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Addressing and correcting issues with master data management

Master data refers to information shared across a company that is critical to business operations. For asset intensive industries that consists of equipment name plate information, performance specifications, bill of materials, criticality ranking and equipment maintenance plans. Master data is the driver and supporter of all aspects in decisions related to the management of production assets, it is therefore critical that master data be accurate and complete.


By: Jennifer Layer Adams

While most asset intensive facilities have an asset management process for collecting and maintaining their asset and maintenance master data, those processes are often  incomplete or not enforced, causing the data to become outdated, inaccurate, incomplete, and many times unusable. This can lead to a string of unintended consequences, from delayed decision making or worse, making decisions with inaccurate or missing data. The extent of this problem was highlighted in a 2016 benchmark study by the Aberdeen Group. The study showed decision makers only had accurate and timely data 29% of time when they needed it, thus revealing that large gap and opportunity for improvement exists.  
Accurate and complete master data is required on a daily basis to derive effective purchasing and work order management decisions. It provides the building blocks for improvements and/or sustainability initiatives. Master data additionally plays an important role in capital projects management, production operations, shutdown, turnaround and outage (STO) management, safety and reliability.



Data requirements:

During an in-depth interview with T.A. Cook, Dr. Adjith Parlikad, Head of the Asset Management Group at the Institute of Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, explained that when it comes to companies storing and utilizing master data there is a wide range of maturity levels. Some companies have loads of data and no idea how to extract any value or insights from said data, while other companies have no idea what data they should even be collecting in the first place.

Many companies are aware of the potential benefits and uses of data to drive evidence based asset management strategies and decision making, but are not aware of the appropriate procedures to collect, maintain, and utilize this data.  

Many organizations have the information that they require to drive effective asset management decisions. Unfortunately, however, the data is rarely organized in a manageable form. Elements of master data may reside in capital projects documents, on equipment nameplates, etc. The data is there, but establishing requirements about how the data should be collected, and how it should be organized is paramount to effective data utilization to drive asset management decisions.  For organizations interested in exploring digital manufacturing, Industry 4.0, etc., master data is a foundational enabling requirement. So if you desire digital twins, machine learning, and other high value digital manufacturing capabilities, you need to get your master data right.



Process and Site Culture:

When it comes to site culture, master data often gets the short end of the stick. Many view master data as important but not urgent, so it gets put off until there is spare time to do it. Further, the collection and management of master data for assets is a multifunctional job, therefore often there is no clear line of responsibility. This causes the processes around master data to be overly complicated and misunderstood.

Frequently, plant management believes that their master data is complete and accurate, when in fact it is incomplete, disorganized, incongruent and out-of-date. The bar for what determines “organized” and “quality” data is often set too low. In this case, when a problem arises with an asset, the technician must hunt for the data required to execute corrective actions. In some instances, the situation is urgent and the technician must “wing it” and execute the corrective actions based upon guesswork because the required data is inaccessible or unusable.

Too often, manual updating of information across multiple, disparate applications leads to omissions and inaccuracies. As a result, maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) work is inadequate or delayed, which increases downtime risk, health, safety and environmental risks, and reduces overall productivity.

The problem comes downs to a lack of process and a lack of proactive behaviours. In many instances, the process for handing off a capital project to operations is poor. In other instances, a project has a schedule overrun and the master data is dropped as a deliverable. It’s far too easy for the project to “kick the master data down the road” because it’s importance isn’t truly felt for several years. By that time, the perpetrators of the problem are long gone and the victims are left to deal with it. In these instances, leadership must draw a hard line and make the tough decision to require that the master data be completed before handing over the project instead of saying “don't worry about that, we'll figure it out once we get into the plant.”



Moving Forward

The costs of collecting, updating, and improving master data depends entirely on how consistently the work is done. If you embed master data updates and checks into the day-to-day processes and regularly maintain it, it makes master data management very cost effective. However, if master data is neglected for long enough, then correcting becomes a project that might be very costly. It really comes down to discipline. If leadership enforces behavioural standards for routinely managing and updating master data, the process is relatively simple and inexpensive.

While many companies are getting on board with the idea of a digital transition due to the undeniable benefits, the reality is, most companies already have the resources necessary to begin the transition without needing to make huge investments in new technologies. The hardest and most momentous shift will be changing the standards and the culture of how work is done and how data is collected and maintained.

Asset intensive organizations must value and manage their data with the care, tact, and follow through that they would a physical asset. They must consistently maintain that the data is complete, current, organized and accessible for easy and quick reference. They must have a site culture and consistent process that ensures the data will not degrade over time.

T.A. Cook offers support for these goals by combining technical and process knowledge with change management capabilities. After a review of the current situation, our reliability specialists will integrate into the site team and support with a hands on pragmatic approach, proven techniques, and assessment tools to get master data up to date and develop a program to keep it that way.

The bottom line is it is critical to the future performance of your assets that any issues with your master data management be addressed sooner, when the costs and work required are minimal, rather than later, when it will be a much more costly and daunting undertaking.






Jennifer Adams

Jennifer Adams is a marketing and writing professional focused on developing and delivering compelling content, driving high-volume new user acquisition, and growing businesses through in-bound and out-bound marketing.