Given the age we live in, where data is at our finger tips at all times—from cell phones, tablets, laptops, and sometimes even desktops—the quality of master data has never been a more relevant topic affecting us all. Expectations have never been higher than now as to the accuracy of what is available as well as the ability to look at information from multiple directions to find what we are seeking. While in most areas significant progress has been made by external forces such as regulatory, focus groups, trade organizations, or consumer super powers, one area that has seen little progress from any of these forces is the data associated with Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO). Without the common standards applied to other areas such as Universal Product Codes (UPC) or a common trade organization or buying force, MRO data remains in the hands of the consumer to resolve.
Unless addressed internally organizations remain at the mercy of their chosen distribution network, as the “Gatekeeper.” Only the distributor truly knows:
1. The identity of the material the clients rely on to maintain their critical assets;
2. The source and quality of the product they are using;
3. The cost of the material; and
4. The cross-reference of available material to replace the product supplied
What Can be Done
At this point in time, given the state of the problem, organizations that are tired of being held hostage and want to realize the benefits that can be realized by accurate information are taking matters in their own hands. Their efforts are a part of a defined goal or initiative to gain control for the shortcomings noted above and to provide their internal customers with what they expect when trying to find information concerning specific items, orders, or at a summary level by manufacturer or supplier, that is “accurate.”
With this as the goal, the first step is to define MRO data management from an ownership and responsibility perspective within an organization. A suggested definition that encompasses the problem and experience we have in assisting organizations in addressing this need is:
Master Data Management (MDM) for MRO is a discipline driven by two masters—maintenance operations and procurement—that utilize technology and domain expertise to ensure the uniformity, accuracy, and consistency of shared master data to optimize supply and minimize risk.
Master Data Management (MDM) for MRO is a discipline driven by two masters—maintenance operations and procurement
Key points embedded in this definition is the realization that MDM for MRO cannot be the responsibility of a single “Gatekeeper” since maintenance and reliability needs are different from but of equal importance to the requirements of procurement. Also, while technology can be successfully applied to automate many of the manual tasks in classifying, standardizing, and identifying the quality of existing and proposed items for a master catalogue, the project is not one that should be owned by a technology or ERP group within an organization.
How to Get There
As with any project the first step is to realize and define your goals. While you will probably use a partner who specializes in data cleansing and who comes in with pre-built tools to assist you in this quest, remember that you are addressing a problem without a single accepted solution and without a single set of adopted standards. Therefore, unless you fully identify what you are trying to accomplish, don’t expect the provider to automatically address your concerns without your input.
Typically, the problem includes 5 elements—Sourcing, Validation, Taxonomy, Category and Duplicate Resolution—with a multitude of decisions and clarity within each bubble. Also, at least one of the elements, sourcing, may seem to be out of the realm of standard data enhancement for enrichment, yet it is the true measure of the success of the project: the ability to properly source and acquire these critical components in a competitive manner. We have seen too many projects where the ability to find and manage MRO inventories are the focus, but where the ability to procure is an afterthought only to be uncovered when a critical need is required and ultimately finding that the item is no longer available or obsolete.
The Ultimate Goal
The suggested objective is that MDM for MRO be part of a defined process with standards and workflows to insure all of the interested parties’ objectives are attained. Since the data has mutually intertwined objectives, these workflows will provide the necessary quality controls to ensure that shortcuts are not taken to only serve a single master. The point to emphasize is that this journey cannot be treated as an external, one-time cleanup without internal involvement in defining the needs, rules, and requirements that define success and participation of all those involved. If these ideas are followed, the organization can then regain control, will no longer be held hostage by its data, and can successfully achieve its objectives for MRO savings.