Inventory and Materials Management for (HxGN) EAM
May 2, 2023
Material Matters, as the name suggests, is a series of blogs discussing the capabilities and proper implementation and management of inventory and materials for EAMs, with case study focus on HxGN EAM. We will examine the typical challenges faced by companies when managing their materials in an EAM system and offer suggestions for possible system and process improvement.
The observations and commentary are the result of our direct experience over more than 20 years implementing, interfacing, and optimizing HxGN EAM and IBM Maximo across a number of industries in the US, Canada, and Europe. The objective is to provide a practical, guide for implementing materials management in an EAM and addressing the most common issues faced by established systems.
Talking about enterprise systems is inherently a serious matter and typically calls for formal language and didactic business school fervor. In break with tradition, we would try to maintain a sense of humor throughout the discussions. I can honestly say that some of the wittiest and funniest people I have met come are among the customers I have had the pleasure (and fun) to work with over the years.
We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions for the topics we cover, as well as anything else you would like us to discuss. If you have a story you would like to share, bring it on, we are all your tribe and can appreciate the pain, humor, importance, and value of your experience.
Jokes and anecdotes are always welcome as well. We’ll assume that we have covered the “how many maintenance guys does it take to change a light bulb one” and go from there.
The Materials Management in EAM Status Quo
It starts with good intentions, planning and the best of logic and financial reasoning. Or it happens gradually or ad hoc, often spurred by necessity or frustration. Tolstoy’s famous maxim about happy and unhappy families applies in full to materials management in an EAM. When it works it just works and it’s beautiful. When it doesn’t, the disappointments are uniquely challenging.
A Ferrari Bound - Materials Management in EAM
If you ask someone what an EAM is, most of the answers would be a version of work management activities– work orders, PMs, and other asset-centric tasks. Material management is a bit of a Cinderella for a lot of EAM installations, if they have even implemented it; quite a few companies, regardless of size do not even manage their maintenance materials inside the EAM and it ends up being rolled up in overall plant expenses.
For companies that do manage inventory and materials inside the EAM, the experience is not necessarily optimal. Users are prone to blame the system – I have lost count of how many times I have heard maintenance and warehouse personnel complain about the quality of materials data, the cumbersome process or report inaccuracies. The truth is that most best-of-breed EAMs, like HxGN EAM and IBM Maximo are perfectly equipped to efficiently handle even the most demanding maintenance material management needs of a company.
The problem typically lies with the implementation and design of the processes and lack of understanding of the EAM’s capabilities. It’s like driving a modified Ferrari pulling a loaded trailer on a pothole ridden track and being frustrated that you cannot get past second gear. It’s just not going to work, because the car’s engine has been throttled, it’s dragging a full load of extraneous junk and the pavement is too rough. It’s not the car. And it’s not the EAM. It’s the setup and environment and occasionally the skills of the operator.
"it’s not the EAM. It’s the setup and environment and occasionally the skills of the operator. ."
Materials Blunders – Good Intentions Go Astray
Maintenance inventory and materials management, while tangibly critical, is also something of a supplemental function in an EAM system. Yes, theoretically you need to have the materials for PMs defined and you should be issuing parts to work orders and equipment but in reality, it is possible to implement and use an EAM without engaging the materials module. A lot of companies do. Some that I am aware of are multi-national corporations and household names and have been doing it for years. For those who do use materials inside EAM the issues companies might be facing typically stem from the implementation approach (or lack thereof). There are a couple of typical paths that can end up creating a problem.
Racing Out of The Gate
Paradoxically, going all out and implementing materials during the initial EAM implementation can cause issues down the road. Anyone who has been in a relationship can relate to how it happens. It’s the case when you have met the right person, finally, and you feel you can conquer the world together.
The implementation team is fired up, excited about the technology and automations that will be introduced. The project ROI deliverables drive the excitement for the new processes, the data, the savings, the reports. The future looks bright, and the team wants to do it all, cover all major aspects of a system use, because it feels so right. That, and the business analysis backed by MBA worthy tenens, and ROIs offer solid justification for taking on the task.
Sometimes this approach works brilliantly, when back by solid process understanding and continual monitoring and improvements plan. In the majority of cases I have witnessed, however, problems start cropping up after a few months or use and are rarely resolved. It is not possible to anticipate all real-life challenges while planning for any project. Most projects do not have a budget and timeline for follow up and re-design. Over time companies change strategy and priorities and the issues multiply, especially for a support function in the EAM like materials management. The result is a sub-optimal process flow, questionable data, and frustrated users. Much like the situation in the second case.
Doing it Like Frankie – My Way
“I want to see my PM parts”, “I want to issue parts for equipment” and “I want to load and use my parts” are the top requests I hear from end users for companies that do not use the EAM for material management. Presumably the work processes are more or less in control, and they would like to improve on them.
"Materials management..... requires consistent effort, continuous monitoring and optimization, manpower and training. It cannot work without corporate level vision and support."
It is always with profound regret that I must inform them that this is not as easy to achieve as it sounds. Loading the parts and populating stock records is trivial. Keeping the inventory up to date is anything but. Done properly, it is a major enterprise level project that typically requires process re-design and integrations and the requisite budgets that go with them.
Maintenance folk like to fix things and generally when faced with a problem they will try to rig their own solution if better options are not available. Most advanced users, in my experience, have access to the Materials module of the system and often they decide to solve the problem their way.
The results are predictable – master parts lists with “creative” data and for the ones who take it to the next level, haphazard material transactions. Even when the users try to limit the scope and focus on particular areas of inventory management, the results rarely justify the effort. Materials management is an important process that cannot function in isolation. At a minimum it needs to be integrated with work and purchasing and requires consistent effort, continuous monitoring and optimization, manpower and training. It cannot work without corporate level vision and support.
The next article in the series, Doing it Right – Approach to Materials Management in EAM will discuss the overall strategy points for a solid materials process setup, with a focus on HxGN EAM.
Krassi Mihaylova is a project manager and business analyst at Cimmira with over 20 years of experience in the EAM industry. You can contact her at email@example.com