Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

S2:E18 Asset Strategy Management with Jason Apps

Caitlyn Young

Jason Apps is the CEO of ARMS Reliability, a leading global provider of asset management solutions.


In this week’s episode of Masterminds in Maintenance, we are excited to have Jason Apps, CEO of ARMS Reliability, on the show! One of Jason’s specialities is Asset Strategy Management, and how to use it to build a culture of reliability in an organization. Jason and Ryan dive deep into this topic, discussing core principles of Asset Strategy Management and how to get more teams to adopt and develop this approach. Listen today!

Episode Show Notes

  • Biggest pitfall when managing equipment?
  • How can asset strategy play into reliability culture?
  • What do you wish more people knew about reliability?

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00:02 Ryan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host Ryan, and 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, their idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times, their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today, I’m super excited, we’ve got Jason Apps here on the show. Jason is the CEO of ARMS Reliability where he oversees a global team focused on helping their clients be safe and successful, making reliability a reality. Welcome to the show, Jason. I’m really excited. I’ve heard so much from your team, and now we get the opportunity to have you here as a guest on our podcast to learn from you.

00:45 Jason Apps: Yeah. Thanks, Ryan. Great to be talking to you.

00:48 Ryan: The way that we always love to kick things off is if you could share a little bit more about yourself, your background, and how you first got started in this wonderful niche of maintenance and reliability.

01:00 JA: Yeah. It’s probably a fairly typical story, unfortunately, but I was reasonably good at maths and science in high school so I got pushed into engineering as a young 17-year-old, and I was lucky enough to land what was called a cadetship. So fortunate enough to having done a fitting interning or millwright trade, so I worked as a… I did an apprenticeship to become a trades-person at the same time I was doing mechanical engineering. I completed the engineering, and so of course, just fell into maintenance engineering as a role. Right around the world and particularly in large organizations, all of a sudden, there was reliability engineering positions. So I, at the time, was looking about what my career path was gonna be. They recommended that I go and be a reliability engineer at a particular plant, which I did.

01:46 JA: So the interesting part about that as I look back now, is that I was a maintenance engineer in an organization. I got on a plane and got off at the other end as a reliability engineer. No new tools, no new anything other than we need reliability engineers so we’re gonna trade some roles and put some people in them. And it really wasn’t until I joined ARMS which is to say it was about 22, 23 years ago now. That was a small consulting organization where I really became exposed to more pure reliability engineering skills. So I got taught about [02:21] ____ analysis and work order history analysis and got taught about reliability centered maintenance. And just got fascinated and really intrigued by having worked in an industry what value these techniques and these tools could add to organizations. And the rest is history. I’m still going, still trying to help organizations.

02:41 Ryan: That’s awesome, and you’ve got an amazing story, Jason. You started out at ARMS as senior reliability engineer, and now, you’re the CEO of the company. I’m curious what that journey has been like for you?

02:55 JA: It’s been a whole lot of fun. When I joined ARMS, there really was only the founder. So I was the first employee, if you like, at that point in time. And really just grew as the organization grew. So entered in to provide consulting services. We were successful, we had to grow the consulting team. At a particular point in time along that journey, we started to develop our own technology platform all geared to help us get better at providing services to customers and enabling them to get better results from what we were doing. We’re founded and started in Australia, we expanded, and we now operate around the globe. Our founder in particular was very success driven and really passionate about getting results for people, and it’s just embodied in the organization now. When you’re in the mindset of always trying to improve, it just keeps everything fresh and fun. You’re just always looking to improve on what you do.

03:50 Ryan: There’s a lot of change, a lot of evolution that happened over the past 23 years. But I think the one thing as you mentioned that stayed constant is that you’re having a good time, you’re having fun, you’re enjoying this. And that’s, I think the root of being able to be in this industry for 23 years and still love it every single day. One of the core topics of today’s conversation that was brought up was this idea of asset strategy. And obviously, I know that that’s a big fundamental core piece of ARMS. I’m curious about your thoughts, Jason, on how you view the world on asset strategy and how do you use that to build the culture of reliability within a plant, within a company?

04:32 JA: From our perspective, when you look at asset performance, it’s really pretty simple. There’s a lot of stuff around the edges, but basically, the performance you’re gonna get from an asset is based on how you operate it and how you care for it. In terms of the maintenance or the asset care that you do, that’s gonna deliver the performance that you see. It’s really that simple. And if you break down maintenance, there’s really only two key pieces to that. One is, what’s the strategy? And the second is, how well can you execute it efficiently? That’s it. If you can tackle those fundamentals on an ongoing basis, you will get the best performance you can from your asset.

05:14 JA: We see a lot of attempts to improve work management quite a lot and obviously you guys are passionate about that, and from our perspective, that’s a key element. We have to enable technicians and tradespeople to just be able to get the work pack or the job, go where they go, have everything they need, execute that work, and get the feedback. And we want them to do that as efficiently as we can. But it’s important what they’re executing is the right tasks. So that’s the strategy piece, and that’s really where we’re passionate about, making sure that people have the right strategy. There’s a lot of allure associated at the moment with asset health monitoring and predictive analytics and those kind of things. And yes, absolutely a place for that, absolutely a place for that. But in the absence of any strategy work, it’s actually quite reactive. You go and operate assets and you just look and monitor, you see degradation and then you respond. So it’s a somewhat reactive approach in the absence of strategy. So to us, you need those three things going on: Strategy, asset monitoring, and the work execution.

06:24 JA: The second key piece about strategy is, it needs to be done on an ongoing basis. Historically… And this is… We’ve learnt this because we’ve done it. Historically, strategy work is done as a project. People have this, we call this the sort of reliability project mindset. They’ll go, “We need to review some asset strategies ’cause we’ve got poor performance.” So we go do that, we run a project, probably get some consulting support, maybe even an organization like ARMS. Has a start date, has an end date, they deliver some strategies, and then everyone walks away. Perhaps we put that into a CMMS system and then we go about executing the strategy. So that’s the historical sort of mindset. The reality, of course, is that as soon as you put it in your work management system to go execute, stuff is gonna change. The asset condition is gonna degrade, perhaps you’re gonna change the duty of the asset, maybe gonna use it in different ways, maybe you’re gonna install addition capacity. Who knows? There’s a whole lot of stuff that’s changing all the time that should trigger a strategy change.

07:32 JA: So if you review strategy ’cause that’s a body of work, you get those outputs, you put them in your CMMS. If you wanna do it in a way that that data is connected such that any change in the future, you just kind of flow through a strategy change. You should also have an asset strategy management process going in parallel, a different process, different technical solution, different people which are reliability engineers and the like, but they’re keeping the strategy up-to-date and they’re just connected. You’re always keeping the strategy up-to-date, you’re always executing the right strategy. And that, we believe will deliver significant value to organizations.

08:08 Ryan: Absolutely, and I think the best analogy for, at least for me, is like if we’re in a car, if we get into a car and we gotta get to point… From A to B, it’s not only about how fast you travel, it’s also about what direction you’re going. You’ve seen so many different businesses, what do you think is the most common pitfall, the biggest failure point for companies managing their strategy around their equipment? [chuckle]

08:38 JA: If I knew the answer I’d be talking to a lot more people about it. [chuckle] I think because of that project based mindset, we haven’t really acknowledged that we need to maintain a strategy on an ongoing basis. So we have this belief that the work management process takes care of the strategy, and it doesn’t. A technical solution, and [09:03] ____ management takes care of the market data and the process, it doesn’t take care of the content inside the market data, if you understand what I mean. So it doesn’t… We know this scenario, we’ve seen it so many times where we do good strategy work, we put the strategies into a CMMS system, and if you go back and look in say, three months, six months time, you will see that people have gone in and changed the strategy. We’ve done an inspection for the last six times, and we haven’t seen any degradation, so we’re gonna extend the interval of the inspection.

09:39 JA: So kinda good intent, but fundamentally wrong decisions that can expose the organization to risk. Because there’s this belief that once the strategies in the work management system, it somehow looks after itself, and it doesn’t. So I think that’s the biggest trap that people have fallen into, is that we do the work strategy, we put it in the CMMS system, and then that’s it, we don’t need to think about it anymore. We usually having kept the information because we don’t have the capacity that we use to create the strategy. So when you’re creating strategy, you’re thinking about failure modes and task durations and PF intervals perhaps, and all these failure characteristics. It’s all this sort of reliability type information, has no home in the CMMS system. You use that content and you come up with the task and the interval and the resource, and that gets packaged, and that’s what goes in the CMMS. But the content we use to make that decision about what we’re gonna do has no home in the CMMS, so it’s forgotten.

10:44 Ryan: What I’m hearing is the biggest pitfall is we do a strategy session once a year, once every X, Y, Z interval. And we don’t… It’s not a continuous thing, when it’s just a one-time event. And it’s actually really interesting around this discussion, because ARMS actually is a consulting firm that goes in, helps implement the strategy. Here’s my guess that what you guys focus on is not just that one-time consulting gig, but building a culture of constant improvement around strategy and also execution. How have you helped organizations in the past build this culture of continuous process improvement?

11:28 JA: Culture to me is really important. We’re passionate about culture inside our organization as I’m sure you are. And what we talk about in terms of supporting culture is really the framework and process that helps support the purpose that you might set and the behaviors that you wanna see. So really important to us to help people connect that. What happened to me, to put a person in a reliability engineering role and not build their capability and not have a defined process and not have any technical solutions to support them to do their work, it’s almost like just go do reliability. We set these people up to fail. We set these people up to fail. So I think the absence of the framework is the biggest thing that we… You put the framework in place and it’s the framework that’s important, the process is important. You just start building this culture naturally because people are focused on making sure the strategy’s right. Strategy is important, it’s gonna deliver the performance, the outcome. So the reliability asset becomes important. And interestingly, the understanding that reliability is about making the right decisions on the right assets. So it’s okay that some things fail.

12:37 Ryan: Jason, I’ve loved this conversation so far, I’ve learned so much. I’m curious, you’ve been in the industry for quite some time, I’m curious, what is something that you wish more people knew about within the maintenance reliability space?

12:51 JA: It’s probably a little bit of a repeat of what I’ve said, but really, I would like people to connect the dots. But probably what they understand… When we talk to people about asset strategy managing and what it’s setting out to achieve, they’re all familiar with the experience, that the work management process, people go in and change that data all the time, with good intent, but it’s out of alignment with the operation context of the day. So, we’d like them to understand and connect those dots. The reason that we’re still getting unplanned failures, undesirable unplanned failures, catastrophic events and high costs, is because we expose the organization to risk through adjustment of strategy in an unmanaged way. And that’s part of the problem we have. If I go into a CMMS system, I go onto UpKeep and I adjust an interval on a task, good intent, right? I might go over there, we do it every three months, so I’m gonna push this one month exercise to three months. Reduce the cost, that’s a good change.

13:56 JA: The problem is, immediately, it will reduce the costs, because I pushed out an activity I used to do once every month to once every three months. The problem is that I’ve created risk, and risk is not immediate. I’d make the change, it might be two years till that bites me, but I’ve created risk. And at some point, that risk has a potential to hurt me and the organization. And you wanna understand the risk that [chuckle] you may have created, so you can address it. And you do that through the implementation of process. You make sure that the changes you make to strategy are good changes, that they’ve got the appropriate review and approval justification, and it’s a managed good change that protects the organization.

14:43 Ryan: Absolutely, it’s actually really funny. We were just having this conversation around a similar topic, around assigning a dollar value to risk. I think what you’re mentioning, on a PNL, you can see the cost of reducing a PM, but you don’t see the cost of risk on a PNL. And if we can do that, the better we can do that, the more fidelity that we’ll have around making trade-offs within the business. Jason, love the conversation. Where can all of our listeners connect with you, follow you on your journey and continue to learn from you?

15:22 JA: Obviously, our website is a good spot to find us, Certainly, our LinkedIn page has a lot of that content go up and people can find me personally on Linkedin as well. There is a book. Perhaps I should mention the book, Asset Strategy Management is available by ARMS Reliability. That’s a good place to start for people or anyone interested in learning more about what we’ve been talking about as well. I love people to connect with us. We’re really passionate about the journey, always looking to get involved in more conversations with whoever’s interested.

15:56 Ryan: I really appreciate it, Jason. Thank you for joining us, and thank you to all of our listeners for tuning in to today’s Masterminds in Maintenance. My name is Ryan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. Shoot me an email directly at [email protected] Hope to connect with everyone soon. Thanks again, Jason. Until next time.

16:13 JA: Thanks, Ryan.

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