An asset criticality assessment is an incredibly valuable yet simple technique maintenance teams can use to prioritise and support the performance of an organisation’s most important assets.

This article will explore what asset criticality assessments are, why they matter, and when you should use them. We’ll also investigate why some organisations resist using asset criticality assessments and look at Minset’s own tried-and-tested methodology in more detail.

What is an asset criticality assessment? 

An asset criticality assessment systematically evaluates and prioritises a site’s top assets. It helps businesses match their maintenance activities to each asset’s level of importance. The tool assesses the likelihood of failure in a given set of circumstances and reviews the consequences of that failure. Consequences range from a minor event, such as a mild water leak, through to a major environmental catastrophe. The severity of an event is assessed against potential safety, financial, regulatory, or environmental impacts.

Once complete, the final assessment provides each organisation with a risk-based framework to guide future maintenance programs, activities, and actions.

When to use an asset criticality assessment?

Many practitioners use asset criticality assessments to develop their maintenance strategies and tactics. However, did you know that prioritising and assessing your assets via criticality can be used for so much more and will add value throughout an asset’s life cycle?

Some of the equipment life cycle considerations you might like to think about in relation to asset criticality include:

  • Plant expansions or major projects intended to increase throughput
  • Shifts in operational contexts, such as changes in raw materials
  • Major equipment modifications, like updating control systems
  • Prioritising defect elimination and reliability improvements
  • Reducing downtime by ensuring a quick response to priority issue reports
  • Maintenance cost optimisation, such as wear material upgrades
  • Prioritising equipment preservation tactics for care and maintenance programs.

How often should you organise an asset criticality assessment?

Many asset owners review their assessments regularly to validate their asset rankings and reconfirm controls. A typical approach suggests a review is a good idea when a major plant or process change occurs, or alternately, on a two-year planned approach.

Are the results really worth the time and effort?

The short answer is…yes! Sometimes organisations are reluctant to undertake a new assessment or review existing assessments as they don’t believe the results are worth the time and effort.

It’s true it can be challenging to find the right balance between a highly detailed methodology and one that doesn’t contain enough information to assess criticality properly. However, it is possible when you consider the right factors. Minset recommends you:

  • Use a ‘segmented’ approach. Ensure your asset register prioritises critical assets by business unit, plant area, or production line.
  • Assemble an assessment team with strong technical knowledge. If possible, include both operational and maintenance stakeholders. You can take the time to build an in-house team or work with external experts you trust for faster results.
  • Define and agree on the level of evaluation, which can include the maintainable unit, subassembly, or component levels. This often comes down to the perceived asset criticality, complexity, and value of the asset.
  • Keep the assessment matrix as simple as possible. Be disciplined and only use criteria that will affect the outcome.
  • Stay focused on the key task at hand, which is determining a consequence-based criticality ranking. Develop your maintenance tasks separately, considering failure modes and predictive and preventative maintenance strategies.
  • Make the call upfront and decide if you will load the final rankings into your maintenance management system. If you decide against this, think about how you will disseminate the key information across your operations and maintenance teams.

Which asset criticality assessment methodology is the best?

The Minset team has seen and used many different methods over the years. We’ve taken our real-world experience, along with decades of customer feedback, and designed a practical solution that removes unnecessary complexity and optimises powerful decision-making insights.

We know we’re biased, but we believe our strategy is practical and supports maintenance personnel to develop valid criticality rankings in a timely way. Our methodology ranks assets and groups them so failure mitigation and maintenance strategies can be evaluated and applied appropriately.

As a guide, take a look at the summary table below.

A truly flexible solution

An asset criticality assessment is a powerful and flexible tool when used the right way and shared with your teams. Each assessment can be reviewed on a regular basis (every couple of years) and updated throughout the life of the business. An assessment acts as a foundation element, ensuring your planned maintenance program delivers the performance improvements your business needs now, and in the future.

An asset criticality assessment in action

We recently helped a gold mining client use asset criticality assessment as a key strategy informing how the site managed its three–to-five-year asset preservation program. The tool helped to prioritise program elements and ensured that critical non-plant infrastructure was not overlooked. We identified 22 extreme criticality assets, some of which did not have appropriate preservation tasks in place, given the importance of the asset.

This short example showcases how asset criticality assessments can add value in unexpected ways.

You can read more about the client case study and results here.

Want to know more about how asset criticality can transform your maintenance program?

Minset’s asset management specialists can tailor their approach to meet your needs. The team enjoys working side-by-side with clients on site and can also work remotely. If you would like to know more about how you can use asset criticality assessments at your site, please contact the Minset team.