Don’t Procrastinate… Innovate: Invest In Your #1 Asset — Your Master Data

Ken Bannister | July 1, 2014


In the world of CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) and EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) systems, the entire business of asset maintenance management, asset availability, reliability and maintainability hinges on data integrity. And it all starts with accurate closing of work orders against the correct asset at the right level.

But compiling and entering an accurate list of maintainable assets into the CMMS/EAM Master Asset Register is not as simple as it sounds. Many companies don’t get it right.

Failing to list assets correctly and completely results in the history of “unlisted” legitimate assets that require work being compromised through work closed on a related or pseudo parent asset. This makes it tough to retrieve relevant data at a later date. A typical example is identifying a facility—the building envelope, roof and all attached legitimate assets—under a single asset number denoted as “Building.” Thus, for work performed specifically on the roof, the work order would be issued and closed against the building. The same would hold true for work performed on a rooftop air-handling unit or on a hydraulic leveling dock in the building’s shipping area.


Another example involves the identification of individual production lines as single assets within a CMMS. In this scenario, Production Line 1, comprised of seven autonomous, linked machines, each with its own unique set of maintenance tasks, would have all of its work issued and closed against “Production Line 1.” Provided all work is recorded against a work order, the operation would have good records for determining total costs on this line. However, it would be difficult to establish on which of the seven machines (true assets) the money was spent or to assess the reliability, availability or OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) of each machine. When work is captured against “gross assets,” management capabilities of a CMMS are weakened.

Master data setup

The Master Asset Register is a list of unique physical assets for which a maintenance department is responsible. Each asset entered into the CMMS/EAM is identified with a Unique Identification Number (UIN). This number is also known as “Master Data l,” as all other fields within the CMMS/EAM are directly or indirectly linked to the field containing the asset UIN. This data may also be shared or linked to other enterprise systems like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), financial and human resources.

Determining how to classify an asset is not a standardized process—many factors are involved. At minimum, an asset is the lowest common tangible denominator, facility or equipment piece that requires tracking of specific maintenance tasks, work history and costs. In some cases, this may include pumps and motors, if they are large enough (often delineated by pump output volume or motor horsepower size). For example, motors under 20 hp may be classified as spare parts, while those over 20 hp are to be maintained and given a UIN. Some companies identify assets based purely on capital cost. Others identify them as OEM-manufactured pieces of equipment, or they break down very large ones (like papermaking machines) into sectioned assets (like wet-end and dry-end sections). Regardless of your method, be consistent: Develop—and follow—a policy/procedure for determining what constitutes an “asset” at your plant/facility.

In the initial setup of a CMMS/EAM system, the starting point is always to enter the asset by identifying its UIN. This can be a significant number (alpha-numeric number with a coded meaning) or a sequential, non-significant number assigned by the CMMS/EAM. Once the UIN is entered, the program will prompt you to complete all “Reference Data” associated with that unique asset number. The level and complexity of the reference data will depend on the sophistication of the program “out of the box” and its configurability in allowing additional data fields. Most reference data fields are searchable in the database, making them powerful filters for collating and “slicing and dicing” the data when reviewing and compiling for reporting purposes. Typical reference data will include:

Name—Most people identify assets by name, not number. It’s necessary to formally identify the asset with a proper naming convention (using a noun and descriptor, such as “compressor, screw”). You may also want to identify it in a second field by its legacy title (such as “#2 compressor”). Both fields allow you to search for a specific asset by different methods, names or UIN, and work with its associated data quickly.
Manufacturer/Model—A make and/or model of the compressor allows us to search history and compare reliability of all similar product models or products made by company A, and compare it with products made by company B.
Serial #—A second UIN found on the asset’s nameplate is useful for database searching and for identifying the asset in the field.
Location—This can include GPS coordinates, Site, Building, Floor, Room, Line, Area, Loop or similar. Such fields allow the user to collate or “roll up” captured data on all assets tagged with the same location. Essentially, they are gross filters that allow for the set-up of a virtual hierarchy within the CMMS/EAM. Users can leverage this hierarchy as a powerful, flexible reporting tool, given the fact that an asset like a pump station can simultaneously reside at a site, in a building, at a unique GPS location or within a specific process loop.
Typing and Grouping—Collective typing and grouping of similar assets allows for gross comparison reporting of all compressors, HVAC equipment and the like.
Photos and Drawings—Most CMMS/EAM systems act as a data warehouse that allows the user to take photos of the asset (preferably when it’s in top shape) and link to the UIN master data in the program. For drawings, I encourage the user to photograph sections of drawings in .pdf format and link to the asset and text-reference the actual drawing, which is often saved in CAD format and not easily reproduced by the CMMS/EAM program. These photos and drawing sections are a reference guide for the maintainer and planner.

Physical identification of assets

Most CMMS/EAM systems can link to bar codes and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Tags) through proprietary add-on software. Use of these tagging systems in the past was unpopular because of the ease with which they could be compromised, along with the proprietary print programs and reader devices they required.

Things have changed dramatically. For example, as discussed elsewhere in this issue, mobile-device vendors have been rapidly developing smart-device technologies, apps, QR code-tag menus and readers that can link directly to an Asset UIN and its associated reference data (and more) via a WiFi connection. Today, there is little reason for a company’s CMMS/EAM system to not be connected with this technology.

Investing in your #1 asset—your asset data register and its associated reference data—will deliver huge dividends and build a solid database foundation. Implementing an asset-tagging program will ensure easy identification of any asset in the field by an operator or user (and require you to clean up your Master Asset Register).

Your CMMS/EAM reporting tools can be employed to perform data analytics on the system itself (something many maintenance departments don’t take advantage of) to determine how complete your master data is. To be trusted, this list needs to be better than 95% accurate and complete, and can be more easily maintained through use of directives in the PM work order system. Good luck!





Ken Bannister

Ken Bannister

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