Sunday, February 27, 2011

Return on Engineering

One of the definitions of Asset in business term is anything of material value of usefulness that is owned by a person or a company. The key word is here usefulness. How do we ensure that the asset is useful? First it must be fit for purpose, not only when it is acquired but throughout its designed life. In engineering standard the life term may range from twenty-five to even fifty years.

Over the years, there have been many approaches considered and taken to sustain the usefulness of one’s asset. Most of them are related to the way the asset is maintained. Terms such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Condition Based Monitoring (CBM), Preventive and Predictive Maintenance (PM) and even Corrective Maintenance (CM) have been used to reflect the desire of technical teams to ensure that a particular asset is fit for purpose as long as possible. Asset Lifecycle is probably one of the latest trends or approach in optimizing the usefulness of an asset. With proper execution of the relevant methodology, the Return on Asset (ROA) and Return on Investment (ROI) values would benefit the company and its shareholders.

The challenge for engineers actually does not start the moment the asset is delivered to the premise. In fact, it should start well before that when the conceptual design was first mooted. So often that this predesign stage overlooked the requirements for maintenance stage. As a result, modification or variation had to be done to improve the asset lifecycle. The main reason is probably the exclusive nature of the design and maintenance groups. As professionals, engineers should strive to widen their knowledge beyond the traditional outlook. Designers should not limit themselves to theoretical applications and likewise the operators or maintenance experts should be able to share and impart the knowledge and expertise so that the end result is one of unity!

While a lot of progress has been made in improving the lifecycle of fixed assets be it properties, plants or equipment, there are still a lot more need to be done for the other asset, namely human capital. We used to hear that employees are the best asset of a company but is this still true today? Without doubt, we could have the most sophisticated and intelligent building, equipment and maintenance system but if it is not matched with equally intelligent, skilled and versatile workforce to execute all the programs would we be able to optimize our ROA and our ROI?

New Year

Happy New Year! Indeed, Year 2010 was quite a year for engineers. Almost all major incidences that occurred in 2010 were related to engineering works one way or the other, except of course those caused by natural disasters. The Deepwater Horizon incident was one of the worst engineering disasters in history of mankind. The jury is still out on the final cost of the failure. Could this kind of disaster have been prevented?

Another significant event, which might be considered as the pinnacle of engineering work during a disaster was the Chile mine incident. As it turned out all the miners survived and were brought up to the surface by a specially designed capsule, which was a result of an engineering innovation and well coordinated and managed rescue operation.

So, what is in store for 2011? Perhaps, a closer look would bring forth the fact that 1st January 2011 is not only a start to a new year but also a start to the third decade of the Vision 2020, which was launched in 1990. It is like on the home stretch or the last lap, whichever way one looks at it. As one of the essential components of nation builders, there are plenty of opportunities and challenges for engineers and the engineering society. The New Economic Model (NEM), the Economic Transformation Programs (ETP) and the Tenth Malaysia Plan (10MP) are some of the key Headlines. While the economist may have completed their number crunching for these programs, the real work for the engineers is just starting. Planning, designing, implementing and commissioning are probably the most obvious tasks. The issue of sustainability and environmental friendly engineering will become more prominent. The question is, can we engineers face up to the challenge to ensure all the ideas and concepts on the drawing boards are translated fully into reality? Our expertise on Value Engineering and Project Management will certainly be needed.

Those Malaysians who were born in 1990 and chose to be engineers are now in their second year of an engineering course. In two years time they will be actively involved in some kind of engineering works. Are we ready to lead and guide them to carry on the good name of the engineering profession towards 2020? With the ever and fast changing way of life, can the engineers remain merely in the traditional domain of engineering or ready to impart and infuse the engineering practices in other areas of life professions?

A Long Journey Back

After a very long hiatus, I plan to reconnect with the readers to this page. There have been so many things happening the past ten months or so. Thank God I now believe that I could have some time again to blog. Hope this second phase will be more interesting sharing work experience and views rather than others.