GIS for Asset and Work Order Management

Are you familiar with GIS, EAM and CMMS? Don’t worry, what I want you to remember from this article are business benefits and value of integrated asset and work order management in a GIS-enabled environment.

Constituent Technologies

Asset management and work order management systems have existed on their own under terms like EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) and CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System). GIS (Geographic Information System) technology has been around for decades, but remains underutilized and is largely considered a tool for digital map making.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these systems in the context of this article and their strength in relation to integrated asset and work order management.

Geographic Information System – GIS is a technology that manages geographic data and information in a geo-database. The geo-database stores feature geometry, which facilitates geographic analysis and map visualizations. The complementary value of GIS in asset and work order management is derived from its ability to keep track of where things are.

Asset Management –   This entails the management of physical assets over their lifecycle from acquisition to disposal. Finance is mainly concerned with the book value and annual depreciation of physical assets, while operations keeps physical assets in working condition to deliver business value. Asset management systems record the financial and operational status of physical assets, but have limited analytics and tend to rely on manual audits.

Work Order Management – This entails the repair, maintenance, and operation of physical assets by field workers. Work orders are generated in response to an incident (e.g. broken pipe) or derived from a routine maintenance schedule. Approved work orders are assigned to staff and tracked towards their completion. Work order management systems are mostly stand-alone with a lack of location intelligence.

Benefits of Integration

The integration of asset management and work order management in a GIS environment will leverage the unique strengths and overcome the limitations of each. A fully integrated system delivers many benefits and tremendous business value as shown below:

  • An authoritative asset registry that tracks the location of assets, maintains their descriptive attributes, and records key events like servicing, provides a single source of truth for staff, customers, and outside contractors. It removes the duplication, errors, inefficiencies, and associated costs of disparate data silos.
  • Capital and operational expenditure on physical assets can be displayed on a map and compared against the revenue that these assets generate. This helps to prioritize repairs, maintenance, and replacement of assets against resource constraints and corporate goals in a cost-effective manner.
  • Work orders can be assigned to field workers in a location-based manner that minimizes travel time. Navigation and routing capabilities of the GIS further ensure that field productivity is optimized. Using a geo-enabled device, field workers can update the completion of their tasks and generate new work orders on a map in real-time.
  • Historic analysis of faults and repair works can be used to schedule preventive maintenance and prioritize asset replacement and acquisition. Trend analysis and scenario modeling can extend the planning of these activities into the future on a long-term basis.
  • Real-time communication between field and office and location tracking of field workers will optimize the assignment of emergency work orders in real-time. Real-time tracking of work completion rate will enhance resource utilization with the reassignment of work orders between crews that are behind and ahead of schedule.

Who will Benefit?

Any organization that manages a large collection of distributed assets will benefit from the integration of asset management and work order management in a GIS-enabled environment. Here are some classic examples:

  • Water and power utilities and telecoms that need to manage their distribution network to provide essential services to their customers.
  • Public works and road agencies that are tasked with the development, repair, maintenance, and operations of critical infrastructure.
  • Local governments tasked with the collection, and administration of public funds for service delivery and economic growth in a transparent, accountable, and sustainable manner.

Recommendations

It’s beyond the scope of this article to list the requirements of a complete and effective GIS-based asset and work order management solution, but here are some initial recommendations:

  • Populate and maintain the asset registry with a variety of methods, like the conversion of analog paper records, the migration of digital databases and field data collection.
  • Keep asset data in a current and complete state by adding / removing their location, updating their attributes, and associating their work order / service records.
  • Store and maintain asset and work order data in a centralized or distributed database that is available and accessible in a safe and secure manner.
  • Publish asset and work order data as web services to make them accessible to authorized users anytime, anywhere and on any device.
  • Replicate and store data on mobile devices to allow for offline editing under conditions of poor internet connectivity.
  • Build your solution in adherence to an open system architecture to allow for integration with other business solutions like billing and finance.
  • Implement and roll-out solutions in an incremental manner by geographic area or theme. Start using the data that you have as a strategy for improving data quality with time.
  • Seriously consider real-time communication and real-time data updates between office and field in view of increased efficiency and cost-savings.
  • Decide how to track moving assets like vehicles and mobile workers and integrate this data into your GIS-enabled asset and work order management system.

Conclusion

IT vendors either offer a stand-alone asset management solution (e.g. IBM Maximo) or have added EAM and CMMS modules to their ERP offerings (e.g. SAP EAM). From what I have seen, these solutions exploit GIS in a rather basic manner.

There are niche players like Schneider Electric, Ericsson and Cityworks that offer GIS-based solutions for asset and work order management to utilities and local government. From what I have seen, product development and marketing need a boost to widen and grow their user bases.

In conclusion. Is there a gap in the market or is there no market for a GIS-enabled asset and work order management solution? Let us have your thoughts, before we find a way of filling the gap.

About Author:

Willy Simons came to Kenya from The Netherlands in 1994. He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Oakar Services, Esri Eastern Africa and Spatiality. He blogs about business, geospatial technology and cloud computing.