you, Gail, today. Really, really interesting. I think it would be a good way to finish, how do people find out more about you and what you do? And where to find more information about you would be good.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Thank you. I'm the creator of Fortig, which is an asset performance accelerator, and it is designed to unlock the value of existing assets. It's the end-to-end business processes, top to bottom business process, connected with integrity. Gives you visibility, traceability back to the strategic objectives and line of sight. So it's the digital twin of the organization. So if we twin that digital twin with the digital twin of the production process, now we've really got power. Now we've really got insight. Now we can really inform our business leaders who have to respond to external threats, who have to respond to this changing environment. They can do so with information and with certainty. And my management consulting practice, Datamasters Software House, we are a boutique consulting arm and specialized in assisting asset intensive organizations be the best they can be.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Fantastic. Well, it's been, again, really great to speak to you, Gail. Thanks for coming on the podcast. Yeah. Thank you very much.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: It's been my pleasure, Niall. You've been a great host. Thank you.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Thank you.

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