Stephen C. Tatton, Director of Business Systems & New Technology, JBT AeroTech
First let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have worked in Production Plants as an equipment designer for 15 years and then five years, on the road, as a field engineer, commissioning newly installed equipment. For the past 15 years, my professional interests have had me working at JBT Corporation helping with the start-up and expansion of a maintenance business specializing in airports.
A significant issue that faces most of us, across many industry sectors, is trying to determine if our Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems are up to meeting current and future business needs. Always a challenge, this type of assessment is even more difficult in today’s business environment as it must embrace immediate needs and the rapidly evolving demands of the future at both tactical and strategic levels. This is no small task.
First a bit of historical perspective to help us frame our planning challenges. The World Wide Web (WWW) came to existence in 1980. Thirteen years later we had a grand total of 130 web sites. WiFi was incorporated in Intel Chips in 2003, with the first iPhone was sold in 2007. Today, there are thousands of web sites, everyone has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and WiFi has become ubiquitous. This rate of change does not appear to be slowing.
We are quickly moving from the workforce that once relied on desktop computers and manual input to a mobile workforce of iPads, phones, and tablets. One under-appreciated element of this change to mobile devices is how data is processed. Particularly data as it relates to assets such as plant and equipment. The effort of physically tracking and entering data will soon become an activity of the past. Data will not be manually entered in the not-too-distant future. Personally, I expect that in the next five years more than 50 percent of the data we use to manage our business and company assets will be collected and organized through smart devices.
During my efforts to develop EAM products and install applications, a number of lessons have risen in my mind as key steps in analyzing any EAM application. Let me share some of my observations and lessons learned.
First Lesson Learned
Applications like Infor EAM must match the organization roadmap–those tactical and strategic undertakings identified by management as the path to growth and profitability. The application must be evaluated in a critical manner with its capabilities mapped to the strategic moves anticipated within the business. Does it have all of the features and functionality required to manage our business today and tomorrow? Does the company supplying the application have the development staff and funding needed to keep up with our roadmap?
To determine this we must first look at departmental and business plans. If you have not taken the time to develop a detailed roadmap, it should be a first step towards effectively evaluating your EAM application. The EAM application must fit with and support the foreseeable requirements associated with our business objectives and the planned route to accomplish those milestones. It is a task that merits serious effort within the business.
So what needs to be on our roadmap? Start by defining what you need to run your business. What do you want to know, need to know, and what will stop your business from running? Next define what is required to keep your business running today and how you will make it more efficient or profitable tomorrow? Of course, there are numerous publications and consulting enterprises that specialize in such activities and provide excellent models for developing strategic plans. Regardless of the process, the key is to start the planning process and then to incorporate your EAM needs into that process and the desired end result.
With the roadmap in hand, the evaluation of the application or EAM system can be more effectively realized.
Second Lesson Learned
Future needs change and so do business plans. Internal and external forces, movements in markets, technology, and other factors all combine to cloud our crystal ball. So, we plan, we match our application to our plan, but we recognize that our plans will evolve. Therefore, we need an application that lends itself to change. We look to the future, try our best to assess what will happen and plan accordingly. Still, inevitably, course corrections are needed. Unanticipated factors surface. We need to adjust. This suggests something about our applications and EAM systems. It implies that whatever platform we choose must have a great deal of inherent flexibility. It must be highly configurable and be supported by a company with the resources to assist in those changes. Additionally, the application must be easily (a relative term to be sure) integrated into existing systems. So, look for functional and design flexibility, ease of integration and a company staffing structure that can truly support your efforts to adapt to unforeseen market events.
Third Lesson Learned
Good reporting and analytic tools are a must. I can tell you in the beginning of our EAM and maintenance service work that our software platform was great at recording lots of data, but we had very few options for getting the data out of our systems and converting it to actionable information for our use and the use of our customers. Information is what is needed, not data. In today’s world and in the future we must have powerful reporting tools as part of any EAM application or system. Reporting tools will need to be powerful and flexible and they will need to be completely compatible for use on laptops and mobile devices of all types. Manual report runs and manual data collection are fast becoming antiquated activities. Data collection and subsequent reporting must be adapted to the use of mobile devices. Any impediments to running such on mobile devices will make any application less valuable, less powerful going forward. The asset manager needs an application to support this evolution. From my perspective, mobile data collection, and reporting, the conversion of data to information, diagnostic capabilities, and the regular, automated dissemination of information through mobile devices are all requirements of a viable EAM application in the near future.
Fourth Lesson Learned
Mobile is the future and we must be ready. As we have looked out to determine our roadmap to better support our customers and markets, mobile-friendly EAM applications have begun to dominate our horizon. This is at the top of my EAM roadmap today and will be, I think, for a very long time.
In summary, when evaluating Infor, or any EAM application, it is imperative that strategic direction and planning be undertaken and the EAM application be considered as a support to the company’s roadmap. This is because all planning is imperfect, and of necessity iterative, the application must be flexible and robustly supported by the application provider. The application selected must provide powerful analytics, reporting tools, and effectively convert data to actionable information. Finally, as we look out to the future, we see that interconnection and ease of use with mobile devices, of all types, is a new, fresh application requirement. These four lessons learned have guided my evaluation of Infor and other EAM applications.