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Episode 17

Root Cause Analysis Made Simple & Asset Management Strategies

with Susan Lubell, P.Eng, MBA, MMP, CAMA of Steppe Consulting & PEMAC

Susan Lubell, P.Eng, MBA, MMP, CAMA is Principal Consultant at Steppe Consulting and President of PEMAC, the Asset Management Association of Canada while she specializes in reliability strategy, cost effective lean maintenance and operational excellence. Mike Petrusky asks Susan about her book called, “Root Cause Analysis Made Simple: Driving Bottom-Line Improvements by Preventing One Failure at a Time” and they explore ways to set up asset management professionals for success during these fast-changing times.

Your Asset Management Toolkit

Connect with Susan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanlubell/

Get Susan’s book: https://reliabilityweb.com/bookstore/book/root-cause-analysis-made-simple

Learn more about PEMAC Asset Management Association of Canada: https://www.pemac.org/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Learn more about the iOFFICE Asset Division and explore more interviews at: https://www.assetchampion.com/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Read the full transcript:

Susan Lubell (00:01):

Root cause analysis is really an investigation method that we use to try to prevent, or at least minimize, the consequences of a failure from happening again. This book talks about the business value, why do we do our CA?

Mike Petrusky (00:21):

This is the Asset Champion Podcast, where we talk with facilities, maintenance and asset management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by the iOFFICE asset division, delivering easy to use maintenance management software tools to help you drive powerful asset performance.

            Hey there, welcome to the show. It is always great to have you join us. My name is Mike Petrusky and this is episode 17 of the Asset Champion podcast. This week I've got another good one for you, folks. My guest is Susan Lubell, an industry leader specializing in asset management and reliability strategy, cost-effective lean maintenance and operational excellence. Susan is a book author and the principal consultant at Step Consulting in Calgary, but that's not all. She is also the president of PEMAC, the asset management association of Canada. That's an organization that several of my past guests have mentioned, they say it's a fantastic source of education, connections, and community for those pursuing this discipline. And Susan is certainly passionate about all of that. We recently had a great conversation and I learned so much from it, and I'm sure that you will also. So let's get to it.

            Joining us today on the Asset Champion hotline from Canada, I'm pleased to welcome Susan Lubell to the show. Hi Susan.

Susan Lubell (01:53):

Hi Mike. Thanks very much for having me on your show.

Mike Petrusky (01:56):

How are things in Calgary today?

Susan Lubell (01:58):

Good, we're doing well. It's summer, the weather is beautiful and everybody is healthy through COVID.

Mike Petrusky (02:06):

That's the big thing. That's great to hear, and I'm glad things are settling down up there and hope the same for the States. And we're all hoping for the best. And again, it's a thrill to have you here. How long have you been involved in the industry, Susan?

Susan Lubell (02:20):

Oh, more than 25 years. So I started off as a classic process engineer and an operations role in oil and gas, and then over my career I've gone back to school and I've done my MBA. And then I've continued on with my education in terms of getting my maintenance management professional certification, my certified asset management assessor qualifications, and throughout my career I've advanced with a number of progressive roles, mostly in oil and gas, and more recently in mining and mineral processing.

Mike Petrusky (02:57):

Wow. Susan is the author of a book, Root Cause Analysis Made Simple: Driving Bottom Line Improvements By Preventing One Failure At A Time. So that's pretty cool. How was the work writing a book? Was that a fun process?

Susan Lubell (03:13):

It was. It was quite a bit different than many of the other things that I've been exposed to over my career. One of the things I realized is that you're writing for an audience that doesn't interact back with you directly. So if I'm teaching at the college or the university, even in an online program, I have an interaction with the individuals who are learning in the course. Or if I'm teaching within my employer or I'm facilitating a session, I have a lot of direct feedback. One of the unique things about writing a book is that you are writing for an audience that is reading it, but they're not responding back to you. There's nobody saying, "I need a little more detail in that area," or rolling their eyes, saying, "Get on with it, we understand." And so you're trying to guess what the reader needs to learn out of your book and hitting that right balance. I think the nice thing about this Made Simple series is that it's really targeted at the frontline practitioners and it's designed to be highly accessible, learn about the concept and how to apply it in your day-to-day work life immediately.

Mike Petrusky (04:24):

Wonderful. And that's who our audience is here, and I look forward to sharing more details with them about the book and the other work you do. But before we get too far, I always like to find out a little bit about the personal side of my guests, and you're in Canada, it's a beautiful country, but what else do you like to do in your free time?

Susan Lubell (04:42):

I have to admit, I've been enjoying this summer, with our work travel restrictions due to COVID, I have been indulging in my love of hiking. So I live within an hour drive of the Rocky Mountains, and certainly I have been out almost every weekend, enjoying long hikes, going up and down the mountains, checking out what the world has to offer. I think also I really enjoy travel, exposure to different cultures, climates, people. We've backpacked or overland camped from Katmandu to London, England, around Southern Africa, gone through parts of Europe, and traveled extensively across Canada and the US. And I think that all of this travel makes me appreciate what we have at home. As I said, Canada has beautiful, wide open, sparsely populated regions and no worry about our water supply. And it also makes you open to understanding how the new members of your teams may see the work, and both the differences and similarities in work cultures from where they started their careers. We all bring strength and value to the workplace, and I think my travel has exposed me to so many different cultures, that I really appreciate that value.

Mike Petrusky (05:59):

Beautiful. We do look forward to returning to traveling in the post-COVID world, don't we?

Susan Lubell (06:04):

Absolutely. I can't wait. I've got this big bucket list and a giant map with all the countries I've been to and highlights on where the next places are on the bucket list.

Mike Petrusky (06:14):

Here, here. Me too. That's exciting. But for some inspiration here on the show, I do like to ask my guests to offer a favorite inspirational or motivational quote. Do you have one for us?

Susan Lubell (06:25):

Yeah, I was thinking about this, and there's a lot of different inspirational or motivational quotes. And sometimes you read something and it just resonates. But I think the one that comes back to me over and over again is that quote that's been attributed to Einstein that says, "Insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results." That really rings true. Asset management isn't really about doing things the same way every time and forever. While there's certainly best practices, leading practices and thoughts, as our understanding and technology changes, we need to be open to adapting our thinking, incorporating new ideas and tools, recognizing when things are working well so we can continue doing those, and where we have opportunities to improve on our current outcomes.

Mike Petrusky (07:15):

Yeah, absolutely. That's a great quote and a great idea, and it certainly applies to this discipline. I'm relatively new to the world of asset management, so I'm always trying to understand different perspectives. And certainly I know the subject of your book, but how would you define asset management? And what areas of the discipline are you most interested in pursuing?

Susan Lubell (07:34):

I think the classic definition of asset management is driving value, or realizing value, from our assets. But I like to think of it as collaboratively working together, from an engineering, frontline trades, operations and business functions, whether it's supply management, finance, HR perspective, to drive the most value we can for our assets. Each person brings their strength and specialty knowledge to the table. While I mostly work in the realm of physical assets, so oil and gas production, both conventional and oil sands, pipelines, mining, mineral processing, water treatment, asset management can certainly apply to all industries and sectors, like manufacturing, forest products, transportation, roads, housing. For me, I think I really like how asset management marries up this business value and business management with what we think of as more traditionally technical and engineering disciplines. It's about ensuring that balance of cost, risk, and performance. And overall, I think asset management really aligns to this organizational culture that encourages people to work together. So breaking down the silos between departments, taking calculated risks, recognizing that you can't cost cut your way to profitability. You really need to think in a holistic and integrated way.

Mike Petrusky (08:59):

I agree. And that's the part of this show and the interactions I have with others that really drives what I do. It's that human side, it's the people, and I just really feel uplifted by your approach there. So thanks for sharing that. We've mentioned COVID as one big disruptor in these past several months, but certainly the overall world and the marketplace has changed over the last several years; what are some of the significant trends in the world of asset management from your view?

Susan Lubell (09:29):

I think one of the big things that I'm seeing is the increase in the ability to turn data into information to make informed decisions. So we can run scenario models now that help us see into a crystal ball and make decisions on repair versus replace for complex assets, predict the total cost of ownership. And certainly we're seeing more acceleration in the pace of remote monitoring of assets, better use of predictive asset health technologies, rethinking how many people we need in direct exposure to our operating equipment versus the analytics. It's really a shift in where people spend their time and what skills they need, not about less people. And it's really this increased need for people's skills to stay current and up-to-date with the latest thinking. Long gone are those days where somebody graduated from university or college and held one job with one company for their career. It's about staying up to date, making sure that we are current in our thinking and that we are embracing technology while not losing sight of the fundamentals around that decision-making.

Mike Petrusky (10:43):

Wow. I couldn't agree more. And this kind of reminds me to ask you more about your book. What is root cause analysis? And you mentioned that data is so important when it comes to driving these bottom line improvements, right?

Susan Lubell (10:57):

Root cause analysis is really an investigation method that we use to try to prevent, or at least minimize, the consequences of a failure from happening again. And I think the unique thing about this book is that it really focuses on the who, what, where, when, why and how, and how much, of root cause analysis. There are many excellent books out there that talk about thousands of pages on the various techniques and all the nitty gritty details, but many times when people are trying to figure out where to start, this book talks about where to start, who should be on the team, which failures do we investigate? Not everything is worthy of a full blown investigation. It talks about the business value, why do we do our CA, and how do we go about implementing it?

            One of the key things that we need to think about is that if we take the time to go investigate a failure, come up with great recommendations. If they're not implemented, we haven't gained any of the business value that comes from this. Our return on investment really comes from implementing those recommendations and confirming that we've got the results that we anticipated. And I think that one of the things about this book is it really aims at those frontline staff that are faced with recurrent failures, or a big catastrophic failure, and are trying to figure out where do I start? What do I need to think about? What data might I collect? And how will I actually get value and prevent this from happening again?

Mike Petrusky (12:36):

Technology has certainly advanced in recent years, and I would be curious to know your thoughts about some of the technology tools in the marketplace today. And what do you find potentially being the most impactful?

Susan Lubell (12:48):

Yeah. I think one of the things that we're seeing is more assisted or augmented intelligence, data analytics and modeling are playing a bigger and bigger role in asset management. So we can track the health of specific assets, we can do scenario modeling, such as what if? Effectively we can go from drowning in data and starving for information to an ability to predict the total cost of ownership, not only at a complex physical asset or equipment level, but also at the level of the entire production plan. Our world is becoming more complex and integrated, and so it's important to understand where your plant or facility fits in and contributes to the overall organizational goals and objectives.

            I think part of it is that we need to realize our asset managers are facing enormous changes in the expectations that we have of them, and changing someone's title from maintenance manager to asset manager without giving them the tools and knowledge to be able to think more broadly, or having a culture that encourages this cross-discipline improvement, not silos fighting each other for the last penny, this isn't really setting up our new asset managers or our reliability engineers who are focused on root cause analysis for success. So part of root cause analysis and the purpose of this book is really to build that competency in one tool in our asset management toolbox, so that we are building competency not only in the asset managers themselves, but also in the teams around them. It's not that hard to do, but it needs to be a conscious effort. And as we're seeing more technology and tools available today, it's important for us to realize they are tools, and we need to bring that management thinking together with all these tools to have that impact.

Mike Petrusky (14:44):

Excellent. And I assume that that's a big part of why you're so involved with the asset management association of Canada. Tell me more about what it's like to be president of PEMAC and how does that community help you in your work and what do you get out of that involvement?

Susan Lubell (14:59):

Yeah. I think many countries and regions around the world have their own asset management industry associations, or maintenance and reliability industry associations. Obviously Canada is no different. So I'm quite proud to serve as the president of PEMAC, the asset management association of Canada. We're really a Canadian not for profit association, we enable excellence in maintenance, reliability, and asset management through collaboration, applied learning and leadership. One of the key things that I get out of it is I connect with other asset management, maintenance and reliability professionals across the country, and in many other industries. This gives us the ability to meet others who might be working on the same type of problem or opportunity, we can discuss the latest trends in technology with others who are keenly passionate about it, and not our colleagues who are rolling their eyes. And we get to stay up to date on the latest thinking in the field.

            As part of PEMAC, I'm also fortunate to be able to participate in both the global forum on maintenance and asset management, GFMAM, and the world partners in asset management, WPIAM. This allows me to interact with other like-minded professionals from not for profit associations around the world, and then I bring the latest learnings and up-to-date thinking back to PEMAC's members. This gets incorporated into our PEMAC certifications, the content in the training courses that are offered, the collaboration and the networking available at our annual conference, not to mention our webinar series.

Mike Petrusky (16:37):

Wonderful. Wow. Well, this has been great. Susan, I really can't thank you enough. I appreciate your time, and thanks so much for being on the Asset Champion podcast.

Susan Lubell (16:48):

Thanks, Mike.

            There you have it, everyone. Susan Lubell sharing just a few of her thoughts about the state of the world in asset management today, and inspiring us all to continue on this journey together, to learn and grow and find our place in this very expansive and evolving profession. I really enjoyed my time with Susan and I hope you enjoyed listening as well. I want to encourage you to check the show notes for this episode, and you will find a link to get your copy of Susan's book, Root Cause Analysis Made Simple, and you'll also find a link to connect with Susan on LinkedIn. When you do, please tell her that you heard her here on the Asset Champion podcast and be sure to thank her for taking the time to visit us, because it's guests like Susan that make this show valuable to me each week, and I hope for you as well, as we continue to bring you the experts who help to encourage and inspire you to be an Asset Champion. Peace out.

            You've been listening to the Asset Champion podcast. Hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to elevate asset management success by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and building best practices. For more information about how the iOFFICE asset division can boost the performance of your physical assets by providing comprehensive enterprise asset management software solutions, please visit assetchampion.com.