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Is there a ’Stairway to Asset Management Heaven?’

Is there a ‘Stairway to Asset Management Heaven’? Since the late 1980s maintenance and asset
management managers and consultants have used the DuPont Chemicals „Stable Domain‟ asset
management model to describe the steps to world-class operational performance. From its
beginning companies and consultants made the incredible presumption that it is right and tried to
use it to improve business performance. The model‟s veracity is scrutinised. It does not work
for all situations and so is not a model to heartily follow but a theory to deeply question.

Keywords: asset management model, stable domain theory,

The Stable Domain Model of Figure 1 results from DuPont Chemicals mid-1980‟s research into
the variable performances in their world-wide operations1. Responding to increased international
competition DuPont investigated what to do to lower their production costs. They reviewed their
150-plus operations world-wide and found businesses making comparable products in
comparable plants with results ranging from „dogs‟ to „stars‟. Analysis of the reasons for the
erratic results led to creation of the Stable Domain Model to explain the performance. It has
since been misguidedly referred to as Enterprise Asset Management‟s „Stairway to Heaven‟2.

Figure 1 – The DuPont Stable Domain Model for Asset Management.

The model was imbued with the requirements listed in Figure 2 that were necessary for a stable
domain. Naturally managers and consultants concluded that a company had only to adopt the
„necessary‟ practices and it would then morph to that level of performance3. The model was used
in DuPont with great short-term success but improvement was not self-sustaining. The current

Hutnich, Robert, „Maximising Operational Efficiency Course’, 2004, E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co
Page J., Plant R.,, „Stairway to Heaven‟, Led Zeppelin IV album, 1971
Ledet, Winston., ‘Making the Move Toward a Learning Organization: A Classic Journey of Change’, Ledet Enterprises, 2002
C:\Users\Mike\Documents\Lifetime Reliability\LRS Maintenance Methodology\Stairway_to_Asset_Managment_Heaven.docx 1

consultants world- wide also began using it to audit companies‟ maintenance and asset management performance. Presentations of idealistic strategy showing the necessary attributes and methodologies to become world-class. were shown to trusting corporate management. Without independent proof opportunity-driven consultants and industrial companies saw DuPont‟s early success and quickly adopted the model as being good asset management strategy. like Figure 3. tools and software. culminating in the „commercial heaven‟ of world-class performance. Email: info@lifetime-reliability. The model unfortunately showed a direct pathway from one level to the next. An implied direct pathway between domains that can be traversed from lower to higher was assumption.lifetime-reliability. More assumption was that attaining the stated requirements for each level would make an organisation into such a view is the domains are not naturally stable4. „Modeling Sustainable Organizational Change Why did change at BP Lima sustain while the change at DuPont faded away?’ Ledet Enterprises. They constructed audit questionnaires in total confidence that the Stable Domain Model held the 4 Ledet. requiring continued support of a devoted corporate leadership and on-going financial liability to sustain business processes. skills and knowledge. 2005 C:\Users\Mike\Documents\Lifetime Reliability\LRS Maintenance Methodology\Stairway_to_Asset_Managment_Heaven. wrongly assuming it represented a sure path to world-class results and a solution to industry‟s‟ operational performance problems. Figure 2 – Stable Domain Model with Business System Requirements. Winston et al. organisations assumed the „Stairway to Heaven‟ was a matter of adopting learnable practices and using the appropriate systems.docx 2 . because there was no scientific proof. With the model listing the „necessary‟ requirements for achieving excellence. Website: www.

like that shown in Figure 4. Email: info@lifetime-reliability. and absurdly stated that “this is where your business is today and here is how you get to the next level of performance tomorrow”. From the audit responses they plotted company positions on the model.lifetime-reliability. Figure 3 – Stable Domain Model with Assumed Required Competencies and Methodologies Figure 4 – Stable Domain Model was Assumed Suitable for Auditing Purposes C:\Users\Mike\Documents\Lifetime Reliability\LRS Maintenance Methodology\Stairway_to_Asset_Managment_Heaven.docx 3 .com right Website: www.

September 2009. cultural and business process changes needed will be hard work and initially expensive. Email: info@lifetime-reliability. Neil. and theories need to be tested and not believed until proven true.lifetime-reliability. It is based on achieving levels of reliability and quality Website: www. how to do it and how well it must be done to become the company they want to be. Perth. The „theory‟ helps clarify what is required at each level of excellence and what will happen when you get there. In this „theory‟ each „domain‟ is truly stable because companies already produce products. Figure 5 shows the „Process Reliability and Quality Excellence Asset Management Theory‟. There is an alternate „theory‟ of how to get to world-class reliability performance. Australia C:\Users\Mike\Documents\Lifetime Reliability\LRS Maintenance Methodology\Stairway_to_Asset_Managment_Heaven.lifetime-reliability. There are companies that tried it and found it unworkable5. However this is just theory. Mike Sondalini www. Making the skills. but the reliability that will result is clear to Figure 5 – Process Reliability and Quality Excellence Asset Management „Model‟ The „theory‟ proposes that to move from one level of reliability performance to the next you introduce the processes and practices needed to achieve that level of reliability.docx 4 . utilities and services at each level of excellence without requiring additional and continual inputs from management. In this „theory‟ you can even „jump‟ straight to world-class asset management by copying a world-class quality performer. ‘Asset Management – Quo Vadis (Where to next)’. This „theory‟ guides companies to model those much better than themselves. by so doing they learn what to do. or their working limits are surely known.lifetime-reliability. Perfecting Your Quality and Reliability Processes www.. Asset Management Council Seminar. You change your life-cycle business processes to create better processes with fewer quality The Stable Domain Model is wobbly and shaky. At best it is a theory to be tested and improved and not a model to be used with unquestioned acceptance and 5 Blom.