The mission of the Enterprise was to go where no one had gone before.
Elements of any science fiction story will require us to suspend our disbelief enough to buy into and get hooked on the plot. In the case of the Star Trek series and movies, we have to believe in faster-than-light travel and that beings from various planets can automatically communicate upon the first encounter.
For me, and I suspect others immersed in enterprise asset management (EAM) software at IFS, the main believability issue is that an asset as fantastic as an intergalactic starship operated centuries into the future would not have some type of enterprise asset management software implemented. The mechanical breakdowns and equipment failures we see in the original series, the movie spinoffs and the subsequent series ought to be excellent object lessons in mechanical breakdowns and equipment failures we see in the original series, the movie spinoffs and the subsequent series ought to be excellent object lessons in EAM and reliability-centered maintenance (RCM). The Enterprise appears to have poorer RCM capabilities than 21st or even 20th-century ocean-going vessels or jet aircraft. Of course in these fiction settings, equipment failures are plot complications meant to make the story more interesting. Most of us want to avoid such complications, however, so let’s see what we can learn from Commander Montgomery Scott (Scotty), capably portrayed by James Doohan and later by Simon Pegg.
Scotty is a skilled and perhaps even brilliant engineer, but the Enterprise is still beset with multiple and calamitous breakdowns, many involving failures of the dilithium crystals, a rare crystalline compound essential to the operation of the ship’s warp drive. It is true that the Enterprise is often subject to anomalous energy fluxes, attack by various hostile species and other calamities. And indeed, the mission of the Enterprise was to go where no one had gone before, subjecting it to events that are hard to predict. But by the second season at least there ought to have been a sufficient maintenance history built up in an EAM system – or even rudimentary computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to allow Scotty and his staff to:
- Determine the necessary level for spares and repairs, including dilithium crystals, by planning for a projected number of incidents that drain the crystals based on historical factors.
- Ensure adequate staffing of the engineering department given attrition. In many industrial workplaces, engineering staffing needs will change in the coming years as senior staff members retire. And they do tend to get sick, go on vacation and take positions with different companies. The Enterprise engineering staff tends to see attrition for a much darker reason … attacks on the ship or loss of members sent down to planets on away missions. This attrition must also be measured and planned for in staffing levels. Again, by the second season, the history of staff attrition due to various incidents could have driven the addition of engineering staff or cross-training staff from other parts of the ship. This increased capacity could have kept things running much more predictably in a crisis.
- Manage the entire lifecycle of the ship, from design through to decommissioning. In an ideal EAM setting, the maintenance and equipment failure history of an asset can be rolled into the engineering process of its replacement, so ostensibly the new asset would correct or improve on elements of its predecessor.
The Enterprise and its staff needed the breakdowns, mechanical failures and catastrophic battle damage to make for an interesting story. In contrast, IFS and IFS Applications got their start in the nuclear power industry – where such complications are just not welcome. If the assets your business depend on are mission critical, expensive and perhaps have implications for health, environment and safety (HES), you may need the same EAM software relied on by more companies in demanding sectors like aerospace and defense and oil and gas than any other. You may need help from IFS.