The Importance of a Spatial-based Asset Management System

Background

Recently, I was hired to lead the relocation of several labs for a company. We relocated and installed over 100 tools that require special utilities, OEM support, certification, calibration or other special requirements.

While our team documented the equipment requirements in order to get them installed promptly and correctly, this data has remained in disparate spreadsheets. In addition, much of the critical equipment data, such as purchase dates, warranties, service contracts, calibration reports, etc. may not exist for many critical tools or is difficult to find because the information may be in other systems. The responsibility of equipment asset management at this company is left up to the lab department with no central oversight.

Here are some examples of problems when you don’t have a centralized asset management system:

  • Equipment falls out of calibration
    • During an installation of antennas and coax cables, a lab engineer checked each cable after installation to ensure the systems would perform as required. When he tested some of their cables, the test results showed that the installation went beyond the manufacturer’s specifications. Turns out, the cable analyzers were out of calibration; the systems tested satisfactorily when a different analyzer was used.
  • Equipment orphaned after a Project is terminated
    • A lab manager informed us that he might be purchasing a profilometer for his lab. When we informed him that an unused one might be available because a project had been cancelled, he wanted understand how he could procure it  rather than buying another one. Since there is no centralized asset management system in place, aside from word-of-mouth, he likely would have bought a new one had our tribal knowledge been lost.

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Benefits of CAD-Based Asset Management Systems

Simple: implement a centralized CAD-based Asset Management system. The system should:

  • Integrate with the organization’s financial system.
  • Be cloud based, Software as a Service (SAS), that can be updated in the field with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. You shouldn’t have to pay for this software, just a nominal subscription hosting fee.
  • Be provided by a reputable company with numerous satisfied customers.
  • Be supported by local, certified Implementation Partners who can quickly (inexpensively) implement asset data and maintain the system if the client chooses not to undertake this with in-house staff.
  • Be easy to search and update.
  • Have extensive and easy reporting functions built in and not pay for expensive custom reporting.
  • Be on a secure site that is backed up regularly.
  • Can easily generate work orders or tickets for service calls, maintenance or other required actions and updates. This is an important feature because oftentimes, an Asset Management system is just one benefit (module) that the provider can offer, which can include space management, move management and other useful FM / operational functions.

It is important to know the location of critical assets, not just the original financial data in a system such as Oracle. Not only does this greatly help to locate assets, but it will also help you to manage them if they need to move, change department ownership, retire, etc.

Other benefits of an asset management system include:

    • Entering contract terms associated with asset ownership, including attaching associated documentation
    • Lease or maintenance contracts & contacts to call for maintenance and repairs
    • Overall performance data for decisions about repair/replacement of assets.

This problem is not unique to this company. In my 20+ years experience as a Facilities Manager I have seen that many organizations have this problem: information in multiple disparate spreadsheets or databases. As a Facility Manager, access to real-time, accurate information about the operation’s assets in a centralized, spatial-based, dynamic database is critical for ensuring asset performance, reliability, optimal utilization and cost management.

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