Lessons from procedure writing

I have been working on the asset management programme for almost a year. The programme is set up to record and assign work for the physical assets across the organisation on the Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Our organisation has several different experimentation streams in different facilities; all managed by different departments. Having a single place to record all of these assets, in a consistent manner, will help with future planning.

As part of my role I am writing the procedures defining the processes. I naively thought I could write my first procedure (registering an asset) in a couple of weeks…I learned very quickly that is is not as easy as it looks!

8 months later, my procedure has been approved for first use, with full knowledge we will need to edit and republish. What did I learn?

Apply the 5 W’s Principle

After some intense sessions with our technical lead, I realised I should have applied the fundamental principle; the 5 Ws – starting with why – why should we register assets? A lot of time was spent going over ground, when applying the 5Ws principle would have grounded the procedure sooner – I’m certainly finding it easier with starting newer procedures. Considering the audience (who?) is also key.

Terminology is key

Deciding what words we should use, and what they mean, was another challenge. Agreeing what we meant by asset was something I did not consider would take so long. We settled on including engineering plant, scientific equipment, and facilities-based assets – not counting IT equipment (office-based). We defined an asset in a hierarchy-based structure – I developed a simplified (but not exhaustive) asset hierarchy, using the taxonomy pyramid from ISO 14224 for understanding – moving away from it as it was too specific for oil & gas/too restrictive for our use. The procedure advises against recording components, unless they are “required to be recorded for legislative and/or maintenance purposes (“maintained component”).

Understanding of a new standard

One of our requirements was to use the ISO/IEC 81346 standard to generate a reference designation for assets. This standard is new to the organisation, and has been a challenge to understand. This will be the subject of a separate blog – but long story short we have agreed this is something that should be applied for new builds earlier in the design stage, and will not be a hard requirement for asset registration.

Awaiting CMMS

The procedure was started at the same time configuration for the CMMS began. It was rather arrogant of me to have expected to complete the procedure before the field standards of the CMMS were developed and agreed!

One size fits all approach

One of the bigger challenges was understanding the challenges outside of engineered plant. My background has mainly been centered around the mechanical plant (piping, pumps, valves etc). The technical lead was a process/C&I engineer. We did not consider the building requirements, which are handled by separate owners to the experimental plant. We worked closely with facilities experts to insert more meaning for them into the procedure, advising on their system of records, and referring to requirements for Building Information Modelling (BIM).

More work to be done

As mentioned at the start, I will need to reissue the procedure. We are testing out the procedure and associated record form, with select workstreams; and will be running training sessions with expected users. We anticipate some changes based on their experiences and feedback.

We need to improve our tie-in to facilities-based assets, including withdrawal of an older procedure and tying the asset registration requirements into the Employer Information Requirements (EIR) for new builds.

On the plus side…

Spending the time to ensure we knew why the procedure was needed, that everyone spoke the same language and understood the terminology used, and that the procedure followed the computer program, was time well spent. Working with other groups, rather than developing in isolation, proved to be very useful, with both sides learning from each other – this will hopefully help with integration of asset registration into the organisation.

Personally, I learned a lot writing this one procedure; collaborating with others, working in a new role with “engineer” status compared to the more submissive roles I have filled in the past, planning and the pitfalls of optimism, applying ISO standards, and learning about the built environment (the NBS website has been a great source). Oh, and asset management!

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