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Control Your Master Data to Avoid Operational Inefficiencies

by Steve Yeager | insiderPROFILES

October 1, 2012

For oil and gas, utilities, food and beverage, and other manufacturing industries, an effective maintenance program is essential to ensure reliable equipment operation. But without complete and accurate master data, the ability to plan and execute preventative and emergency maintenance activities can be difficult. To help companies with this potential problem, BackOffice Associates offers cMass for EAM.

Business operations in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals, aerospace, automotive, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and other manufacturing industries require significant investments in expensive, complex equipment. For a company in any of these industries to thrive, its equipment must operate to its full potential each and every day.

An effective maintenance program is integral to ensuring robust and reliable equipment operation. Such programs can be designed around and enabled by SAP’s Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software and executed through the plant maintenance (PM) functionality of SAP ERP. However, without complete and accurate master data, the ability to plan and execute both preventive and emergency maintenance activities can be compromised, resulting in operational inefficiencies and an increased risk of equipment failure, which can have disastrous consequences. 

For example, when spare parts are not associated with operating equipment in PM master data records, there is no guarantee that the parts will be available for repairs, which may lead to extended outages. When equipment is not properly classified as critical, preventive maintenance may not be planned and executed, which may cause the entire operating unit to fail. At a production site or refinery, major equipment failures can cost thousands or even millions of dollars a day in lost product and potential revenue — costs companies cannot afford to absorb. In addition to safeguarding against such operational losses, every company has a regulatory, and moral, obligation to prevent equipment failures that can cause safety hazards. Further, if a company has no maintenance plan in place for OSHA-designated safety-critical equipment in its US-based operations, it can be subject to substantial regulatory fines.

Maintenance Plans Depend on Equipment Data

Comprehensive equipment information in PM master data records in the SAP system is key to creating equipment maintenance plans. As a company acquires equipment and places it into service — either by construction or by purchase — several important master data elements must be recorded. The asset acquisition process records basic information about the equipment, such as cost and financial asset class, in the fixed asset ledgers to allow calculation of the company’s asset base and to enable booking of depreciation. However, the ongoing maintenance execution and planning process requires more detailed data at two different levels.

A higher, functional-level equipment record containing a number of attributes must be created by your equipment maintenance and reliability specialists in the SAP system to serve as the object associated with breakdown notifications, work orders, and maintenance plans. To enable its use in maintenance processes, the equipment record must be:

  • Associated with a functional location (FLOC) record, so the physical placement and connections of the equipment are known to the maintenance function
  • Classified by its criticality (the ABC indicator) to drive company policy requirements for maintenance plans, such as every critical piece of equipment must have a preventive maintenance plan or all critical equipment must have all components held in stock at the local storehouse at all times
  • Associated with various HR records to identify and assign people who are qualified for particular maintenance activities
  • Classified as subject (or not subject) to OSHA safety regulations to determine if there are additional legal requirements for the maintenance planning process
  • Associated with a cost center to ensure that maintenance costs are properly represented in the financial systems
  • Described appropriately in both descriptive texts and in the material classification system, so users of the maintenance system can find the appropriate equipment record
  • Associated with any non-SAP systems storing integral information — such as engineering drawings, equipment images, and vendor-supplied specifications and procedure documents — to make this information available to the maintenance process

When breakdown notifications and maintenance work orders are created at the equipment level, the SAP system can use the data from the equipment record to support the calculation of maintenance KPIs (for example, the average time between failures), which can be used to analyze and improve maintenance processes and even the operating unit design. Performing the actual maintenance, however, requires additional information.

In addition, maintenance-system master data records need to be created to document the different parts that comprise the functional level piece of equipment. The component part level is where maintenance activities are usually performed, recorded, analyzed, and planned for: parts are replaced in breakdown situations or are serviced as part of planned maintenance (for example, change a filter, lubricate a moving part, calibrate an instrument, or replace a high-wear part before failure). Each parts record is associated with the equipment record through the creation of an equipment or bill of materials (BOM). A single piece of equipment may have dozens of parts, each of which would require its own material record with, potentially, classification, storage, purchase, and other information, presenting a substantial challenge to the process to collect master data.

Maintenance plans should be created as soon as possible after the creation of the equipment and parts records to ensure that the new equipment is well maintained from the start and to meet legal requirements (if the equipment is an OSHA safety-regulated item) or company policy requirements (if the equipment is critical to the operation of the unit). A maintenance plan based on inaccurate or incomplete information, however, is risky at best. To achieve a reliable plan, you need quality data.

Ensure PM Master Data Quality

The maintenance process requires a great deal of coordinated master data — an inescapable consequence of controlling and supporting complex business processes associated with complex physical environments.

Handling a large amount of interrelated data in a way that guarantees a high level of data quality can be challenging. Creating all of the material records and basic attributes, classifications and descriptions, relationships between the equipment and parts records, storage and acquisition information, and all of the maintenance planning data,  requires a concentrated effort. It also takes considerable business knowledge as well as a solid understanding of the SAP master data design and input mechanisms to ensure accurate and complete data. 

BackOffice Associates provides a purpose-built application — cMass for EAM — to help you maintain control over the PM master data process and achieve a high level of PM master data quality. The application handles the creation of maintenance material and enforces the collection of business-rule-required data attributes. The data collection is facilitated by a spreadsheet user interface, which can be directed to a single individual or divided into smaller collection templates across multiple business roles. Data is validated against the SAP configuration and additional company business rules as it is collected, to ensure that the data will load error free and with the necessary values to support the maintenance processes. Because cMass for EAM combines the data validation capabilities of a true application with a spreadsheet user interface that can handle multiple entries at once, maintenance users can easily and safely use the application to collect the master data that will drive their processes with a minimal learning curve.

Maintain an Efficient Maintenance Process

Inaccurate master data can cause the maintenance process to be inefficient, unnecessarily costly, and ineffective, which in turn contributes to poor equipment performance and increased frequency of breakdowns. BackOffice Associates helps you improve the quality of your PM master data to enable you to run an effective maintenance program, and derive the full value from your business investment.

For more information on how BackOffice Associates can help you empower your business, contact us at or visit us at   


Steve Yeager, Data Governance Engagement Partner at BackOffice Associates, has 35 years of experience in information technology and related functions. Prior to joining BackOffice Associates, he spent over 30 years working in various controllers management, systems planning, data architect, and project management roles with ExxonMobil. He was instrumental in developing BackOffice Associates Active Data Governance applications, which provide for the collaborative support and control of the master data process. He holds a BA degree from the University of Texas and MA and MBA degrees from the University of Chicago. 

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