Podcast: What is 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 first episode of this series, we discuss Gail’s definition of asset management, why it’s so important in asset intensive industries and the problem with data silos and legacy systems

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Key topics covered (click to jump to the section)

  1. What is asset management?
  2. Why is asset management important?
  3. How does the business strategy inform an asset management strategy

  4. Getting started with Industry 4.0
  5. Improve PdM with maintenance data

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Hi, Gail, and welcome to the Trend Detection podcast. Thanks for joining us this afternoon, or this morning, it might be where you are. How are you today?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I'm well, thank you, and delighted to be here.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Thank you. It's been a great pleasure to see you on some of our live sessions as well. So, I thought it'd be great to bring you on to the podcast and dive into more detail into your background of asset management, which I know you've got a great deal of experience in. So, on that note, it'd be great if you could introduce yourself to our audience and yeah, just your background, really. Be great to hear it.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Yes. Well, I got started in this whole area of business, through maintenance. Being an advisor to a cross-functional user team, and then shifted into maintenance and reliability, and now asset management. So, it's been a very intense journey and one that has never bored me. And just so you know, my background is that of a mathematician, I'm not an engineer. So, that's really influenced how I approach problems.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: How does that give you a different perspective, I guess because that is interesting that you've got that background. How does that give you a different perspective on asset management?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Well, so I don't want to offend engineers, but engineers just want to build something and mathematicians want to solve problems. And, so, it's a different perspective and I've taken that into my management consulting career, where I've again, gone through that curve of maintenance reliability, and asset management.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Thought it'd be a good place to start, actually, and it might seem like it's quite a wide ranging question, so we could be talking about it for a while, but what actually is asset management in your eyes? How would you define that?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Asset management includes reliability and maintenance. Reliability and maintenance do not include asset management. So, asset management is really the governing pieces around assets, and the thought leadership has actually come out of the UK, from the publicly available specification 55, PAS 55, which was the foundation for the ISO standard, ISO 55,000 for asset management.

And one of the critical things that the ISO standard mandates requires is that an organization connect their asset management strategy to the strategy of their business. And that therefore puts asset management on the C-Suite Agenda, which is critical, I never thought I'd live long enough to see that. And we're also grateful that actually happened.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. Talking about the C-level agenda, I guess that's one reason why it's so important today, but yeah. So, why is asset management so important? Why is it so crucial?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Well, in an asset intensive industry, in all asset intensive industry, what are you going to do without the assets to produce the product or service that the organization's purpose and their mission is designed around?

So, taking care of their mission critical assets, actually is really important. And asset management really shifts that whole perspective of maintenance from a cost to an investment in the future.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And which... When you say asset intensive industries, I guess be interesting. Which industries, I guess, are the most asset intensive? I guess that's a good question.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Well, any industry that's dependent upon their assets to produce the product or service that their mission is designed around. So telecom, shipping, marine shipping, shipping of any kind, transportation, utilities, mining, aeronautics. So, in all these industries, defense, that's a big one where we're investing now, they're all very dependent upon these very expensive assets that need to be maintained.

When we talk about the airline industry, for example, that's precious, they're carrying precious cargo. So we don't want... We want those planes to be reliable, equal number of takeoffs, equal number of landings.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. Absolutely. And what interested me then as well as how important it is, you said to the business strategy as well, by linking it to business strategy and getting C-level engagement. So, maybe you could dive into that a little bit more, how does business strategy sort of inform the asset management strategy and vice versa?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I'm going to start by saying an organization, asset chance of organization, could have the best, the very best operational excellence strategy on the planet. And if it's not connected to the business strategy, it doesn't get a voice, it's not heard, it's not seen by the C-Suite, and it's important that executive sponsorship is there for managing these assets and taking care of them.

So, the business strategy really provides the alignment that is required to manage those assets properly. If we're not serving the business, if we're not contributing to the strategic objectives of the organization, why are we doing it?

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Exactly. I guess that's like any function of the business, if it's not aligned with the business strategy. But, how would you get buying, I guess from the C-level, what sort of tactics would you recommend in order to... Or strategies let's say, to engage the C-Suite in asset management activities?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: That's a great question, and the way I've answered that in my practice is, asking the C-Suite, what keeps them up at night? What's the problem that worries you, that you haven't been able to solve? And let's address that. And interestingly enough, in an asset intensive organization, those kinds of problems, very, very, very often lie within the asset portfolio.

So, once we capture the attention of the C-Suite, once we develop an operational excellent strategy to actually solve that problem, once we identify the problem and to develop the asset management strategy to solve it, and then the suite of initiatives and projects that we need to be able to fulfill those strategic asset objectives, we've got the C-Suite, they're going to be focused on those strategic objectives because that's how they're paid.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Absolutely. And so, I guess it's emphasizing those benefits of asset management as well, what the outcomes of good asset management, I guess, maybe you can explore that a little bit too.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Absolutely. And you've put your finger on the pulse, if you will. Ensuring that what we do actually has positive business outcomes, and hits the bottom line in a very positive way is what's really significant. And again, that's what shifts maintenance and all those activities to an investment.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And I know you've mentioned maintenance reliability sort of form part. So, I mean, what are the key differences because I guess some people might confuse the terms, predictive maintenance say, or, and asset management and reliability, how do they work apart and together? I guess, how do they work in tandem?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Well, you can't maintain your way to reliability. That's an interesting concept. You can be maintaining equipment, but maybe you're not doing the right thing, at the right time on the right piece of equipment. So again, it's that alignment and the other piece that's not well understood is that window to be able to close that gap between increasing reliability of your equipment, that piece is, that window is much larger if you design for reliability.

When you're actually designing the assets, you can design reliability into those assets. So, when those assets are actually built and commissioned, the operators and the maintainers actually have this window of moving into reliability, not this little window, it's pretty massive. And this is a concept that is not well understood or embraced by the design engineers yet.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yes. Is that something to look forward to in the future? I guess.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I hope so. One of the things that's really interesting about maintenance, nothing's really changed in the last 40 years, and that has a lot to do with culture, tradition, we've always done it that way. Don't rock my boat, I'm going to be retiring in three years. I don't want to change, it's fear of change. It's like we're different, managing your assets differently, managing your business differently. Yeah.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: In your experience, we touched on technology too much, but is that... I think haven't changed, does that also mean technological... If I could say it correctly, as well. Is it not embracing some of the technology and digital transformation and the benefits that can bring as well?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: Absolutely. And if we had five people in a room, and we asked them what their definition of digital twin or digital transformation would be, we would get five different definitions or explanations. So, that common vocabulary is important. So, we understand each other, we know what we're talking about.

Also, there's an education gap and there's... In some organizations there's the reluctance to hire consultants who are thought leaders, who can... they don't tell you what you want to hear, but tell you what you should be doing to change, to move, to close that gap between what your vision of the future is and where you are today.

Technology is... You've mentioned something extremely interesting as well. Technology is now becoming affordable. The things we talked about 20, 30 years ago, they're now doable, and that's very significant. Also, the pace of change is growing exponentially. And those organizations that do not embrace Industry 4.0, for example, digital transformation is certainly part of that.

We get more specific, we call it industrial transformation when we talk about asset intensive organizations. It's really important to understand what's happening with industrial internet of the things with big data analytics, with cloud and with mobile. Those four levers of change are literally turning business models upside down, and the influence that will have, it will change the way business operates, and it will change the way the maintainers and the technology people within your organization and outside your organization will work.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: I'm not sure, but we mentioned industry 4.0 is bound to come up in the conversation at some point, I guess, maybe a little bit earlier than I thought actually, but that is more... it's interesting.

So, there's been a lots of Industry 4.0 for a long time now, and I've actually been to events recently where they're introducing Industry 5.0, but from what you're saying is a lot of these organizations barely embrace industry 4.0, so the industry 5.0 is just, way, way... They've got to have the basis there. I guess.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I agree. I mean, we need to get grounded in Industry 4.0, and from my perspective, this is my personal opinion, I think Industry 4.0 is the way of the future for asset intensive organizations.

It's really about learning what that big picture is, attending events, reading, listening to podcasts, whatever you can do to educate yourself about what that really is and what it means to your organization is very important. Need to have that big picture and then start out with baby steps, and then build credibility with your success and take larger and larger pieces off to actually reach 4.0.

My opinion also is that, those organizations that do not embrace Industry 4.0, that stay stuck in tradition, they may never be able to catch up, they may be too far behind to catch up. It's really about survival.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. That's quite a stark statement really, isn't it? That they've sort of seen it, I guess they've sort of seen it walk by them and go, oh, I know what it is, but actually it could be too far and the distance for them to catch up, because obviously I guess we're rivals and competitors we're are already... Some might be well down the road much further than them.

So, it is... They've had a massive head start, but you mentioned about sort of taking some steps towards it, I mean, what would be the starting point, I guess for a company that's sort of maybe now started to think, oh, maybe we should be doing something with this Industry 4.0 stuff, but what would be the starting point for that? Where would they... What sort of things should they start thinking about?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: One very significant piece, is data, and every organization I've been in has a suite of legacy applications that are siloed. They're not... They might be interfaced occasionally, but there's no integration.

So, I'm not only talking about information technology, I'm talking about operational technology on the shop floor where there's much more money spent on technology to run the production process, to monitor the production process and also customer technology. We need to connect with the, that outside end view, because our customer is our source of revenue, and that's often overlooked. We can't afford breakdowns for example.

So, getting back to technology, those technology platforms have to be cleaned up, and that is a long journey. The legacy systems have to be updated, duplicated functionality, be resolved, between systems or among systems spreadsheets, throw them out.

I've seen too much of spreadsheet hell, excuse my language. It just doesn't make any sense, spreadsheets are not auditable. You can have a spreadsheet, I can have a spreadsheet, we've got some duplicate data there. My data will be different from yours, guaranteed. So, where's the authenticity in that data?

So, we need to drive towards an integrated information technology, operations technology, customer technology platform, mandatory. And so that's one place to have your eye on the ball. You've got to get started now. And again, getting back to solving that customer or that C-Suite problem is really important. We need to upgrade our skills, not only in the C-Suite in terms of education, but on the shop floor in our field staff. They're required to maintain more growing or more and more and more sophisticated equipment, have their certification, have their skills being updated? Likely not.

And we owe it to our employees to make sure they are ready for this transition, and they are able to handle current technology, they're able to keep our equipment reliable, they're able to understand what the regulations are and how to comply, they're able to understand how to reduce energy, they're able to understand, again, how to keep the equipment reliable so we can deliver on time, no breakdowns, but same for zero breakdowns. And that we want to influence our customer to be able to gain more market share. We have our competitive advantage to improve our profitability, close that value gap.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think it's funny, next question, while this was actually about how key integrating data is to get a clear picture of asset help, I think you've answered that quite nicely, unless there's anything you'd like to add to that point, because I completely get it as well, silo data, whether it's spreadsheets, legacy systems, that is a big undertaking to shift that to let's say, more modern systems that actually are designed to work with each other or at least be integrated or composable, is a new term I'm hearing a lot, have a minute to describe that concept.

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Gail Peterson, Fortig: Right. The other piece is that... And I've touched on this a little bit. The way organizations will operate will be very different. So, Niall, you're in the UK right now, I'm on the west coast of Canada, I can be managing my business here, you're doing the analysis on the equipment, you can see that, that equipment's going to fail, you're predicting failure.

I don't want my equipment to fail, but you are doing the analysis, so you're going to make sure those parts are at my business, you're going to make sure the technicians are there to do it, to perform the work. You're going to make sure the work order's been created to actually make this happen, and you're going to make sure that production gives you the time when you're there to actually make that replacement and prevent breakdown.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  That's actually interesting, because I think we're varying into the territory of what's defined as equipment as a service and it's an offer, it's something we've been talking about.

I know you've been on webinars as well, we've discussed that offering. So, what's your view on sort of equipment as a service and the technology required to sort of implement that? Or, and how... Sorry, multiple questions here, but yeah. How are companies in a good place to be able to start embracing that sort of concept? Or is there more education required as you mentioned sort of before?

Gail Peterson, Fortig: I think... Well, there are certain automation companies that have seen this vision say, 10 years ago, and they've made significant investment in technology to be able to move towards that equipment as a service. And I think we're going to see more and more and more of that. It makes sense. That's what... Who knows that equipment better than the firm that actually created it? Built it?

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Yeah. Everything you said, because you've mentioned a lot about the customer experience, I guess it feeds a lot into that, it's offering a the end customer better service, but also it's those new revenue streams that are creating as well so not just selling a product but actually a service on top of the product to achieve more recurring revenue, like in the SaaS world where since I, and up similar companies are based.

Gail Peterson, Fortig: They are a really good example of that. It's not just about the price, the cost of the initial vehicle, it's about the amount of money you as an owner pay to have that car serviced and reliable, every time you turn the key on it starts, takes you to your destination and you turn the key off, you want that reliability. But the amount that you invest maybe to be able to having in tires and oil and whatever else you need to do to that car. Regular servicing, making sure that, you're taking care of that asset, that's where the investment is, that's where the big dollars are spent or after the asset is commissioned.


Improving PdM With Maintenance Data

Moving from a reactive to a Predictive Maintenance approach requires a change of mindset and structure within an organization. From the top down, the focus must shift to one of continuity and efficiency through the use of data and technology.

Technology is a core enabler of Predictive Maintenance, whether collecting, analyzing, transferring or responding to machine data to keep machinery running; as such, the role of the IT team has never been more critical.

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