The capital-intensive nature of manufacturing makes enterprise asset management (EAM) a critical competency for industrial businesses. Fortunately there are tools that can help manufacturers maximize the return on investment they receive from their physical assets, real estate and related infrastructure.
Physical assets represent a significant portion of a manufacturing business's estimated value. In the past, asset management amounted to little more than a maintenance schedule, with equipment being repaired or replaced as there happened to be money in a particular departmental budget. Those days are gone for companies serious about extracting maximum value from their enterprise's assets across the board.
EAM software helps businesses assemble all the assets across the enterprise in one place to be managed from a central point of view. For example, it could make sense to divert resources from one department's assets to another; with EAM software, the company is in a position to spot such opportunities and make that call. Myriad other efficiencies and savings can be located only with all-inclusive views of the company's assets.
The EAM software tools available have similar features, with the better ones being highly customizable to fit specific requirements of certain manufacturing segments -- especially when it comes to regulatory and compliance issues.
Infor Industrial Manufacturing
is a good example of a standard, purpose-built EAM solution suite. It has functionality to "manage the complete manufacturing operation," company officials say, "from financials and scheduling to shop floor management, quality control, and analytics." It offers support for "multiple manufacturing strategies, including Engineer to Order, Configure to Order, and Make to Stock." Most EAM tools offer a similar menu.
The Infor suite is customizable, as the best ones are, to fit a surprisingly wide range of manufacturing company needs.
Often a company doesn't need an entire EAM software suite. These systems can often be broken down into smaller constituent parts:
A Computerized Maintenance Management System provides a computer database for tracking an organization's maintenance operations, and is useful if a manufacturer has pressing needs to determine which machines require maintenance and where the spare parts are. It can also help managers decide such matters as whether it is more efficient to simply allow for repairs when a machine breaks down or conduct routine preventative maintenance. It also helps detect compliance issues.
. A Component Content Management System manages content contained in company documents, tracking such things as images, charts, graphs, product descriptions, or procedures. These systems trace not just documents but the concepts, ideas, and expressions contained within them.
Out-of-the-box EAM systems themselves generally have a formidable array of functions. Calgary-based Nova Chemicals, according to a recent case analysis
, reported using an SAP EAM suite to get a complete and consolidated view of scheduled maintenance, facilitate "maintenance scheduling, work execution, and material availability processes." This allows stakeholders to access relevant information, improve "coordination and integration of maintenance scheduling, enhance communication between maintenance and operations, and cut the number of unplanned equipment outages."
In Nova's case, the system helped reduce by 47 percent "the time spent on reactive, emergency work; increasing by 61 percent the time spent on proactive, preventative maintenance, and improving maintenance schedule compliance by 22 percent." Obviously, for other manufacturing companies the results could vary widely based on the priorities for each, which determine how the system is customized and used.
Most EAM systems marketed to manufacturing will have a robust analytics feature, with dashboard views and reports furnishing information on equipment reliability and maintenance performance, as well as a wide array of standard reports available, and the ability to create custom reports. Many also offer schedulers to organize preventive maintenance, manage crews, and decide what the most critical uses are for limited resources, based on customized priorities.
Other customizable modules for an EAM system include some of the following features:
Mobile work manager
. This lets maintenance and operations technicians work with centralized data and processes in the field with mobile devices.
Spatial asset management
. With this function, users can analyze, and display assets in a geospatial perspective.
. This subset of asset management lets users calibrate tools, measurement equipment, and standards to improve overall manufactured quality.
The bottom line is that enterprise asset management is there to give manufacturers the best overall picture of all their capital assets, what condition those assets are in, how often they might need to be serviced or replaced, and where businesses can most efficiently deploy people and resources.