Isn’t that clear? Plant owner, of course, is the first thought. After second thought it becomes clear that the situation is more complicated. The plant main engineering design may have been licensed from a third party company. Okay, then that company owns the main design. Machines and equipment, specified according to the engineering requirements, have been purchased and paid from vendors. With them all installation, maintenance and operational manuals should have been received along with other data that is considered to be needed in operations and maintenance. But the product data related to machines and equipment are owned by the corresponding manufacturers. The information is a subject of trade. ARC (2008) estimated that about 80% of the plant asset information origin from outside companies (engineering companies, vendors, suppliers, service providers, etc.).
The purpose of plant asset information is to guarantee high production availability and dependability as well as minimize risks for people, environment and assets themselves. Unfortunately, it is not always clear what information is actually needed, where to get it from, how to use it, and who should be responsible for maintaining it or should it actually be maintained at all. There is no single correct answer to any of these questions. The answers depend on many different things including the plant owner’s operations & maintenance strategy (who is responsible of the corresponding competence) and the phase of the asset lifecycle. As information in its different phases originates different organizations and different sources, it is always challenging to organize asset information management in a satisfactory way.
The table below classifies the plant asset related information into separate groups. One part of the information originates subscriber organizations (buying engineering or service work or equipment), one part originates supplier organizations (supplying work or equipment) and one part originates designing, implementing and operating organizations (which can be plant’s own organizations or external subscribers’ organizations).
Typically, the company that creates the information owns it (or rather the intellectual property rights, IPR), if that is not mutually agreed otherwise. The company may share it for free or sell it to other companies, but that does not mean that the ownership of the data has been transferred. As in literature or music when you buy a book or a song, you are only allowed to use that according to certain rules. You didn’t get any ownership of the content. In process industry environment this simple fact is often blurred as information related to plant asset has not had so far that important role as it should have had. This may sometimes cause problems.
If you buy a machine, which part of its engineering design information belongs to manufacturer’s IPR and which part is public information that should be shared along the machine delivery? If for example the subscriber wants to keep the machine’s ball bearings maintenance work, should all this information be available for the subscriber? Common sense says that of course. How about in a case where the subscriber is giving the maintenance responsibility to a competitor of the machine manufacturer? Common sense says that of course not. The solution will be the same as with books or music – there must be rules. As some companies already have realized, the procurement contract will define the rules in detail on how to utilize asset information.
Literature and music have created public national and international associations that take care of these rules. Should we have something similar within process industry? Should technical standardization organizations (like ISO or IEC) expand their scope and define IPR conditions for the technical attributes? Globally, the process industry’s operations and maintenance related intercompany trade is worth of thousands of billions euros annually. The missing rules are obviously one essential barrier that prevents electronic procurement in the trade thus preventing also related costs savings.
While waiting related IPRs to come a part of international and national standards the thing is to include more detailed IPR issues as a part of procurement contracts. This should be of a great interest for all parties as it allows more accurate and more automatic information exchange facilitating more effective business. The key issue is not who owns plant asset information – it is owned collaboratively by the involved companies – but how to organize information exchange in a way that all parties can secure their own IPRs.
(ARC 2008) Optimize Asset Lifecycle Performance through Better Asset Information Management, ARC Forum 2008, Houston