Masterminds in Maintenance Episode 11 - Maintenance, Reliability, Asset management: What’s the difference?! with Suzane Greeman
Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 11: Maintenance, Reliability, Asset Management – What’s the difference?! with Suzane Greeman

Ryan Chan

This week on Masterminds in Maintenance, we hear from Asset Management guru, Suzane Greeman. Suzane joins Masterminds in Maintenance this week to discuss the importance of Asset Management Education at all levels of a maintenance organization.

Suzane Greeman is the President and Principal Asset Management Advisor of Greeman Asset Management Solutions Inc., a firm that specializes in asset management advisory, consulting and educational services. Suzane is a certified asset, maintenance, and quality management professional with 21 years of Canadian and international maintenance and asset management leadership. Suzane holds a wealth of experience in asset-intensive industries, including heavy manufacturing, power generation, waste water and consulting/professional services. Suzane is also the author of Risk-based Asset Criticality Assessment (R-b ACA©) Handbook: A practical guide to improve asset criticality by incorporating asset, risk, quality and business management principles!

Suzane argues that in a perfect world, reliability would be grouped with asset management and NOT with the maintenance department. Learn more in this episode of Masterminds in Maintenance!

Listen to this week’s episode online here or on Apple podcasts here! You can also watch this episode on YouTube here.

Connect with Ryan Chan on Linkedin Here and Suzane on Linkedin here.

Join Suzane’s Upcoming Courses:

1. Executive Leadership in Asset Management (Winnipeg)
2. Essentials of Asset Management & ISO 5500x (Winnipeg)
3. Essentials of Asset Management & ISO 5500x (Online)


Got questions on maintenance & reliability? Looking for live advice?

Join our LIVE “Ask the Experts!” panel on November 12th, 11amPT/2pmET.

Ryan Chan, Masterminds in Maintenance

Robert Kalwarowsky, Rob’s Reliability Project

George Williams, ReliabilityX

Joe Anderson, ReliabilityX

Submit questions in advance here. Join us for our live conversation here.

Join the Masterminds in Maintenance Podcast!

Are you an industry leader in the fields of maintenance and reliability? We want to hear from you! If you would like to be featured as a guest on our podcast, please sign up here.

Stay tuned for more inspiring guests to come in future episodes!


00:05 Ryan Chan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host, Ryan. I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. Each week, I’ll be meeting with a guest who’s had an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Sometimes the idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today, I have with me Suzane Greeman, a certified asset and maintenance quality management professional, with 22 years of Canadian and international maintenance and asset management leadership. She’s also an international keynote speaker and the author of Risk-Based Asset Criticality Assessment Handbook, a practical guide group asset criticality by incorporating asset, risk, quality and business management principles. We’ll be chatting about starting your asset management engagement where you are and why all levels of leadership are needed in asset management education. Welcome, Suzane. [chuckle]

01:02 Suzane Greeman: Thank you. I gave you a mouthful there, didn’t I? [laughter]

01:05 RC: You did. But you absolutely deserve it because man, 22 years in this industry, you must have learned so, so much.

01:13 SG: So much. Yeah, so much. It’s been amazing. And I’ve worked across several types of asset intensive organizations. So I started in cement and kind of worked over. I went into professional services for a little bit with an A&E firm and then, back to cement, power generation, waste water treatment, and airport services. So it’s been beautiful and I’ve been fortunate to see some of the things that I talk about in different settings and with different types of assets.

01:50 RC: Absolutely. So, Suzane, it’s been 22 years for you. I would love to learn more about how you got started in this industry, your background and where you are today. [chuckle]

02:03 SG: So let’s start with today. I run my own asset management advisory and training firm. So we offer educational services, Greeman Asset Management Solutions Incorporated, back to where I started 22 years ago, actually probably 24 years ago, I got a scholarship from an organization called Carib Cement in Kingston, Jamaica. And after my studies, I went to work with them, first as an instrument technician, so I pulled myself boots up through the industry, and I started in the instrument department, in the maintenance department. And so, started out in maintenance, and spent a good few years there until frustration just hit me, “There has got to be something else other than fixing stuff,” and realizing that some problems just could not be fixed on the plant and they started way earlier. So then that drove me to research reliability. So I’m kind of self-taught in reliability and once I started to dig into that, then from the organizational perspective, a quiet… I’d say a quiet discontent, again, started with, “No, this cannot be it. We’ve got to be harmonized in what’s happening across the different functions of the organization.” And that is what led me to asset management.

03:37 RC: Awesome. So as you were making this transition from maintenance into asset management, did you have to change careers, change companies, or were you part of this cultural shift within one company and organization?

03:50 SG: You see, with or without that I regularly change companies, I’m a professional job seeker. So now I’m in my own company, but I’ve changed jobs a few times. First, I left my original company after eight and a half years. I think that was the longest I was with one single company. And really because I wanted to see maintenance done, and reliability done in another setting. And so, I’ve changed careers as well because I’ve worked in maintenance, I’ve been a maintenance manager, I’ve also gone as far as HR, I’ve been an HR business partner.

04:32 RC: Wow.

04:32 SG: Yes, so I’ve worked at Capital Projects. I was a project engineer, or a project manager, a program manager, and so pretty much I’ve gone through, and I don’t know if you wanna call me a thrill seeker, but I definitely chase experience and all of that has… It really has paid me back royally. So that when I… As an asset management assessor, when I look at people’s organizations, I can truly make… Add value and make an input in the various functions and how they work together.

05:10 RC: It seems like you’ve made so many different transitions from project coordinator to facility manager, maintenance manager to supervisor to asset management. What has the transition been like each time you make this jump into a different role?

05:28 SG: So, it’s a learning experience, it’s a learning curve. One of the things that you’ll find though is that some fundamentals don’t change. So the principles of maintenance management, the principles of asset management, the principles of reliability don’t change, even though the organizations are changing, and the assets are changing. So it’s been… Some learnings were very easy to transition to organizations. Some organizations and some industries were challenging. Because I learned after, maybe after about 15 years of working that a lot of industries are quite insular. Because they’re insular, they talk to consultants and hire out of the same industry, and as a result of that, the learnings in one industry does not transfer seamlessly to the other industry. So cement industry, I’m pretty familiar with that, is quite insular, but so is power industry that I’ve worked in. So we might be making gains in pharmaceutical, for example, we might be making gains in another side of the business and another industry, pardon me, but it doesn’t transfer to wastewater treatment plants, it doesn’t transfer to cement plants.

06:49 RC: Why is that? Is that just because each industry is so different from one another or is there just not that communication line?

06:58 SG: That’s interesting, because asset-intensive organizations are… We’re capital-intensive, we’re energy intensive, and so, the life cycles are quite long for these assets. Along with that comes a culture of, you put down the assets, they stay for 30 years, the people around them also tend to stay. Well that was until you guys marched in, the millennials, and changed everything for us. But usually, [chuckle] the people around them tend to stay and there is a lot of internal promotion, which is a good thing to grow your own timber, but there’s a lot of internal promotion. But one of the things that it does is that it sometimes locks out the ability to transfer ideas, and transfer gains and wins that another industry is making. So, a lot of it has to do with just the simple fact that the assets don’t turnover as quickly. There is a long time for investments to be paid back and the assets, the life cycles are long. And because of that, things just… Things get set in place a little bit in asset intensive organizations. In addition to that, because the assets are complex, they’re more complex than probably in your average commercial set-up, then there is a fair level of specialization, which comes with the setting up of functional departments.

08:37 SG: And so, we have functional departments, we have a team for mechanical, we have an electrical team, we have sometimes an instrument and automation team. Engineering is separate, supply chain is separate, finance, etc., and you could go on. And so in order to facilitate all of these functional roles, silos were naturally created. And it’s not a bad thing to have the silos. What we need are interactive business processes that allow information and gains and wins to flow across the organization. So, if organizations don’t spend time and pay attention to their business processes, even within one single company, you could set up a lot of insularity.

09:20 RC: Yeah, that’s a really interesting point. Just the fact that assets live on for very long. And I think what you’re seeing in technology is the rate of adoption and change is happening so fast versus having physical assets, that change just will never be as fast as changing a digital product. So the very, very interesting point that you bring up, Suzane. I’m also curious, you’ve gone to so many different job functions across engineering, maintenance, asset management. What inspired you to transition into asset management, and seems like stay here and stay there for what seems like the long-term future for you? [laughter]

10:02 SG: I gotta say asset management is feeling pretty good. One of the things that it did for me was it also allowed me to utilize like all of my experiences across different departments and different industries. So, that’s been a good thing. But in terms of what inspired me, it’s just I started to develop that discontent with respect to… All these departments are working on the same assets, just at different life cycles… Different parts of the life cycle. So if you think about engineering, buying the assets, and designing, and so on, they’re at the beginning. But if they don’t collaborate with maintenance and operations to get feedback on similar type assets, what information that they need to operate the assets properly, then what eventually happens, which I’ve seen in so many companies, is that the assets are bought, are built, and thrown over the fence to operations and maintenance, who then… And usually a poor planner, I’m sorry for the planner, is stuck with this role of trying to take pictures of all the nameplates to get the information to start to build the asset registry years after the asset has been in service. I’ve seen it so many times, it… You would think that it is rare, you think with all the gains that we’ve made in maintenance management that these things don’t happen, but they happen still so regularly.

11:34 SG: And it’s largely because engineering does not have a business process to involve maintenance and operations in the acquisition process, for example, in the design process. And these processes are out there, they’re standardized. Some companies do them well, but a lot of companies, these are all segregated departments. So when I started to look at this and just imagine, this is well known, but I discovered this through processes of failure that you can’t change certain things about the inherent reliability of the asset without re-entering the design phase, which is expensive for a company. And so, through my processes of failure and understanding equipment on the plant, then I realized that, yes, there is another way. And I literally started to read, and read, and read. And I have to credit a general manager that I had back in the day that said, “You know, you should really check out PAS 55.” At the time there was no ISO 55000. And started to look at it and my eyes went, “Bong!” And then ISO 55000 was released, but there was a good few years of contemplation before that, and it was being talked about, and I just got so excited about it. You’ll see how excited I get about standards, like on LinkedIn, I write about them like it’s a nice plate of ribs or something. [laughter]

13:10 SG: But I got like really, really excited that people had figured out that all of this thing can work together, and all of these different departments can function and work together across the life cycle of the assets to deliver value. And that’s how I got into asset management.

13:31 RC: So, let’s talk about ISO 55000, because now it’s become more of a norm standard. Why has it been so impactful to businesses?

13:41 SG: So, it’s becoming something that we talk about a lot, but unfortunately, my experience with businesses and industry suggests as well that it’s not as common place in companies as we think. But standards go through that process. So, for example, people talk about ISO 14224 now, but it’s been around for years. People talk about ISO 9001, it’s been around for years. So ISO 55000 is going through that. Part of what is creating the inroads for it is the fact that it is truly a global standard. So it’s not really coming out of say an association, or a particular country. It’s a global standard. And ISO, it’s… They have really rigorous rules around how standards are developed, and how they’re revised, and how the information gets transmitted. And I really like that, because with that comes the fact that the standard can then be globally applied anywhere in the world, and to any industry, and to any asset. So that is the… That is one of the reasons that it is on the uptake. The other part of it is that people are now realizing that asset management is the way to run an asset-intensive business.

15:20 RC: Yeah.

15:20 SG: It’s not a maintenance strategy, it’s not a reliability strategy, it is not a one-time event of developing an asset management plan. So it is the way to run the business over the long term. And as a result of that, it includes other aspects that are important, and really important. I say other aspects, but really important, such as the business and financial piece of it. And so, you talk about business and financial, it also incorporates risk. So we know that there are things that can happen with the assets, because we like to say that, “Okay, asset management exists to create value, however that value in our kind of industry comes from operating the assets,” which means that the biggest risks that you’re gonna face in the organization will also be around the operation of the assets. And so, it is to understand how the risks transition across the life cycle of the asset, and how we could just get it wrong from the beginning.

16:27 RC: Yeah.

16:27 SG: So if you think about asset information, for example, as something that starts and exists before the asset physically exists, you can then see how we could get it wrong, and start to create risks from the start of the process that just multiply all through the operation of the asset.

16:48 RC: Absolutely. So I heard one of the big challenges has been siloed departments across maintenance reliability, across asset management. I’m curious, in your eyes, and in the perfect world, how do the best companies that you’ve seen and worked with really incorporate maintenance reliability and asset management? Are they three different departments, or do they all live under one umbrella? And how do you differentiate each one of those?

17:18 SG: So I’m gonna answer that by not necessarily saying what I’ve seen in the companies that I’ve worked with because… [chuckle]

17:27 RC: Okay.

17:28 SG: But let’s start by saying, if I had to set this up, in a perfect world, the asset management department would be a corporate department with governance responsibilities. And then, within each of the departments, then you would have responsibility for executing according to the governance that has been set up. So that doesn’t change the fact that there still needs to be a maintenance department that is responsible for executing the life cycle delivery activities, and a reliability section. My challenge… Or I have a bit of a challenge with combining maintenance and reliability, because I see reliability as a quality function, and a function that should be looking at waste, and waste from maintenance works, waste from not achieving performance, waste from the production or operation side of the business. So in my world, [chuckle] in my asset-intensive company, I would actually put reliability to be resident with asset management. I wouldn’t put it with maintenance.

19:02 SG: So… And that, again, we talk about asset management and how it is all-encompassing, but doing that, and doing asset management right, suggests to me that we will improve the quality and delivery of maintenance, we will improve the quality and delivery of reliability, we will improve the quality of operations, how we operate the assets, we will improve our supply chain processes, we will even improve our HR practices because we will be aware of competences, and how we’re gonna manage the competences over the long run. But that doesn’t change the fact that we still need some of the silos, in terms of the functional expertise still need to be clicking. We still need our maintenance manager to be an ace maintenance manager. We still need a fitter to be an ace fitter. We still need a planner to be versed in planning and scheduling, and so on. So it’s not to say that everybody is gonna drop everything else that they’re doing, and start to do asset management, because all of these are functions within asset management.

20:14 RC: Yeah. Yeah, you can’t run an asset management plan without every single function in person.

20:20 SG: Exactly.

20:23 RC: So I’m curious, Suzane, for our listeners, I’m wanting to move up in my career in this space and industry. What would you recommend for me as a maintenance technician wanting to advance my career?

20:57 SG: And so I always start with, that’s also something, I do quite a bit of career counseling. You wouldn’t imagine how much of that I do on LinkedIn. But I always try to figure out first and foremost, what exactly are you trying to be and trying to do? Because there is… Organizations don’t make it easy. But you could just want to be a fitter and be the darn best fitter that you can…

21:15 RC: In the world.

21:15 SG: Be and the best one in the industry and the best one in the world and there is room for that. So our aim with all of this is not to try to convert the fitter into an engineer, into an asset manager, into… Our aim is to figure out, “Okay, what do you want to do?” So if you want to be a technical expert, then you can continue to develop expertise in your area. But I’d also say, tie that with education. So whatever the education is that aligns with that. So for example, if you are a fitter and you want to do condition monitoring, for example, is something that would enhance that. Understanding RCM would enhance that. Ultrasound, those kinds of things would enhance that. If you are a planner or if you are a fitter and you want to move to a planner, then you need to start understanding not just maintenance but maintenance management because those are two different things. So maintenance management is about understanding management systems for maintenance. So then you wanna get into planning and scheduling. You wanna get into the HR practices. You wanna get into budgeting. You wanna get into understanding cost centers and how the organization functions.

22:41 SG: So that that is another element of it if you want to get into the management of maintenance. So that usually comes with some level of supervisory responsibilities. So then you also wanna ensure that you understand how to supervise people well because that is something that kills organizations quite quickly. And so there are courses that are tailored specifically to maintenance management. And people should avail themselves of that because once you get into that, you do want to understand, not just the way that you’ve been taught through tribal knowledge but you also want to understand the science of it and to ensure that you’re doing it right. ‘Cause don’t forget, one of the things that maintenance is supposed to do, is supposed to create the demand for new assets through the information passing through.

23:41 SG: So maintenance is supposed to translate risks, so what is going on with the asset condition, for example? What is going on with compliance? Why can’t this asset comply with whatever standards or laws or legislation that it should be complying with? So maintenance is supposed to generate that level of risks and knowledge for the organization and then create the demand to say, “Okay, this asset looks like it’s not able to go with us into the future. So we are gonna need a new asset.”

24:16 SG: So that kind of knowledge and knowledge about asset information and preserving asset information in a way that it can then be used to make those kinds of decisions would be important. I would say as well, in my little perfect world, which I might be alone in that little world. All levels of decision makers in the organization need to have some asset management exposure. And in saying that, I’m not trying to make everyone a certified Asset Management Assessor, but some amount of exposure because anybody who’s making decisions in the organization is spending money. There’s no decision-making without spending money. And so you want the frontline decision makers, which are frontline supervisors and so on, to understand, when they take decisions around stocking parts, hoarding parts, engaging contractors, what does that mean? When we buy parts that we won’t use for two years, what did that do to the balance sheet? Where does inventory show up on the balance sheet? What is the impact? What does it impact? Do people understand how they impact the thing that we call cash flow and the fact that we could be making a profit but have no cash to run the business and can’t pay anybody?

25:50 SG: And so everybody needs to understand that. Middle management, they are usually the ones making most of the day-to-day decisions in the organization. So we’re talking about your maintenance manager, your supply chain manager, your production manager. And so they’re authorized and they’re also usually in charge of all of the resources. So when they’re making decisions, for those decisions to align with what the overarching asset management strategy is. That is why we need everybody to be exposed to different levels. And then I’m not gonna leave out the C-suite, because if we educate everybody below them, then you come back home from your training course, you run into a brick wall, because you can’t change policy, only top management can do that. You can’t change how the organization is structured, only top management can do that. You can’t change the number of resources, we call it in HR, I don’t know what we call it in North America, but in HR, we call it the establishment. So, if the organization has 50 people in there, two fitters, two supervisors, you cannot change that without top management.

27:03 RC: Absolutely.

27:04 SG: And so, exactly, and so precisely what I’m saying is, every level of management in the organization, front line, middle management, and top management needs to have asset management exposure, albeit to different degrees. If you’re fortunate to have an asset management organization or an asset management department within your organization, then those are the only people who I’d say need to be certified to any degree, but everybody needs some exposure.

27:38 RC: Absolutely. Well Suzane, it sounds like you’re deeply passionate about this. And I know also that you recently wrote a book called Risk-Based Asset Criticality Assessment Handbook. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that is and what inspired you to write this book?

27:56 SG: So, what it is… [chuckle] Can you see it?

28:00 SG: I can see.

28:01 SG: Okay. So, I started to run into a lot of organizations that, where everybody understands the need for asset criticality, more or less, I’d say. But a lot of people didn’t understand how to actually do one. Like if somebody had to start from scratch tomorrow, what should they look at, what should they consider? I also thought that I wanted to take it a little bit beyond understanding, and I doubt I’m the first one ever to do this, but a little bit beyond just understanding what the impact of it should be, but also to understand the probability of failure and to combine those two in a risk-based second.

28:51 SG: And so, I developed a methodology. So it’s a not a prescriptive book. It doesn’t tell you that you should do this or your criticality should have safety in it or it should have environment. What it does, it looks at how you would look at the drivers of the organization, and it takes a very asset management and risk management approach, in that you look at the drivers of the organization, and then consider how the asset’s failure could impact one of those drivers. So we call those the business drivers and then it combines it with what we call the asset drivers, which would be things about the asset that could create urgency and bring it more to the forefront than another asset.

29:43 SG: And so, we combine the asset drivers and the business drivers. So asset drivers would be things like, remaining use for life, rate of failure, those kinds of things. So, combining impact and urgency, that is what gave us risk-based asset criticality. And so I outlined a methodology to develop, identify the business drivers of the organization, first and foremost, rank them, weight them, however you wanna do it, where you need senior management input in all of this, ’cause in a lot of… A lot of people don’t do asset criticality well. And in a lot of companies, it’s probably just a few people in maintenance that sit down and decide what the criticality of the asset is. But it really is, it’s a fundamental asset management tool and it is an organizational tool. It’s an organizational risk management tool to help you to understand the risk that the assets are presenting and the exposure to the organization.

30:54 RC: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Suzane, I’m looking forward to getting my copy of your book. We’re wrapping up to the end of this.

31:04 SG: Yes.

31:04 RC: Can you share with all of our listeners all the different ways they could connect with you, Suzane?

31:09 SG: So I can be reached through my website, but I’m very active on LinkedIn. So if you wanna reach out to me on LinkedIn. The company is on LinkedIn as well. And so the website is, the email address is the same, [email protected], it’s quite a long one. And there’s also a contact sheet on my website that you can… Check out my website, there are a few courses that we have coming up that you can get some information on them.

31:44 RC: Awesome. Well thank you again, Suzane, for joining us. And thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance.

31:51 SG: Thank you.

31:51 RC: My name is Ryan Chan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. Again, you can connect with me as well on LinkedIn or directly at [email protected] Until next time. Thanks so much, Suzane.

32:03 SG: Thank you. I appreciate it.


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