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What’s the Weakest Link in Your Company’s Operations? The Surprising Answer That Will Improve the Reliability of Your Assets and Reduce Maintenance Outages

by Bil Khan | SAPinsider

October 1, 2010

Does your content work for or against you? To manage unstructured content that could actually hurt your business, you’ll need a comprehensive enterprise risk management strategy that outlines everything from who has access to this content and when it should be destroyed. Learn the measurable benefits of keeping all of your content in one place with SAP Extended Enterprise Content Management, and how this tool can help you identify and leverage valuable content.
 

The impact of equipment failures and plant outages on a company’s bottom line can be more devastating than one might imagine. Initially, because production capabilities are reduced or even shut down, the company’s top-line revenue plummets. Then, the cost to produce additional product units increases for two reasons: Although the production volume shrinks, the fixed costs per unit won’t; and there’s been an unplanned increase in the cost of maintenance.

On top of all of this, equipment and plant-related problems can lead to even bigger issues: heightened risk of environmental damages, increased legal and compliance costs, greater risk to maintenance workers’ safety, and brand deterioration. A company’s only defense is to ensure higher equipment reliability and shorter maintenance outages. But how?

The answer might surprise you. It’s better content management.

What Does Content Management Have to Do with Plant Maintenance?

Collecting, storing, and retrieving content is critical to resolving an unplanned equipment failure. For example, vibration analysis, non-destructive testing results, and digital images should all be stored with the equipment data. This way, maintenance planners can more easily analyze relevant information to determine what improvements the regularly scheduled maintenance needs and to then improve the maintenance frequency.

For instance, images of failed components stored in an equipment data file can cause the epiphany moment that makes you change the required lubrication frequency of a machine, thus extending the component’s run life. And having access to the history of vibration analysis results can mean that companies can replace a bearing before it fails, ensuring a shorter, planned outage rather than a lengthy, unplanned repair that might also cause collateral damage.

The Benefits of Keeping All Your Content in One Place

To easily store and organize their asset data, companies can take advantage of the SAP Extended Enterprise Content Management (SAP Extended ECM) application by Open Text. This application helps users easily find relevant information from within SAP solutions, as well as store and retrieve information garnered from analysis, testing, and maintenance work. Let’s look at some key benefits of this solution.

Empower Teams to Improve Collaboration

Operational business processes — for plant maintenance and equipment failure analysis, for example — stretch across departments, divisions, regions, and even different organizations. SAP Extended ECM allows you to include all appropriate stakeholders, both within and outside of the organization, in collaborative processes that make it easy to track any information gathered along the way.

For project teams — a team responsible for equipment failure analysis, for example — SAP Extended ECM enables collaboration with features such as project team workspaces, discussion forums, collaborative approval workflows, tasks, and polls. For projects including external stakeholders, SAP Extended ECM expands that capability, allowing you to set up secure extranet environments and workspaces in which to share documents (see Figure 1). Because the interface is web-based, all that your external stakeholders need is a browser and their user name and password to become integrated into your processes.

Figure 1 An analysis workspace — created in SAP Extended ECM — in which both internal and external project stakeholders can collaborate

Improve Incident Management

SAP Extended ECM can also help companies in the area of investigation and learning. Many events — including production losses, injuries, and spills — result in incident investigations. The interviews, photographic evidence, risk assessments, and resulting recommendations can all provide useful information that companies should analyze to improve their processes. The ability to access this information — both from recent reports and from years past — enables companies to see patterns and predict future outcomes. It lets the organization be more proactive in reducing its number of incidents.

Exploring these reports to glean insight is the key to reducing production outages. Too often, however, the case is either that there is not enough time to conduct this exercise or that the results are lost in the overwhelming volume of information stored within the organization. SAP Extended ECM makes these insights much more accessible, allowing users to effectively use their own data points to improve maintenance work packages and safe operating procedures.

SAP Extended ECM also complements the functionality of other SAP products, such as SAP ERP and the SAP Service and Asset Management solution. And because it integrates SAP and non-SAP content, SAP Extended ECM provides a central view of all information (see sidebar).

Reduce Risk and Litigation Costs While Meeting Compliance Requirements

Pressure vessels, valves, furnaces, and heavy machinery all come with relatively high risks of injury, fatality, and negative environmental impact if something should go wrong. On top of that, citizens have higher expectations for industries to be responsible, governments are keeping a closer watch, and industry regulations are growing and tightening. Accountability is also increasing as the impacts of failures are well publicized and the penalties for non-compliance are on the rise.

To prove their compliance, companies must keep accurate corporate records. But this can be easier said than done. Many companies lack the proper tools for effective records management. SAP Extended ECM’s records management capabilities enable an organization to implement a content lifecycle management program that makes records-keeping part of every business process. With this tool, users can identify corporate records and then manage their retention, change control, access, and ultimate destruction as per legislative requirements.

This tool also fulfills regulations that require auditable content control and retention. The records management capability of SAP Extended ECM is certified for compliance with the US Department of Defense 5015.2 regulation on records management.

Make Your Content Work for You, Not Against You

The exponential growth of unmanaged, unstructured content related to a company’s plant maintenance and enterprise asset management activities is a growing risk. If you don’t know where your unstructured content is, who has access to it, if it still has value, or whether it should be destroyed, these uncertainties pose a tangible risk to your organization. Valuable content might not be fully leveraged, the wrong people may have access to it, or it may be lost in a disaster. Obsolete content may be kept unnecessarily, driving up storage costs and becoming problematic in the case of litigation.

To overcome these challenges and improve your enterprise asset management, consider using the many features and functions of SAP Extended ECM. For more information, please go to www.sap.com/solutions/solutionextensions/enterprise-content-management.

Bil Khan (bil.khan@sap.com) is an IT professional with a record of driving profitability, expanding market share, and spurring global growth for high-tech entities by implementing strategic and pragmatic programs and managing solution portfolios. He received his MBA in marketing from Pennsylvania State University and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Arkansas.

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