Magazine Article | August 1, 2011

Leveraging Smart Asset Management In A Life Sciences Manufacturing Environment

As seen in the August 2011 edition of Life Science Leader magazine.
By Eric Luyer, IBM (Software Group, Tivoli)

Today, companies in the life sciences industry must aggressively seek to implement strategies that will help them extract maximum production value from their assets. The resulting intelligence derived from these assets can be analyzed to help the enterprise make smarter business decisions. Recognizing that they need to build a smarter maintenance strategy to remain competitive, many plant managers are considering the benefit of enterprise asset management (EAM) as a platform for basing their practices. The goal is to minimize asset downtime and to respond to changing conditions in their operations before a problem arises. While it isn’t hard to build a business case for EAM, it’s often difficult for maintenance employees to calculate baseline numbers to support their case for smarter asset maintenance. This is most often due to disconnected systems that different departments might have generated to support their work efforts.

Connecting Smart Asset Mgt. To The Revenue Stream
Enterprises that find themselves in a leadership position aren’t there by accident — they’re leveraging new technologies and insights as a competitive advantage. Through connected systems, enterprises have a global view of the health of their operational assets so they can quickly implement changes and be agile in responding to varying conditions in their operations. Most importantly, this platform scales across all types of assets, so enterprises can manage their critical business and IT asset strategies in a single environment.

Because today’s assets are more IT-enabled or connected in a computer network (instrumented), they are also more intelligent, and therefore are able to be connected as part of the information system. This system can be monitored for levels of performance, which gives the most accurate view of the actual health or condition of the equipment, and can help predict possible failures.

Any maintenance manager can tell you which pieces of equipment on the plant floor can cause the most pain when it comes to downtime. But when it comes to effectual downtime — meaning that a breakdown or problem is related to other equipment connected to the whole system —  it can be much harder to identify. Therefore, it is critical to understand the relationship of the components one to another to identify key assets. Also included in this relationship are soft components, or those parts that are lines of software code. Each asset is controlled by these soft components, which are important factors in uptime and equipment performance.

In the life sciences industry, management strategies for critical assets are so important that they require specialized applications to manage the complex processes (e.g. cleaning, calibration, CAPA, Validation). Fortunately, since EAM solutions have been evolving for decades, with an increasing focus on supporting precise industry requirements — in this case coming from the regulatory agencies —  and deep capabilities that align with this industry’s specific needs, software to manage them is available. This is especially true for managing operational technologies, smart devices, and large volumes of data that organizations need for evaluating asset performance.

Asset monitoring systems assess the health of assets by monitoring their condition on a timely basis, but this can generate large, unmanageable volumes of data. In order to make use of the multitude of readings, analytic tools help extract the features and characteristics in all these bits of data to turn them into useful information. With these interconnected technologies in place, asset health is assured by identifying — periodically or in real time — potential problems, before they detrimentally affect the process or lead to catastrophic failure. The same applies for production failures or non-conformities. These intrinsic qualities of EAM add up to provide a life sciences manufacturing enterprise with real-time visibility into the health of its assets. That real-time visibility can increase revenue and decrease costs, leading to a quick ROI and ultimately maximized shareholder value.

About The Author
Eric Luyer is marketing manager for asset management at IBM (Software Group, Tivoli). He has a special focus on industrial/manufacturing industries, including life sciences. With more than 25 years of experience working in financial, ERP (enterprise resource planning), and enterprise asset management software application environments, Luyer has developed in-depth expertise in the industry.