The Physical Asset Management Profession in 2010

EP Editorial Staff | January 1, 1999

Is there a future for the maintenance and reliability profession? Yes, and it is called Physical Asset Management. Here are some observations from a practitioner.

Where is the maintenance and reliability profession moving? Will it still be viable in the next 5 years, or the next 10 years? What can be expected? I believe the profession will be more important than ever before, and be more tightly linked to enterprise performance. However, the function will be most visible as “physical asset management” rather than under its traditional label.

Here are some thoughts about Physical Asset Management and its future, thoughts that generally represent my view and that of the board of directors of the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP).

Common view of the maintenance profession
I recently asked a cross-section of managers and employees within manufacturing and maintenance from various industries one simple question: “What is the first thought that comes to mind when I mention the word maintenance?”
The most common responses I received were:

  • fix it
  • high cost
  • under utilized
  • not highly valued
  • bottom of the organization totem pole
  • untapped frontier of competitive advantage

In essence, these first thoughts are not what one would consider highly positive responses. There seems to be a fundamental problem embedded within the word maintenance itself, and the historical context that it brings.


In more straightforward terms I am talking about all the baggage associated with the term maintenance. As we dwell more on the subject we begin to understand that maintenance by its very nature and history has self-limiting drawbacks in its ability to further the creation of wealth in industry, in the economy, and for practitioners themselves. The limitations within the maintenance function can be further evidenced by the following points:

  • Rarely has an individual from the maintenance function of an organization risen to the rank of chief executive officer.
  • Maintenance expenditure for the most part is viewed as a tolerated cost as opposed to a desirable investment.
  • Aside from safety and environment, there exists very little if any legislation to ensure a specified standard of maintenance is practiced in industry.
  • Many of the world’s major physical asset disasters and associated fatalities have occurred from the root cause of inadequate maintenance.
  • The criteria to achieve ISO or QS 9000 certification have at best only one or two paragraphs dedicated to maintenance, yet typically maintenance makes up 25 to 30 percent of an organization’s resources.
  • Most academic colleges and universities do not offer programs toward a maintenance profession diploma or degree.
  • Most maintenance management personnel come from trade and engineering backgrounds with little business management experience.

The most self-limiting factor is how the maintenance function in many organizations is viewed, and the behavior promoted by that view. In most cases, maintenance is viewed as a service function rather than a critical business process. The service function view breeds customer supplier behavior, whereas the critical business process view breeds comprehensive ownership behavior.

Society For Maintenance And Reliability Professionals

SMRP mission
SMRP will be the global leader that . . .
• Facilitates information exchange through a struc-tured network of maintenance and reliability professionals.
• Supports maintenance and reliability as an integral part of business and asset management.
• Presents a collective voice on maintenance and reliability issues and advances innovative reliability practices.
• Promotes and supports maintenance and reliability education for production and quality processes to improve the work environment.

SMRP purpose
The Society is dedicated to instilling excellence in maintenance and reliability professionals.

SMRP values
• Practitioners for practitioners
• Learning and knowledge
• Sharing of ideas and information
• Fairness, respect, and diversity
• Industry leadership and an impact on our profession
• Teamwork among our constituents (members, vendors, suppliers)
• Quality and value
• Integrity
• Celebrate volunteers

Membership information
Contact Dana C. Wulff, Membership Services Director
Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals
401 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611-4267
(800) 950-7354 or (312) 321-5190

Trends in physical asset management
As we look out toward 2010, we must consider certain information and trends that have been evolving. If proactively acted upon, they can have either a very detrimental or very positive outcome for maintenance practitioners. These trends are as follows:

  • Customer expectations of the products industry continue to increase at a faster and more stringent rate.
  • Advances in technology are resulting in manufacturing equipment that continues to rise in complexity and thus becomes more complicated to maintain.
  • Environmental and safety legislation continues to place higher levels of custodianship in mitigating the safety and environmental consequences of physical asset failures.
  • Maintenance management functions are beginning to disappear and, in some cases, so are maintenance organizations all together.
  • Demographic trends are predicting serious shortages of skilled trades people in the next 10 to 15 years.
  • The suppliers of conferences, training, consulting, software, and hardware directed toward maintenance and reliability improvement are experiencing a boom and growing at a rate of 20 percent a year.
  • The opportunity to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness by which manufacturing equipment is maintained is being viewed as one of the last untapped frontiers of margin improvement in industry.

The detrimental outcome of these trends is that we could end up with a severe dilution and misalignment of the maintenance function as we know it today. The positive outcome is that if we act in an organized, proactive manner to develop a common approach to the practice of maintenance we will achieve value creation for industry and the economy and elevate the importance of a Physical Asset

Management profession.
The SMRP believes both these positive outcomes can be realized if we begin to focus less on the self-limiting and historical aspects of maintenance and more on the comprehensive aspects of Physical Asset Management.

Physical asset management in 2010
The Physical Asset Management profession that the SMRP envisions for 2010 would consist of the following:

  1. Standards in Physical Asset Management that encompass all required practices to maximize total financial and functional value over the complete life cycle of the physical asset.
    Examples of standards of the comprehensive practices would include design, capital procurement, installation and commissioning, staffing, spare parts procurement and storing, all maintenance and reliability business practices, life cycle costing, and much more.
  2. Common Physical Asset Management academic curriculum, accompanied by in-the-field internship, offered by the top business and technical educational institutions in North America.
  3. Legislation that requires certification and self-governing of the practices of the Physical Asset Management profession similar to the medical, legal, and financial professions.
  4. Annual participation in professional practice education sessions required to maintain certification.
  5. Standardization and integration of Physical Asset Management technologies in the form of software, hardware, and associated practices.

SMRP initiatives to elevate the profession

This vision of a Physical Asset Management profession is still very much in a state of genesis and will become clearer as the SMRP continues its leadership role in the evolution of this concept. It has developed an infrastructure in the form of several new and reformed directorships, including Professional Certification, Best Practices, Senior Management Forum, and Academic Liaison. Your input and participation is invited. MT

Gino Palarchio, business unit manager, Dofasco, Inc., Hamilton, ON, Canada, is director of the Senior Management Forum, Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals. He can be contacted by telephone at (905) 548-4582; email gino_palarchio@dofasco.ca.




View Comments

Sign up for insights, trends, & developments in
  • Machinery Solutions
  • Maintenance & Reliability Solutions
  • Energy Efficiency
Return to top