by Charles Hull
Charles Hull of AMT-SYBEX explains how rationalising your enterprise asset management and mobile platforms can deliver long-term value
If you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t work in the energy, utilities or transport industries, it’s usually fairly easy to explain the challenge of managing tens of thousands of physical assets. Most people can appreciate the difficulty of maintaining infrastructure that may be many years old, located in remote areas, buried underground, or exposed to extreme weather conditions.
But what if you’re trying to explain the challenges your business faces with its own internal systems? Your applications are in a secure data centre and your IT teams work in a nice warm office. How come it sometimes seems more difficult to renew a few applications and databases than a thousand-mile pipeline or a field of wind turbines?
One of the biggest pain-points is the technology refresh cycle. In the UK, many infrastructure organisations invested in enterprise asset management (EAM) systems around 10 to 15 years ago. These EAM systems typically only provide rudimentary support for mobile solutions, and they are now in need of upgrade or replacement.
In the meantime, most companies have also invested in mobile solutions to support digital working in the field. Since mobile technology has evolved rapidly over the past decade, the useful life of these platforms has typically been no longer than 3 to 4 years, leading to frequent refreshes. Each time a business refreshes its mobile technology, it typically also triggers a new integration project to ensure that the new apps can interface with the EAM solution.
To make matters worse, since most companies have grown their mobile capabilities organically over the course of several years, they often have multiple mobile solutions in play, with different parts of the business running different generations of apps on devices of various ages.
As a result, the company generally has at least one system that is due for a refresh at any given time. The cycle of testing, procuring, integrating and rolling out software and devices is never-ending, and achieving a stable state for any significant length of time seems more or less impossible.
The good news is that there is a better strategy—and now is a perfect time to implement it. If you are facing up to the fact that your EAM system is reaching end-of-life, you know that you are going to have to upgrade or replace it soon.
By choosing a modern EAM suite that has been designed with mobile support as a core functionality, you can rationalize and simplify your environment significantly. Better still, you can substantially reduce the future impact of mobile technology refreshes.
For example, if your EAM system and mobile app are components of a pre-integrated platform, upgrades will be much less painful. Instead of a complex procurement process followed by a lengthy integration project, you can update your apps and devices with confidence. You know that the vendor has already tested and certified the end-to-end solution—and that even if you do have any challenges, there’s one point of contact for support.
While the prospect of implementing new EAM and mobile platforms at the same time may be daunting, the fact that modern software suites are pre-integrated makes this a much more straightforward proposition than it would have been with the previous generation of EAM solutions. Moreover, the advantages of a truly coherent end-to-end EAM and mobile platform are potentially so significant that it is worth the effort to achieve them.
For example, unlike existing IT architectures, where the EAM system is effectively just a database with maintenance management and basic reporting capabilities, modern systems provide much more powerful analytics tools to support predictive maintenance and advanced forecasting, as well as data quality management.
Combined with a modern mobile platform that supports real-time mapping and asset geolocation as well as data capture, the new generation of EAM solutions can enable truly end-to-end digital processes. There is no longer any need for field workers to return to base to pick up new jobs, maps or operating procedures—everything is available on their mobile device, and data is updated in real time.
Imagine there’s a major incident somewhere in the country—severe flooding in a low-lying city, for instance. You may need to call in your field teams from all over the country to respond to the problem, but most of those operatives won’t know the area or the lay of the land. Instead of having to rendezvous at a local depot to receive briefings and collect maps, they can get all the information they need directly on their device and go straight to the job. Incident management becomes just another part of business-as-usual, which increases your responsiveness and helps you get your customers back online faster.
If you’d be interested in a demonstration of the latest EAM and mobile solutions, need some support in developing your business plan, or would like to discuss your digital asset management transformation, contact us today.