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Where is it? I don't see it.


I have been rethinking what an asset is in a variety of contexts. Historically, I have rigidly treated the definition of an asset as something tangible and intended to provide value in the future. I might have purchased a new asset through a capitalization process to improve the capabilities within a facility. I also may need to repair an asset that had recently failed so we can get a production unit back up and running.


However, lately, I have been thinking about a different type of asset requiring an expanded definition. It is an asset that I have never purchased but requires control to run operating units effectively. An asset that does not depreciate on the books over time but generally impacts the organization's value when compromised. I am exploring the definition of an asset to include the blank space between our traditional assets. Yes, all of the empty space.


If I go on a housekeeping audit within a department, I may see housekeeping issues that employees obliviously walk past. For example, I may point out stored material hazards on top of a cabinet that is against a housekeeping policy. I also may see a coupling guard not reinstalled after a recent repair. In the reversal, there are plenty of times when someone may come to my areas of responsibility for a 5S audit and see things such as walking/working surface issues, blocked disconnect switches, or fire extinguishers not secured on wall-mounted brackets. In these examples, housekeeping effectiveness correlates with the owners of the area and the auditor's capability to recognize objects that are not in their intended space and compromise the boundaries of the blank space.


Next, consider a process water tank in a water treatment facility. The process water level rises and lowers as the process operates. On this tank, the department could have redundant level indicators that ensure the bath's level does not compromise containment by getting too high. Additionally, these same level indicators could alarm, alert, or shut down processing capabilities at low levels to prevent starving pumps and creating collateral damage. In this example, the process water level modifies the blank space as too little or too much space to operate effectively.

An asset is a resource with economic value that an individual, corporation, or country owns or controls with the expectation that it will provide a future benefit. - Adam Barone - Investopedia

In both of these examples, the blank space around these tangible assets was compromised as conditions gradually change from a norm or a standard. As the process water tank operates through rising and lowering levels, the instruments monitor how the water compromises the space. In the housekeeping example, things were misplaced and compromised the desired controlled condition. Within this alternative view of assets, I want to challenge the thinking that we want to control the blank space to maintain our process effectiveness versus monitoring the individual boundaries of the traditional asset.


I might not have you where my head is yet, so try something more personal. Considering the cleanliness of your garage or a child’s room. I am sure we have all established a deep cleaning baseline. Now imagine that baseline as a single picture. Next, imagine comparing it to another picture taken a month later from the same point of view. Looking at the most recent picture, like a Where’s Waldo activity, you most likely can interrogate the picture and recognize things, not in the correct space. Now imagine layering these pictures within a flipbook or kineograph, maybe thousands of them over a month. With any unfavorable or unintended adjustments from the baseline, we should be able to identify and rectify the misalignment to the baseline. So now that I have you aligned with this crazy expansion of a definition, now what?


The market is exploding with new tools that use existing cameras to monitor a wide range of conditions in an area. Companies are demonstrating that they can come into your facilities and monitor how you comprise blank space. Companies can stream your video feeds into condition-based monitoring tools, while others can build 3D worlds to simulate clearances for a critical lift months before the actual lift during an outage. These companies are giving you an insight into how your blank space has been modified.


Most of you might already have some form of this technology at your home within your doorbell. Consider the commonly used Ring doorbell that alerts you in the middle of a work meeting with the classic chime, because something has compromised the controlled blank space on your front steps. The technology can even alert you that the software does not recognize the individual at your door. As these IoT and Industry 4.0 tools are rapidly expanding capabilities, how can we align these Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives?


Back to the housekeeping example, but let's look at it with new technology that monitors the blank space. An area is cleaned to a specific level of 5S to establish a normal operating condition. In this condition, the level of housekeeping is established with nothing stacked on top of cabinets, every ladder is in its proper position, and no tripping hazards are within your designated walkways. The camera that has been there for more than ten years can give you insight into the condition of the blank space. Something as simple as the ladder not being in the correct storage position leads to a data point to improve.


If this technology can improve housekeeping, consider how it can improve your ESG initiatives. Instead of miles of conduit in a facility, light curtains connected interlocks, or prox switches monitoring the position of the material, cameras and application software can be programmed to manage these conditions. Imagine deep AI learning models that connect to your existing hardware that monitors the level of your tanks to control operating effectiveness. Imagine alerting automatically that an employee forgot to put their face shield down before grinding.

What is very exciting about the smarter AI intelligent camera market is that it uses so many diverse technologies to create new capabilities, including computer vision, image recognition, machine learning, deep learning, speech, and voice recognition technologies. These methods are further augmented by data scientists and computer engineering specialists to build AI models that can also solve different business use cases – as the world continues to decompose business problems faster using these advanced methods. Cindy Gordon, Contributor, CEO, Innovation Leader Passionate about Modernizing via AI

It does not matter if it is a greenfield project or a brownfield project, the stage is set for this next industrial revolution to step-change our ability to monitor and control. Technology exists to complement our existing hardware to provide insight into our assets. This new frontier transitions manufacturing processes from traditionally using cameras for reactive monitoring to an autonomous proactive monitoring strategy of blank space. However, to become effective you have to be able to see the blank space. The future is here, so start training yourself and your teams to see the blank space and then transition to it being managed.



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