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Enterprise asset management -- or EAM -- is critical for companies that need to get the most from their physical assets across the entire asset lifecycle. And that means arguably all organizations.
Enterprise asset management software helps organizations monitor, manage and report on the state of all their critical assets so they can be proactive about problem-solving and don't increase operational costs because of avoidable issues.
An enterprise asset management system helps the maintenance team manage physical company assets over the asset life through asset tracking. The entire organization can use them to maximize asset performance during the asset lifecycles, get better return on investment, keep workplaces safe, improve cost of ownership with better lifecycle costs and improve efficiency.
In particular, asset-intensive organizations such as oil and gas, utilities, transportation and manufacturing organizations need EAM software to support their industrial infrastructure, plants and equipment, said Nicole Foust, a principal analyst at Gartner.
EAM software is especially useful for supporting maintenance in three categories, Foust said. These include the following asset types:
- fixed plant assets, such as power generation, manufacturing and oil refineries;
- linear assets, such as power lines, rail and pipelines; and
- mobile and fixed fleet assets, such as service equipment, rail cars, locomotives, trucks, transformers and pumping stations.
An EAM system includes functionality for managing, planning and scheduling work, creating work orders, tracking maintenance history, ordering and tracking replacement parts and equipment as well as tracking equipment assemblies and components, Foust said.
What type of assets does EAM manage?
Asset managers use EAM software to manage and get the complete picture about a variety of physical assets, but these are some of the most common types:
- manufacturing assets such as industrial ovens and conveyor systems;
- fleet assets such as cars and trucks;
- facilities assets such as elevators and security systems; and
- construction assets such as cranes and specific types of tools.
A key function of an EAM program is planning and scheduling asset maintenance to ensure asset health and improve asset performance management.
"The way we define EAM at IDC is that it refers to managing the physical assets of an organization that are necessary for them to operate," said Juliana Beauvais, research manager in IDC's enterprise application program. "An EAM system also tracks the time of the people who performed the work and ensures that they get paid." In other words, financial management can also be an important aspect of enterprise asset management.
Some EAM systems in the market offer the addition of a basic financial management suite of tools, such as accounts payable and cost recording in ledgers, as well as human resources functions, such as a maintenance skills database, Foust said.
EAM systems offer organizations a number of benefits. Here are five.
1. Reduce overall maintenance costs via predictive maintenance
Typically relying on IoT sensors and real-time data analysis, modern predictive maintenance helps companies get ahead of machine failures.
Predictive maintenance is equipment-specific analytics that enables companies to use historical data to determine when a piece of equipment will break down, said Alan Salton, director of innovation at Panorama Consulting Group.
"Maintaining the asset [is] extremely important because every time something breaks down, there are all kinds of implications," Salton said.
For example, if a truck runs out of oil and nobody notices, the engine might then fail and that is a major expense, Salton said.
SBB AG, doing business as Swiss Federal Railways, the national railway company of Switzerland, is implementing SAP's EAM to enhance its train maintenance and enable its workers to access information in real time and predict potential asset operations problems before they happen, said Urs Gehrig, senior consultant business development at SBB AG.
Swiss Federal Railways will use SAP EAM's predictive maintenance and service tool to integrate data directly from onboard monitoring systems on the trains, Gehrig said. This should enable the rail company to keep its trains running using reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) practices based on comprehensive data collected about those trains.
RCM is designed to prioritize maintenance activities based on predictive analytics and which are high-value assets, he said. Every day, Swiss Federal Railways transports 1.32 million passengers and 200,000 tons of freight on nearly 11,000 trains. Keeping these trains running reliably is job one for the company. To do that, the company needs a better way to handle maintenance of those trains and increase operational efficiencies.
"We want to go from a time-based maintenance approach to a proactive maintenance management approach [to predict failures before they occur]," Gehrig said.
Doing so will enable the railway company to use data insights from the predictive maintenance and service tool to identify and fix potential issues, saving money on maintenance operations and enabling its workers to be more productive, Gehrig said.
2. Schedule and plan maintenance proactively
One important benefit of EAM software is its promise of more effective maintenance scheduling and planning.
Because EAM systems provide more visibility into asset utilization and how often they break down, organizations can make better decisions about repairing or replacing these assets or doing maintenance ahead of time , Beauvais said.
"Using the data in the EAM, companies can plan for maintenance and then schedule their maintenance teams' time efficiently," she said.
"If you're a utility or in a manufacturing environment, you can't just go shut down the whole system whenever you want to make a repair," Beauvais said. "Rather, you have to very carefully plan and coordinate when you're going to be doing this maintenance and what else it's going to impact." EAM software enables you to plan for the maintenance so that it disrupts the business as little as possible, she said.
3. Understand OEE
Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is difficult to gauge without understanding EAM software. One important aspect of this is getting a deep understanding about vendors and their equipment with an effective asset management system.
Because EAM systems are computerized maintenance management systems, they enable companies to store and track information about their asset vendors, including the ability to track payments, giving them a better understanding of how much money they're spending externally, Beauvais said.
In addition, organizations can analyze the historical records stored in the EAM about assets that are continually malfunctioning to examine asset quality and decide whether they want to keep buying from vendors whose products are always breaking down, she said.
4. Automate equipment alerts and communication
Process automation is a critical benefit EAM systems offer, and that includes providing more accessible information and automated notifications and system notifications.
EAM enables companies to automate their internal processes, said Ed Spotts, ERP manager at Panorama.
"So [for example] instead of someone sending an email saying, 'We need to do this and do that,' the EAM system can automatically send notifications to people or to other machines based on defined parameters, and if something exceeds those thresholds, then an automatic alert can be sent [to the appropriate individual]," Spotts said.
LP Building Solutions now has a number of alert notifications in its Infor CloudSuite EAM system, said Bob Carnes, EAM subject matter expert at the company.
One notification alert is set up for machine anomalies, such as whether the oil temperature in a particular piece of equipment is too high or a machine is running too fast or too slowly, Carnes said. These alerts allow him to make the necessary repairs before a situation worsens.
"You can push [that information] into the EAM and allow it to send you an alert saying, 'Hey, somebody needs to check this out,'" Carnes said. "At that point, a work order gets created to have the appropriate individual -- either an electrician, a maintenance person, a millwright -- go out and check that piece of equipment and verify that either the piece of equipment is having that issue or the responder that is sending the response is failing."
5. Help to ensure regulatory compliance
"When you look at enterprise asset management, it's really about maximizing performance of your assets, but there are a lot of implications there, including regulatory compliance," Salton said.
For example, say a food company is having an issue with one of its machines and it's introducing impurities into products, he said.
"We've all seen recalls where a little piece of plastic or a little piece of metal shaving was found in food caused by machine maintenance failures," Salton said.
Because an EAM system is a computerized maintenance management system, it enables the organization with asset management to help prevent these failures from occurring, he said.
This also improves customer service.