There is a great deal more to maintenance and asset management than just switching on or choosing a system and getting it installed. And with web sites, the Internet, intranets and email, there is now a family of new and powerful enablers that opens up the potential of maintenance systems to a much wider audience. And, in turn, the wider audience to new levels of asset management – with instant access. This is a serious new opportunity for both manufacturers and, importantly, their customers. The mechanisms used within a CMMS (computerised maintenance management system) and asset management for maintaining your own plant and equipment could now equally well be used to manage a wider range of items on your own sites (in multiple locations), or products that your company has sold. Why not offer maintenance management as part of an added value service, for example? Once the problem of storing information and moving it around reliably has been solved, there are many other opportunities. More information from more sources certainly doesn’t mean you can cut corners with your system. The Internet is a means not an end so, for example in shipping, some carriers now collect condition monitoring data during a voyage, and regularly e-mail a compressed package of information back to base for analysis. Bulk carriers do this so that equipment can be monitored and maintained using a central pool of skills that would not otherwise be available. When the loss of something like a pump could cost the owner $100,000/day, then even relatively simple techniques can make a big difference. “There’s a big opportunity for businesses to expand in that area,” says Charlie Andrews, reliability services manager for Rockwell Automation Entec Condition Monitoring. “Rather than train your own people, you can use a centralised pool of skills. The experience is needed when you’re setting up the system. We collect information using email, analyse it and post the results on secure web pages for each of the customer’s vessels. This way we can do regular planned maintenance for customers’ vessels, including the on-shore purchasing requirements.” One of the keys to success with centralised asset management of this nature is that there should only be a single source of information. Which means a single source of documents and a single repository for asset maintenance data – something that companies sometimes find difficult to achieve. The benefits of this approach are illustrated by the work that BAe Systems has done using a central database to manage several aspects of maintenance across British Aerospace sites spread throughout the country. This system, based on the MP5i CMMS from Datastream, has been implemented by having a team agree best practice, then adopting that as the standard. “Our requirements were for maintenance management and asset tracking,” says Steve Smith, specialist engineer at BAe Systems. “We chose the system to do a job, and we’ve been rolling it out for three years. We started with maintenance on six sites, which covered 10 businesses, and got a small group together and put aside two days a week to look at processes. “We asked ‘How do you plan your work?’, and picked out the best practice, and configured MP5i to work that way. So we analysed our processes and tailored the software to suit, rather than it dictating to us how to work. MP5i has an API and we can link it to anything; we’ve developed bar-code readers and fault-loggers so anyone can log a job and submit it so it can be allocated.” BAe maintenance staff were empowered to come up with the best processes for maintenance – and the benefits were instant. Then the firm moved on to tool asset management, which is critical in the aerospace industry. Documents that control processes are all on the Internet, so by accessing a common database across the net, and putting a reliable source of complex information there too, the company is getting a major benefit from relatively uncomplicated use of an available resource.