How to sustain mission-critical operations during the pandemic
By Kevin Price
Unforeseen disruptions have always been a fact of life for infrastructure managers, making business continuity planning a prerequisite for successful operations. From severe weather to cyber-attacks, it has never been a question of whether your plans could be derailed, but when—and how well you prepared, coped, and recovered.
So much about the future is still uncertain but effective leaders know that these things are true: There’s no room for compromise on ensuring a safe, compliant workplace and an integrated, data- driven strategy is the only effective way to adapt to new guidelines, regulations, experience, and circumstances.
Stability in a Chaotic Time
It is the topic of the moment: How to sustain mission-critical operations at a time when rules and compliance expectations are changing rapidly in response to shifting circumstances on the ground.
Today, everyone shares a universal challenge: Stay open, keep everyone safe, and stay afloat financially in the face of circumstances and system requirements that were unimaginable as recently as March 2020.
For transit agencies, the emphasis is on personal protective equipment (PPE) for personnel and drastically accelerated cleaning schedules—for rolling stock, turnstiles, fare machines, and any other equipment that employees or the public might encounter. In many communities, transit is also stepping up to a leadership role that gives new meaning to customer service—distributing masks to riders and using signage to drive a consistent message about physical distancing.
For facilities, it’s all about the HVAC. While good ventilation can help limit the spread of the virus, defective systems can be a hazard. Maintenance staff are an essential part of the emergency workforce, with more frequent schedules for cleaning surfaces, maintaining fans, and changing filters.
As personnel return to offices, asset management becomes a matter of reorganizing space and reallocating equipment for safety. Organizations are also discovering an interest in thermal cameras —either for the first time or using them more consistently.
Employees’ movements through a regular workday must be completely rethought. Breaks are more difficult to schedule with new lunchroom capacity limits. Employees’ adherence to mask and distancing requirements must be monitored.
This is happening during a period when the rules are not clear because, in many jurisdictions, they are still being written. The last several months were unprecedented for policymakers as much as managers. It’s no surprise that many are still scrambling.
This volatility is a source of stress for many. For asset managers, the solution is to fall back on the proven systems that are already key to optimizing performance in complex organizations.
Data Keeps Everyone Safe
It didn’t take a global health emergency to convince asset managers of the need to track, verify, and report on the condition of equipment, and to remediate, prevent, and anticipate potential gaps or deficiencies.
The same systems that allowed companies to track thousands of pieces of equipment and optimize maintenance and repair activities can now be used to ensure that staff are trained on new protective equipment and procedures.
The same data reporting that feeds more routine regulatory and compliance processes can be adapted to deliver on an enhanced set of health and safety requirements. The requests are streaming in from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)—and even from customers.
EAM systems were built for this moment
Of course, no one knew it at the time, but EAM was built for this moment, and it’s already emerged as an essential tool for organizations preparing for future disruptions.
The pandemic has stripped away so many assumptions and systems that always seemed self-evident, until suddenly, they were not. Executives are talking about the points of resilience in their organizations—like automation equipment that lets them operate leaner or newfound capacities to work from home—that are helping them weather this storm.
EAM helps support that thinking by supplying the data and insights to drive informed decisions. In precision industries like pharmaceuticals or IT manufacturing, rigorous processes for documentation, qualification, and certification are already in place. Elsewhere, enhanced oversight, verification, and reporting are becoming the new normal.
In every sector, it helps to rely on a proven system already built to accommodate the toughest requirements for effective asset management. The need to embrace EAM has always been there. The new context adds a big dose of urgency to the task.