How Important Is Human Asset Performance Management ?

By Sharada Prahladrao

Asset performance management (APM) for operational excellence was discussed in-depth at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando.   Bruce Taylor, Director Digital Transformation, Sinclair Oil, looked at APM from a totally different perspective.  His presentation was not about APM technologies or ecosystems related to it, he spoke about what he believes actually generates benefit, and that is the human asset performance.  This blog captures the highlights of his presentation and the video can be watched here.

Importance of Asset Performance Management

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, privately held Sinclair Oil is a vertically-integrated oil company, involved in oil and gas exploration, refining (two refineries in Wyoming), pipeline and transportation, and sales & marketing.  Mr. Taylor expressed that he’s been “addicted to technology for over five decades.”  His journey began at NASA’s Skylab Apollo-Soyuz project, and later he moved on to Max Fugue's computation analysis and design, “working with technology, having to do things that hadn't been invented yet.”  With over 50+ years of implementing technology he understands the importance of asset performance management.  There are all kinds of programs, such as reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), predictive and prescriptive maintenance, and KPIs to measure mean time between failure, mean time between repair, etc.  Mr. Taylor stressed that more than the physical equipment what actually matters and makes a tangible difference is the human asset.  His experience has proven that even with the best of technologies/software the project will fail if the human asset doesn’t perform; but even with not so up-to-date software the project can succeed if the human asset is optimized. 

Asset performance management

Further, he asked the audience where they were on the path of human asset performance optimization and if they are able to develop an adaptable and innovative workforce.

Investing in Human Asset Performance

“Are you investing in your human assets/workforce?” asked Mr. Taylor.  Usually, there is massive investment made on technologies (machine learning, artificial intelligence) for fixed assets.   There has to be parity between investment on fixed assets and human assets, and these factors must be tied together, he explained.  “Because, physical asset performance is 100 percent tied to your human asset performance.”  Although the physical asset might be working at optimum level, many incident investigations reveal that somewhere in the process a human error/misjudgement caused a failure.    

Technology can also be a major distractor, said Mr. Taylor.  In this context he quoted some statistics.  Apparently, average employees using the computer are distracted every 10.5 minutes, and this is due to checking email, checking the internet because they're in front of a computer, or something pops up.  Picture this scenario: on the one hand you want employees to focus and become more efficient, while on the other you install instant messaging to get immediate responses.  “So, when you're talking about technology, what are you really trying to accomplish?”

Organizational Focus

There has to be organizational parity and focus with respect to the investments, the programs, the timelines and workforce issues (losing senior workforce/seniors are stuck in their ways/training new recruits).  According to Mr. Taylor, loss of the workforce and the transition is timely.  “Because as we go forward and get past that transformation and get to digital innovation, it's going to take new leadership, a whole new paradigm and a whole new way of thinking about the workforce.”  So you must know the objectives you are trying to achieve, the technologies you are putting in place with respect to the workforce that you need.  Information technology not only sustains the technology, but it also  sustains the enterprise as it moves forward; and the consistent aspect is the workforce.  Hence, it’s vital to know how to retain, reskill and stimulate the workforce.  He added that in cross-functional teams, HR must be represented and soft skills are a prerequisite.

Citing his NASA experience, he said that when Apollo took off, there were about 5.6 or 5.7 million discrete parts generated and assembled by 400,000 plus employees from 20,000 different subcontractors, and all this was done without the technology we have today.   “Taking technology and making it succeed is vision and dedication to the mission.”  Change management is another important aspect – systems and positions can be physically changed, but the employees must accept the change (intellectually and emotionally) and that could take a little longer.  Once that is achieved, it becomes the mission and culture of the organization and provides the overall direction.

In conclusion. Mr. Taylor reiterated that you must be passionate about the mission, the overall objectives, and not necessarily the technology.  Because the technology is itself transitional and it's going to change.  What is needed is a different approach – the human asset performance approach.


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