An opinion piece by Kolosa Madikizela, Managing Director Pragma Enterprise asset management
Proactive enterprise asset management is more than just infrastructure and equipment. As humans, we drive the cultural values and behaviour needed to implement maintenance strategies and action the activities required for peak asset performance. Yet, the role humans play in proactive enterprise asset management are still under-researched, often ignored or regarded unimportant.
Even technological advancements in heavy machinery and equipment operation have not eradicated the need for human interaction with assets. Humans remain a vital part of asset operation and effectively equipping employees with the right skills to manage and operate machinery remains essential.
A people-focused approach to proactive enterprise asset management
Irrespective of the industry, organisations cannot exist without human capital. The importance of people as assets cannot be overstated. It is surprising that only a handful of organisations prioritise human capital and lack a strategic focus to maximise these assets. History has shown that organisations who invest in their people reap the rewards. This philosophy applies to enterprise asset management now more than ever. Managing assets is crucial to business performance and so are the employees tasked to operate these physical assets. In the words of Sir Richard Branson: “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business. Healthy engaged employees are your top competitive advantage”.
Although it cannot be executed without people, plenty employers do not consider the human aspect when it comes to strategy. The benefits of people-focused initiatives are often intangible, making it challenging to track and measure. It becomes very easy for businesses to favour and opt in on bottom-line initiatives while neglecting to invest in their employees.
In recent years, South Africa has experienced a growing skills shortage. A lack of continued investment and upliftment of technical training facilities is a major driving force behind this issue that cuts across industries and organisations. When the operators of assets are compromised in this way, it has a direct, negative impact on asset performance.
Financial Management in organisations is critical, but often an increased focus on the bottom line is detrimental to employee enhancement. In these cases, organisations opt to cut training, wellness and team-building budgets to the bone. During challenging economic times, organisations need to be creative to find ways to make provisions for employee programs, in particular those that contribute to skills development and foster company culture. Driving proactive enterprise asset management to attain operational excellence without investing in the people who have to do so is a fruitless exercise.
The impact of the human aspect on proactive enterprise asset management
The intangible benefits of employee investment stand in sharp contrast to the costs associated with the damage caused to equipment or assets by untrained or unskilled operators. It is important that people form an integral part of the enterprise asset management value chain. Without the focus on developing the right skills set in people to deliver quality enterprise asset management, maintenance strategies cannot be implemented successfully.
The management of people needs a different approach due to the intangible nature of the value they bring to proactive enterprise asset management. Therefore, a more focused and deliberate approach is required, which should include (but not limited to the following):
Simply creating a warm work environment with learning opportunities are not enough. A focused, deliberate approach aligned to strategic goals are needed to create a working environment geared to harness the full potential of your human capital. Some of the major initiatives that should be included are:
- Training and skills development with clear learning pathways
- Employee engagement
- Coaching and mentoring
- Proper performance management tools based on credible data
- Transformation and diversity management
- Retention and succession planning
- Forums where cultural, gender and cognitive diversity and collaboration are openly discussed to harness inclusivity
A price cannot be put on the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your equipment or assets are managed and operated by highly skilled employees. The ability to perform duties, cultural background and personal interests can all make a positive contribution to proactive enterprise asset management and should therefore be considered at strategic levels.
While ownership and accountability are some of the most critical values employees can bring to the work environment, these are often the most underrated. Experience has taught me that when these two values can make or break an organisation, including ours. To remain the leading enterprise asset management company we are today, we need to ensure that our people take ownership and are accountable for the success of our strategy and objectives and execute them as such. The same holds for those on the frontlines, performing maintenance activities. The human aspect value in the successful execution of proactive enterprise asset management must be graduated to the forefront. As we move forward into a different future brought on by Covid-19, I believe the effective management of human potential to derive tangible value through enhanced performance will become a differentiator for highly successful and thriving organisations.