Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)

What it is and how to choose the best EAM solution for your needs

Jonathan Trout, Noria Corporation

Enterprise asset management (EAM) involves the management of an organization's entire lineup of physical assets and infrastructure throughout their entire lifecycle – from design, installation and procurement all the way to operation, maintenance, disposal and replacement.


What Is EAM?

Enterprise asset management (EAM) involves the management of an organization's entire lineup of physical assets and infrastructure throughout their entire lifecycle – from design, installation and procurement all the way to operation, maintenance, disposal and replacement. "Enterprise" refers to all assets across all departments, locations and facilities, and even supporting business functions like finance, human resources (HR) and payroll within an organization (enterprise). Asset management includes managing fixed assets like structures, plants and machinery, as well as moving assets such as vehicles and equipment/machinery that are constantly moving.

Nearly all modern organizations – both large and small – use an EAM software solution to help manage their asset's lifecycles through one centralized platform. EAM software is highly customizable and can be used to implement, optimize and monitor activities associated with things like assets, inventory, work orders, equipment and tools, as well as other information across departments and facilities. EAM software integrates and pulls together data from multiple sources and departments to help track assets from design to end-of-life or from purchase to replacement – the entire lifecycle.

EAM software solutions can be tailored to each organization's asset management needs; however, there are a few common solutions you'll find in most.

  • Asset lifecycle management: A big part of an EAM solution is asset lifecycle management, which is a way of maximizing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of all assets until it's time to decommission and replace them. This includes planning and designing, procurement and building, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning.
  • Work order management: Once a problem has been diagnosed, EAM software can automatically assign a work order to specific technicians or contractors to begin a repair. From creation and modification to tracking and reporting, EAM systems help you with every aspect of work order management and can even integrate with a current work order management software.
  • Inventory/Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) materials management: In many organizations, MRO accounts for a decent-sized chunk of the annual procurement budget. Using EAM software to control your inventory gives you full oversight into inventory procurement and management by letting you see where demand for materials is at its highest and lowest. MRO inventory can be anything from cleaning, laboratory and office supplies to industrial equipment and plant upkeep supplies (lubricants, repair tools, etc.).
  • Labor management: Strengthen your HR resources through EAM software by managing assessments, training, and certification of employees and contractors. EAM software offers labor management solutions for things like talent management, forecast-specific scheduling and flexible scheduling capabilities for adjusting schedules based on time-off requests.
  • Contract Management: Manage and control service contracts within an EAM software solution and see the contract through to completion. EAM solutions let you create and manage contracts and service agreements with customers, partners, vendors and employees.
  • Financial management: EAM software gathers data on all financial activities and the utilization of funds throughout the entire organization. It can also integrate with current financial software to help manage accounting and project spending.
  • Reporting analytics: EAM software solutions can create reports of nearly all aspects of your business to offer a snapshot of each department's activity at any given moment. You can also use reports to analyze asset performance, so you can spot deviations in trends and fix issues before they escalate. In addition, EAM reporting helps you track your organization's key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure you're staying on track. Analyzing generated reports from EAM software can answer questions such as:
    • How often has this asset broken down?
    • How has downtime impacted productivity?
    • What are the associated costs with each breakdown and repair?
    • How often will this asset break down in the future? What are the potential associated costs?
    • What are the terms and conditions of existing warranties?
    • How much will it cost to replace an asset?

What Is the Difference Between EAM and CMMS?

Many people confuse EAM with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), often considering them essentially the same thing. While both systems help companies steer away from a reactive maintenance approach and toward a preventive maintenance strategy through the automation of things like maintenance activities, work orders and inventory management, a CMMS focuses primarily on managing maintenance during the time the asset is operational – that is, the time it's up and running and serving as a productive part of an operation. The main functions of a CMMS include maintenance scheduling, managing spare parts inventory and work orders, and tracking asset data.

An EAM system focuses on managing the entire lifecycle of a company's assets, from their design and creation to their disposal. It also is more robust in that it can handle tasks related to accounting, finances, HR and procurement. Some of the main functions of an EAM solution are outlined above; however, these software packages may include many more features based on your organization's needs. Some things you'll find in an EAM system but not in a CMMS include:

  • Budgeting/accounting management,
  • Calibration monitoring,
  • Energy monitoring,
  • Fleet management,
  • Process management,
  • Interactive maps, floorplans and schematics, and
  • Linear assets.

In many instances, EAM software is either integrated with an existing CMMS software or, for those starting from scratch, it can be built to include specific maintenance management capabilities needed by the organization.


EAM Software: 8 Things to Consider

EAM Software 8 Things to Consider

When it comes to choosing the best EAM software solution for your organization, the devil is in the details. Depending on the size of your organization, there can be multiple "devils" you haven't considered – engineering/design management, change orders, interactive schematics, worldwide locations, etc. As the saying goes, "better the devil you know than the devil you don't." That's why it's important to be aware of and consider not only all possible EAM software configurations but also to choose a vendor or solutions provider with experience in industrial sectors.

The sheer number of EAM solution providers can be daunting. Look for one who will consult with and partner with you every step of the way — from determining where you need improvement to customizing an EAM software package and implementing it. The smoother and simpler the EAM implementation process, the higher the adoption rate and the quicker you'll see a return on investment (ROI).

When determining why you need an EAM solution or if you should upgrade your current system, consider which of the following benefits is most important to your business:

Improved maintenance productivity (CMMS capabilities) Maximize asset performance
Streamlined work processes Increased uptime
Reduced operating costs More control over costs and expenditures
Improved OEE More control over MRO inventory
The ability to capture and record events Reduced energy usage
More effective maintenance planning and scheduling Ensured regulatory compliance
Ability to manage all assets from one platform Improved warranty management

Cost is always a factor when selecting EAM software, but there a few other features to consider during your evaluations before finalizing a software solution. While the following isn't a comprehensive list, it should get you well on your way to finding a suitable EAM software package.

  • Cost: The first thing on everyone's mind is how much this will cost. When choosing EAM software, cost is important to consider and not just the initial buy-in. Be aware of what you're getting for the price. Is it just a basic framework that forces you to buy additional add-ons and customization to get the functionality you really need? Many vendors include a base price with a la carte add-on modules.

    The first thing on everyone's mind is how much this will cost. When choosing EAM software, cost is important to consider and not just the initial buy-in. Be aware of what you're getting for the price. Is it just a basic framework that forces you to buy additional add-ons and customization to get the functionality you really need? Many vendors include a base price with a la carte add-on modules.

    • Onsite hosting means the software is locally installed on your organization's network. This requires information technology (IT) support installation and significant upgrades to your current system. You'll usually pay a one-time license fee and relatively high installation costs.
    • Cloud-based computing is the cheaper, more modern option that doesn't require large upfront costs or system upgrades. These solutions are referred to as software as a service (SaaS) and generally involve no fees because you essentially are "renting" the software at a monthly fee per user.
  • Experience specialization: If you are having chest pains, your primary care physician would not be the most qualified person to diagnose exactly what's happening. While this type of physician may know the basics of heart health, you typically would want to see a cardiovascular specialist to pinpoint what's causing the discomfort. Similarly, you shouldn't hire a general EAM software vendor who doesn't have a proven track record of providing maintenance asset management solutions to help you implement a customized system for your business. You want your EAM provider to have a deep understanding of your industry's needs and requirements and to take the time to get to know your specific operation.

    Ideally, your EAM software suite should be customized to your needs – designed from the ground up and implemented and supported by maintenance professionals. Using a vendor who specializes in EAM solutions assures your software is constantly being updated and maintained.

  • Features and functionality: Not all maintenance programs are alike, and nearly all of them evolve over time. Given this, it's important to choose an EAM solution that is tailored to your current needs and can evolve with your business. You might be currently running a reactive maintenance program and just need an EAM solution to open and close work orders. As your business grows, you may hope to start scheduling a preventive maintenance program or even a predictive maintenance (PdM) program.

    If you're looking for an EAM solution to maximize multiple areas of your organization, consider the following modules:

    • Equipment - storage for asset information, including specifications, purchasing, warranty, cost history, etc.
    • Work orders - offers complete work order process management, from the creation of work orders through planning, scheduling, execution and completion.
    • Preventive maintenance - creates work orders based on time and/or units.
    • Inventory – all inventory tracking capabilities, including MRO inventory for multiple plants and storage rooms, as well as maintaining inventory costs and transaction history.
    • Event tracking – has the capability to track any event that occurs in the plant – things like accidents, emissions, inspections, corrective actions, audits, etc.
    • Resources – provides easy access to basic employee/contractor information, including contacting information, pay scales, certifications, job hierarchy, training history, safety information, etc.
    • Requisitions – typically linked to the work order module, this lets users request goods and services.
    • Scheduling – automatically picks out work orders from the backlog and puts them into a schedule based on currently assigned work based on a predetermined criterion.
    • Purchasing – integrates work order planning, MRO inventory and purchasing requisitions to track all requests from initial entry and approval through purchase orders, receipts and invoicing.
    • Invoice matching – matches invoices with purchase orders and invoiced costs not associated with a purchase order.
    • Analytics – a configurable maintenance intelligence solution that gives you instant access to compiling reports and visuals on KPIs and other metrics, as well as asset history and performance.

    This list of modules is just an example of what EAM vendors tend to offer. Once you've figured out which areas of your operation are of top priority for improving your organization's efficiency, productivity and performance, compare your options. Ask about advanced capabilities like document linking, multiple plant codes, linking to supplier catalogs and other solutions designed for specific roles.

  • Initial implementation: Poor EAM implementation won't deliver value for your organization. In fact, nearly 80 percent of all EAM implementations fall short of ROI goals, according to industry research. To help get up and running quickly, your EAM solution should come preconfigured with things like codes, metrics and best-practice standards. It should also have easy-to-use data import tools and built-in processes. It's important that you can import both static and historical information from a legacy system, for example, to avoid losing historical asset information.

    If an EAM is too messy and difficult to understand, personnel won't be keen on using it. A good EAM vendor will act as your consultant from start to finish – that is from EAM package selection and implementation to training and troubleshooting.

  • Mobility: A good EAM solution should let your employees access the software from both connected and disconnected environments without losing software performance. EAM software that puts an emphasis on communication comes in handy for the field/office relationship. Enhanced communication lets you assign, perform and record work orders in real time from anywhere or any device.

    It's a good idea to think about your staff's mobility needs. For instance, most technicians spend the majority of their time away from a desk, out in the field or on the plant floor and would greatly benefit from mobile capabilities to do their work more efficiently. Inventory clerks won't have much need for mobile capabilities but will require their desktop computers to integrate with the technician's mobile devices.

  • Support and services: As previously mentioned, an EAM vendor should be with you from beginning to end and beyond, not just up to the point of sale. Having 24/7 access to customer support is one of the most critical things to consider when choosing an EAM provider. Troubleshooting won't only occur from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so it's important to have industry experts to answer your questions whenever you need them.

    You might even consider EAM vendors who offer consulting services year after year, so they can get to know and learn your organization's needs and continue to tailor those needs as your business evolves.

  • Scalability: As your organizational needs expand, your EAM solution should grow with you. Consider things like how many users you need to support now and possibly in the future, the size of your organization (does it operate across multiple plants in multiple locations?), and the locations of your facilities (can the solution support international sites through multiple languages and currencies?).
  • Integration: Depending on your specific situation, you may wish to keep existing software that seems to work well for your organization. For example, if you're currently using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to manage your MRO inventory, procurement and invoices, you'll want to ensure the EAM software you're considering can seamlessly integrate with that particular software. Likewise, if you're using any other operating system, like SCADA or another PdM system, you'll want to be certain the integration capabilities are there as well.

The Importance of EAM

The Importance of EAM

Consider Sodexo. The French food services and facilities management company has nearly 1.2 million assets across 24,000 buildings in 67 countries. It employs approximately 470,000 people worldwide. Without an EAM solution, it would be impossible to manage and track this many assets and amount of inventory or organize this number of employees. Depending on their size, most organizations have hundreds, thousands and even millions of assets, which include any piece of equipment or facility needed to keep production, services and operations running.

EAM solutions are important because they help organizations track, assess, manage and optimize the quality and reliability of company-wide assets from one centralized location. EAM software enables management to have greater control over multiple facilities by allowing them to:

  • Centralize asset information - Using a CMMS in tandem with an EAM lets maintenance managers know exactly where an asset is, its historical data and current operating data, who should work on it and when. It can also automate maintenance management workflows, all while making those workflows accessible from anywhere, so they can be audited.
  • Prevent issues - EAM software supports preventive maintenance schedules to keep equipment stable and operating continuously.
  • Monitor assets - Remote monitoring through the use of connected and integrated artificial intelligence (AI) or industrial internet of things (IIoT) devices gives management continuous insight into the current state of all assets. EAM software can aggregate this data and data from other departments to make fewer and more informed decisions.
  • Maximize asset usage - EAM systems can compile and visualize historical and real-time asset data through the use of IIoT devices. This information can be employed to dictate how assets are being utilized to extend the reliability, availability and usable life of certain assets.
  • Consolidate applications - While EAM solutions can integrate current applications, many have the capability to combine all applications into one system from the start, establishing a single technology system across the organization.
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