Key Front-End Technology Features of an Enterprise Asset Management system – An Interview with Robert Kaehler part 1

In the first segment of this two-part series, Jackie Luo speaks with Robert Kaehler about the expected features of enterprise asset management (EAM) in the age of smart phones, tablet computers, and cloud computing. Kaehler is intimately familiar with the technology behind Enterprise Asset Management, having worked with both AssetSmart and Sunflower Systems, providers of enterprise asset management systems. He is also a leadership member of the National Property Management Association (NPMA). Today Jackie Luo and Robert Kaehler are discussing the specific features of enterprise asset management software that support end users in  asset management.

Jackie Luo: Robert, you have been in the enterprise asset management technology business for many years and have seen technology migrations many times. Enterprise asset management software has come a long way, from gigantic clumsy stand-alone system to some “cute” but equally robust applications delivered from the cloud. The cost for these solutions has also come down, from multi-million dollar implementations to SaaS applications that cost a few hundred dollars a month. What a change! In today’s world, where users of the solution are likely to have grown up in digital age, what are they looking for in the front-end of the enterprise asset management solution?

Robert Kaehler: The primary front-end features involve usability. In today’s modern world, having good mobile applications is essential. Asset management is generally mobile: assets are being moved, being received, being maintained and being disposed. Capturing data during those events could easily be accomplished with a mobile application. Very little of what happens in asset management happens when someone is sitting behind a desk. In fact, the sitting-behind-a-desk part mostly involves simply entering records.

A second usability feature is cloud computing, or being able to access applications on the Internet. This is important for a couple of reasons: it’s simpler to deploy applications and simpler for people to access them from anywhere. So if you’re a disposal person, and you have processes that involve using assets, refurbishing assets or evaluating and inspecting the condition of assets, then you want to be able to record the information where you do the work, which, again, is not in an office.

The last aspect of usability is the ability to personalize the transaction screens of the application. Most organizations have a number of different people who are involved in the asset management process: organizational executives, finance people, receiving people and end users. Having the ability to ensure that your technology platform will support a presentation of the application to your user base in a way that maximizes their interaction with the application is paramount to success. Personalizing the application also allows you to adhere to your security and data policies. Having flexibility for role-based access to the system and role-based presentations of transactions are keys to using applications effectively in an organization.

Before the advent of mobile technology and cloud deployment, how was that sort of tracking and maintenance handled by asset managers?

Clipboards, clipboards, clipboards. You would have your papers and your list of things to do, and you would put it on a clipboard and out you went. When you returned to the office, you would hand your manual transactions and work orders to someone who then entered that information into the system. It was double data entry, because it was first recorded when you wrote it on your clipboard, and again when it was taken from the clipboard and entered into the system.

What are the most important features on the reporting side of Enterprise Asset Management?

Recording data is important, but getting data out is far more important. We often take that for granted, but we shouldn’t. Having a robust ad-hoc reporting tool, that again is role based, is important. Reports should be retrievable no matter how you are gaining access to the application, whether it is a mobile app on your Smartphone or your tablet, or on the desktop in your office. Your reporting tool should provide you with the reports in a way that is going to provide you with the information you need to get your job done. The reporting tool should also be consistent amongst the platforms being used within your organization, so that employees don’t have to learn three different reporting technologies to get the information they need.

How important do you think it is to have an enterprise asset management software solution that enables you to attach additional information, such as a picture? Have you seen a tool like that used by companies you’ve worked with or for?

I see that a lot. I think most applications enable the capturing of pictures and other sorts of documents, attaching them to a record. However, there are some very unique things that you can do with mobile technology. Whatever the application is – for example, an asset management app on your phone – you can enable location services and immediately capture the location where you completed a particular transaction and automatically update information about who did what and when. At the same time, mobile apps allow you to perform other tasks in the field, such as writing notes, capturing pictures, taking inventory and writing receipts.

Depending on the sophistication of the app, you can take a picture, attach it to the record, and the application will capture your location using GPS coordinates. That information will then be updated in your standard organizational structure. Also, if you have location services in the application, you are able to see what other assets are available near a specific location.

There are many attachments you may want to include with an asset record: technical data sheets, maintenance contracts, warranties, shipment forms and operating manuals. All of that information can be captured and included with the right EAM. This information is very useful for managing asset maintenance. That information gets locked in at an asset level, so anyone dealing with that equipment can access the information in the field and follow the appropriate maintenance or procedural instructions.

A very important part of an overall asset management program is to have information readily available, so that technicians or other users don’t have to carry around tons of books with them – or worse, go out and find the information they need. If they can access the relevant information in the field, they don’t need to do their own research or go back to the office to find the asset records.

Enterprise asset management software can significantly increase productivity and reduce the costs of maintaining equipment. Using EAM with mobile capabilities will eliminate the need to repeat documentation, travel from the field to the office to attach documents, and research maintenance procedures. EAM software can also be customized so that employees and users throughout an organization are able to access the specific information they need to perform their job effectively.

In the second part of the interview, Jackie Luo and Robert Kaehler will discuss the back-end features of Enterprise Asset Management software.

As a recognized futurist in the field of asset management, Robert Kaehler’s expertise has been used by numerous businesses and government agencies to significantly increase asset visibility and improve strategic intelligence of all enterprise assets. He is an acknowledged expert in helping enterprises deploy lifecycle asset management from both financial and process perspectives, along with the application of best business practices to internal systems and procedures.

Kaehler started Ascot Associates in July 2009 to help organizations optimize their physical asset management processes and systems. Leveraging strategic planning and performance measurement processes as a focal point, we provide business software, technology solutions, and expert services for the lifecycle management of assets and property. Ascot also provides change management, training and implementation services. Prior to forming Ascot, Kaehler served as Senior Vice President for AssetSmart, and in three years led the company to a tripling of revenues. He spent the prior five years as General Manager of Sunflower Systems, and was responsible for growing the company from a two-person development shop to a recognized leader in asset management systems. Prior to Sunflower, Kaehler was Vice President and General Manager of US operations and a member of the Board of Directors at Proactive Systems where he grew the company’s revenues 1500% in three years. After Proactive Systems was acquired by JetForm Corporation, Kaehler led the team responsible for Jetform’s business throughout the western United States. He also served as vice president of marketing for Pantechnic, Inc., and held management positions with Citicorp and Manufacturers Hanover. Kaehler holds a degree in economics from Pepperdine University.

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