Updated: Jun 9, 2020
What I learned is that there are many different ways to look at problems related to Asset Management, Reliability and Maintenance. You just have to widen your lens. Once you’re ready to do that, you open up gates to a lot of new learnings for yourself.
Ever so often I am awarded an amazing opportunity to collaborate with professionals and entrepreneurs around the world and I try my best to capture their experiences through our Re.engineer Trending Leader features - - this feature with Usman is yet another great example! Usman Mustafa Syed is a rising star that you should connect with and I am beyond grateful that we were able to tell his story. Usman is an Asset Management professional with 16 years of experience within Reliability and Maintenance domains. Over these years, he has worked and consulted for multiple global organizations mainly within Oil/Gas, Power and Manufacturing sectors. His expertise is in developing Reliability based Maintenance programs and their effective roll-out through Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS). He has also been involved in developing regimes for Asset Integrity and Safety Critical Elements. He is a graduate of NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi in Electrical Engineering and also possess following Certifications:
Certified Maintenance Manager (CMM) by Association of Asset Management Professionals
Certified Reliability Leader (CRL) by Association of Asset Management Professionals
ISO 55000 Asset Management Certification (A55K) by Asset Leadership Network
Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) by Aladon Network
International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational Safety by NEBOSH
An avid fan of the game of Cricket, Usman also loves to travel and explore new places. He looks at life as a book of riddles. And in words of Ralph Waldo Emerson; ‘the key to a riddle is another riddle’.
Q: I really enjoy reading your LinkedIn articles and your most recent one on the Internet of Things (IoT) resonated with me because I agree that technology must be partnered with practical skills. What inspired you to pursue a career in Engineering and Technology?
Usman: As a child I always looked for logical reasoning behind every query or question I had in my mind. Be it related to the earth being round, how plants make their own food (never saw their Mom feeding them) and how the aeroplanes fly. Perhaps, me ending up in an Engineering career was the logical outcome to that inquisitiveness. Academically also I was good at subjects like Science and Mathematics.
I remember once, I build a cardboard model of a house at my friend’s place. We placed a light bulb in it, albeit a big one for the size of the model. We didn’t had any proper connectors for the wire and were just trying to insert them in the socket, and they were coming out too often. Out of despair, I shoved in a pair of scissors within the socket. Naturally, this caused a short circuit and Boom, there was a spark. Luckily, there was no fire and no one was hurt as the fuse at my friend’s house blew up.
So, I can say my taste for inquiry led me to Engineering and Technology.
Q: Reliability is a team sport and collaboration can be found at the foundation of every successful reliability or maintenance program. What was your latest collaboration project?
Usman: Reliability, as a concept is incomplete without team work. If you dissect them, most of the issues related to reliability are actually cultural and people related. As a consultant when I work with different clients, I always look to connect with their teams by trying to understand their point of view, their operating context and any constraints they operate with. Many times, they don’t really need any fancy stuff in name of reliability or maintenance programs.
Another dimension to my work is working with our own team of engineers, subject matter experts and project managers. Obviously, collaborating with them is essential for any deployments we undertake. For this, I always treat them as equal partners and give respect to their experience and skills. An individual can never be an expert on all the topics related to the vast fields of reliability or maintenance. It is the collective wisdom and knowledge of your team that helps in filling in the gaps.
At one of my recent projects for a manufacturing concern whose business requires some very unique assets, I deployed the similar approach when it comes to team work. I established some very good and candid communication with the client’s team and also kept my own team members fully involved by giving due credit and respect to their expertise. And I’m happy we’re on the right track with this deployment.
Q: How are you driving innovation and technology to create value?
Usman: One of the most common misconception about innovation and technology that I see, is the pursuit of things (read features), not necessarily required. Take for example the value proposition of Google when it was launched. It came up with a simple idea of simplifying online search. Nothing less and nothing more. It delivered this value and then gradually went on to be one of the top global companies.
This highlights the fact that before embarking on any innovation drive you need to identify and define the value you seek. In many instances you don’t really need any revolutionary innovation or technology to achieve this value.
I’m a huge proponent of sticking to the basics when it comes to Asset Management and Reliability. With the current plethora of technological applications available in the industry it has become more important to stick to the basics within these domains. Technology should be treated as the means and not the end. As an example many industry surveys indicate that most Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) projects ultimately end up as failures. In my opinion, it is because false promises are made, wrong expectations are held and the basics of engineering, business processes and even physics are totally discounted.
This is where I guide my clients and audience to never lose sight of the fundamentals when it comes to adopting the innovation and technology. Remember, value does not lie in the technology itself. It is the organization that has to define ‘value’ for itself and look to achieve it through the optimum use of resources; technology being one of them.
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals or entrepreneurs looking to take their career or business to the next level?
Usman: If you really want to take your career or business to the next level. Keep asking yourself, ‘What’s next?’. Keep upgrading yourself on the professional front. Look for available industry research within your professional or business areas, go out and seek knowledge in form of training, conferences, webinars and certifications. You will soon realize, there are no limits to learning. Specially in this digital age and time.
Q: What has been your most challenging project or experience in your career?
Usman: I transitioned myself in the consulting business from a career on the asset owners’ or operators’ side. Not only it has been a fulfilling experience but it came with its own challenges. My biggest motivation behind this career transition was to reach out to a wider audience through consulting with diverse clientele in terms of industry, geographical locations, operating contexts & cultures.
However, it definitely came with its own unique challenges. The biggest of them is to be flexible in your approach to the technical problems each client comes up with. What I learned is that there are many different ways to look at problems related to Asset Management, Reliability and Maintenance. You just have to widen your lens. Once you’re ready to do that, you open up gates to a lot of new learnings for yourself.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Usman: The challenge of learning something new. I consider myself a life-long student. I love learning about new ideas, different cultures, people, regions, businesses and technology. Many times just a random query gets into my head and I then just start looking for answers to it. Until and unless I don’t get an answer that satisfies me, I literally loose my sleep.
Usman is a highly successful Engineering Leader and quite an accomplished professional. His passion for Maintenance and Reliability goes hand in hand with his relentless pursuit of excellence and he is no stranger to challenging the status quo. I invite you to read his articles on LinkedIn and if you are like me, you'll appreciate him for candor and for "telling it like it is"! Join us in celebrating his journey as a dynamic, talented Reliability Practitioner. Usman, you are a certified Re.engineer!