Redefining Asset Management in the IoT Era

Effective asset management has long been a key concern for businesses looking to balance productivity with cost-effectiveness, efficiency with innovation. But the Internet of Things (IoT) era has made it even more crucial – and more complex.

To stay ahead in the dynamic, digitally driven world of the IoT, organisations need to redefine asset management and use automation to share the burden. Here’s how…

What is asset management?

First, let’s consider what asset management actually is. Ostensibly it’s about maximising the value of your assets – that is, the physical devices, machinery and other hardware that are part of your organisation – but ‘maximising value’ can cover a lot of ground. Here are just some of the elements involved:

Performance – is every asset performing to a high level? How often does downtime occur, and how long does it take to fix? Performance feeds directly into productivity, but it can also feed directly into an unhealthy bottom line, if poor performance signals a costly repair bill.

Regulation and compliance – is every asset operating within the regulatory frameworks that your business is subject to? Compliance restrictions can mean that your assets need to be run on certain settings, or protected with particular software, for example.

Life expectancy – when are your assets predicted to reach the end of their useful lifespans, and how might their performance and the burden placed on them affect this? What are the risks of an asset failing, requiring a costly repair or replacement?

Compatibility – how does each asset fit into all of the others that are part of your infrastructure? Where might proprietary technology force you to commit to one partner over others, or lock you into particular (possibly costly) commercial arrangements?

Consumables and resources – what does each asset require as part of day-to-day operations, and what are the costs of these? What will happen in the event of a power failure, for example?

Above all, comprehensive asset management should follow a whole lifecycle approach. This is first about considering every moment from procurement through to decommissioning and replacement, and second about being dynamic and flexible enough to continue realigning your assets as required throughout those lifecycles.

How does the IoT affect asset management?

The IoT signals a huge shift in how businesses organise and control their assets – for several reasons.

First, in many cases, the IoT era is ushering in a vast increase in the actual numbers of assets that are part of corporate infrastructures. Organisations are deploying brand new connected devices as well as adding intelligent IoT capabilities to existing ones. More assets mean more complexity and a greater management burden.

Second, the IoT era means that organisations are generating, collecting and processing more information than ever before. In turn, this means that many physical assets have more work to do than previously, and there may even be a need for additional hardware or software to help manage that information.

Third – and this is where things get really interesting – the IoT can actually help with the process of asset management itself, making it more proactive, more automated and more intelligent – precisely because so much of that information relates to asset performance. A connected device that is continually reporting on the temperature of a warehouse is also continually reporting on its own performance.

As such, while the IoT is making asset management more complex in some ways, it also has the potential to make it easier in others. Ultimately, it has the potential to totally redefine how organisations approach asset management.

How the IoT can redefine asset management

Consider all the IoT-enabled equipment that may be collecting data in a typical physical asset driven environment. Sensors, manufacturing equipment, thermometers, mobile devices and so on – many of which may also be remote and unmanned.

By deploying a cloud-based platform that can unify and process all this data centrally, organisations can benefit from real-time, continually updated analysis of equipment status, performance, trends, alarms and other services.

In short, organisations can create a centralised, information-rich map of all assets, the foundation for a proactive, automated and intelligent approach to asset management. Here are some of the functions such a platform can undertake, and the benefits it can therefore generate:

Diagnostics

It’s one thing receiving an alert that a piece of equipment isn’t functioning normally – it’s quite another to be able to rapidly ascertain why it isn’t functioning normally. The faster and more comprehensively you can undertake this diagnostic process, the more likely you are to be able to make strategic decisions regarding repairs or diverting activity elsewhere. In turn, small problems can be headed off before they get larger, and the lifespan of your assets, as well as your day-to-day productivity, is increased. AT Kearney in conjunction with Industry Week published research that reported 20.1% reduction in equipment downtime and 28.3% increase in maintenance productivity through the use of a maintenance management software package.

Asset sweating

‘Sweating your assets’ refers to the optimisation of asset performance and lifespan via the most effective maintenance procedures possible. Part of this, as outlined above, is about responding effectively to problems and incidents so that small faults don’t escalate and detrimentally affect the ‘health’ of the asset. But part of it is also about scheduling maintenance at appropriate times – during periods of less activity, for example. The performance trends generated by an IoT-powered asset management platform can enable you to intelligently – and automatically – select these strategic maintenance windows.

Unplanned downtime reduction

Unplanned downtime is almost always due to an unexpected asset failure, whether because a machine has actually broken or because standard processes have led to a bottleneck. An IoT asset management platform can deal with both possibilities. It ensures rapid identification of machine failure – and can direct processes around the failure where possible. And it measures and analyses performance trends so as to give advance warning of where such a bottleneck may develop.

Service anticipation

Physical assets require multiple different types of maintenance – electrical, mechanical, hydraulic and even compliance-based, to ensure the machine is operating within regulatory frameworks. When performance is reduced, the process of identifying exactly which maintenance service is required can be very time-consuming if done manually. Thanks to the data collected by IoT asset management platforms, these decisions can be made far more quickly.

Availability and efficiency

High equipment availability is the cornerstone of OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency), but it can rapidly get too complicated to handle manually as organisations deploy more and more IoT-enabled devices. Fortunately, an asset management platform can automatically ascertain the ‘weak link in the chain’ and help support high availability – which in turn leads to greater efficiency and more satisfied customers.

Better stock control

Organisations often overstock equipment and fleets to make sure that they always have the assets they need. Other companies stockpile spares and inventory to reduce repair times by eliminating delays caused by an inefficient supply chain. Adopting an IoT-enabled Asset Management solution helps control or even eliminates overstocking and stockpiling thereby reducing capital investment and contributing to a positive bottom-line.

A clear audit trail

A great deal of regulatory compliance is founded on being able to clearly demonstrate and prove the steps you are taking to maintain good health, safety and environmental performance – as well as meeting legal and statutory requirements. A centralised IoT asset management platform can do a great deal of this for you – automatically. Because it continually updates itself in real-time, there is no need to undertake a regular cumbersome process of checking and reporting on each device – rather, your compliance processes being embedded in day-to-day operations. Risk and opportunity management is managed better with corporate governance, and clear audit trails exist for every device.

The Internet of Things era can make asset management a huge headache – or it can be the window into a newly automated, intelligent and unified approach – one that enhances your productivity and improves your bottom line.

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