ISO standards are a lot of things. Specifications for products and services. A third party stamp of approval for quality, efficiency and best practices.
And let’s face it … ISO standards can be the butt of plenty of jokes. Even Dilbert creator Scott Adams riffs on ISO standards frequently.
Quality consultants Simply Quality have generated a humorous procedure creation tool, that creates officious-sounding procedures to follow that are, of course pure obfuscatory nonsense. Oxebridge Quality Resources International has published a satirical audit standard, Eyesore 9001.
Why are ISO standards funny? Are the standards themselves funny? Or is the way people sometimes treat the standards — using them as showboat programs or as public relations vehicles — the source of humor. I rather think it is the latter.
Many of us have even seen managers skirt the actual requirements in practice and even falsify audit data. In Adams’ Dilbert strips, the Pointy Hair Boss suggests that the only way they can pass their impending ISO audit is to “put all of our non-conforming documents in the trunks of our cars. And then torch the cars.”
This treatment of standards may be different, however, with ISO 55000 for the asset management space and ISO 14224 for petroleum industry assets — and for other standards for asset management. Why?
Because there are practical and even mission-critical reasons organizations will want to standardize the way they manage their assets and asset data. The total quality management movement and ISO certification gathered steam in the 1970s and 1980s after companies in the Americas and Western Europe had their head handed to them economically by the Japanese. Those losses in the business realm hurt plenty. But ISO standards for quality management are designed to prevent not just loss of revenue, but incidents that could result in damage to the environment and even human injury or loss of life.
In this article in MRO Magazine, Cliff Williams recounts how major infrastructure failures in utilities and transport industries in the UK lead to the development of a precursor of the ISO 55000 standard.
“Many of these industries had been recently privatized and there was concern that the companies that had taken on the responsibility of running them did not fully understand the implications of managing such large assets,” Williams writes. “This ultimately led to the issue of Publicly Accessible Specification number 55 or PAS55 back in 2004. It was issued by the Institute for Asset Management and the British Standards Institution, and was followed by a revision in 2008. This led to the realization that there was no real international standard for asset management and so the idea of ISO 55000 was formulated through the International Standards Organization.”
Some industries may find that adopting an ISO standard like ISO 55000 or an industry-specific standard like ISO 14224 for petroleum industry assets will help them convince regulators, stockholders and customers that they are following best practices for safety, risk mitigation, reliability and profitable asset operation. Standards can ease dealings with regulators, inspire confidence in lenders or investors in capital projects and convince utility rate payers that dollars put towards asset maintenance are being stewarded wisely.
But in a recent podcast, IFS Global Industry Director for Asset Intensive Industry Stefan Pervik says there are even more pragmatic reasons for standards adoption, particularly in companies where asset visibility across multiple plants and divisions can bring asset management insights.
“If you are an asset manager in the company, by having a standard of how the equipment looks, of course you can benchmark with the other plants in the organization,” Pervik says in the podcast. “Then again, you can also quite simply, with good reporting say ‘we took these actions, did this, and here is the outcome.'”
So to Pervik, while standardization is an important way to communicate about the effectiveness of asset management programs with external parties, it can also facilitate a clear understanding of what is working and what is not working internally in complex and often global environments.
So standardization will actually help you manage your assets better, increase asset profitability, and in many industries safeguard human live and the environment. Sounds like more than a feel-good, showcase type of program, doesn’t it?
These standards will be important to organizations running expensive assets in uptime-critical industries, like power generation or process manufacturing. They will of course be of critical importance in industries like oil and gas, nuclear power, aerospace and defense, and transportation where asset reliability also has health, safety and environmental (HSE) implications.
Stream the podcast to learn more about the real benefits of standards adoption, and get Pervik’s tips for streamlining standard adoption through enterprise asset management (EAM) software. It’s easy. Just slap on the earbuds and hit play!