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Transparent performance: intelligent use of capital asset related data

As recession places corporate finances under unprecedented pressure, every area and aspect of the operation must prove its contribution to the bottom line. 

Understandably, most executive attention is focused on high-visibility departmental efficiency and resources.  But often, an equally valid target - capital asset performance - slips under the radar, principally because decision-makers don't have ready access to data that could help them streamline maintenance strategies to far greater economic effect.

This lack of information can be compounded if asset management is contracted out to one or more service providers, who are more likely to deliver maintenance 'by the book' rather than consult with their clients on how assets across the organisation could be managed more dynamically.

For many of these organisations, asset performance data, captured and made available via a modern, web-enabled CAFM system, is the key to making the best use of limited maintenance budgets.  FSI, which has developed and supplies the Concept™ CAFM platform, believes that to achieve this, board level decision makers need to sustain their interest beyond the presentation and procurement stage of CAFM projects and not simply pass the investment decision down the chain where it si more likely to be based on cost than strategic vision.

Quite simply, intelligent use of capital asset related data allows the organisation or business to be totally proactive in tailoring maintenance budgets according to the specific circumstances of individual assets, which can vary greatly depending on their strategic importance or age.  A CAFM system can cut through a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach to contract asset management and empower decision makers to allocate their stretched maintenance budgets more efficiently.

In retail businesses, for example, critical assets that determine the quality of meat and dairy products must be available all day everyday.  The same is not necessarily true of some corporate office-based assets.  But without relevant and timely data, ascertaining proportionate maintenance expenditure for critical and non-critical assets is hardly an exact science.  Because CAFM systems are constantly gathering this data, they are coming into their own as the missing link between decision makers and a sophisticated, grass roots understanding of asset performance, allowing executives to make strategic decisions that may have hitherto been left almost entirely to FM contractors.

It is no coincidence that FSI increasingly finds that demand for advice and consultancy on customers' maintenance strategies is an integral part of the Concept™ sales cycle, as board-level directors begin to see the value of CAFM systems as business tools rather than just part of the back office infrastructure.  And as they do, it becomes clear that traditional all-purpose maintenance strategies make little financial sense, regardless of the wider economic climate.

Non-critical asset

Why, for example, would you continue to invest in the maintenance of a capital asset on the verge of being decommissioned at the same rate, if relevant data revealed that usage and circumstances had reduced its strategic importance to the organisation?  Why would you continue to pay for repairs to a critical asset if data could tell you that it would be more efficient and economical to replace the unit?  Or why would you continue to slavishly follow a manufacturer's costly recommendations for frequent maintenance on a non-critical asset if data suggested that longer intervals between maintenance would be equally effective, based on the asset's performance and history?

The trouble with many one-size-fits-all maintenance contracts is that they don't allow for this forensic level of asset performance analysis.  End-clients will continue to be charged for the maintenance of an asset - and charged the same rate - until the asset breaks down.  Access to CAFM system data might reveal that maintenance levels are disproportionate to the value and purpose of the asset.  It might also reveal that you are paying for the maintenance of an asset that is still within the manufacturer's warranty.

Time and again, FSI speaks to customers who are maintaining their assets very well in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.  But doing things purely 'by the book' does not always make optimum use of those assets and CAFM data will allow you to be more versatile and sophisticated in determining your maintenance culture: an important consideration at a time when budgets are finite but are not being proportionately applied.

Understandably, contractors will claim to provide top maintenance levels because that is how they generate their revenues.  But if you have several contractors maintaining identical assets across different properties, even after discounting access to sites, climate conditions, building/tenancy occupations etc, the chances are that without the comprehensive view provided by a CAFM system, you might be unaware that those assets are costing dramatically different amounts of money to maintain.

CAFM allows you to use data holistically, to build a joined-up asset maintenance strategy that overcomes the traditional legacy in large organisations of individual FM managers pursuing strategies within their own silos.  This is not to say, of course, that those individual managers are not doing a good job.  But an overall picture will almost certainly reveal that reduced levels of maintenance in some areas would be acceptable in order to focus budget on asset performance in more business-critical areas and sites.

In other words, a CAFM system will help decision makers and FMs to use their budgets more wisely, spending more on ensuring the performance of vital capital assets and calling contractors to account more specifically for their maintenance activities across the organisation's entire portfolio.

In the past, the cost of CAFM implementation has been a barrier to adoption for some decision makers, but suppliers like FSI have been extremely proactive in refining their software for 21st century business models that reflect IT investment habits and modern working practices.  This has dramatically reduced the internal IT recharge cost of systems like Concept™.

The move to web-based software and particularly, most recently, integration with Microsoft's cloud vision for the future of corporate computing and the delivery of Software as a Service (SAAS) means that executives can have access to CAFM-based asset management data on tap.  Whether they only want to invest in a single-user help desk or an individual scale enterprise system, it will be as accessible as anything else they are used to on their browser.

Vastly improved interfaces

Concept's Digital Dashboard module also means that far from forcing executive-level decision makers to plough through data in order to create their own intelligence, they have instant access to key asset performance indicators that will allow them to make rapid decisions and make assets perform more effectively across the organisation.

Although CAFM systems have now been available for many years, the complicated data access methods of old have long since been replaced by vastly improved interfaces and analytical tools.  FSI was one of the first software vendors in this area to identify the need to make access easier, making Concept™ a pioneering platform for executives who want and need to get closer to their capital assets.

More broadly, the development of Concept's Workflow modules has helped to drive the software to the heart of the business, ensuring that it isn't slowed down every time an executive or manager needs to make a decision about a particular asset.  By automating mundane processes, Workflow operates in the background to lighten the load on the user and give them more time to concentrate on, and analyse, the data - and make and implement strategic decisions.

As executives strive to find more economical ways to maintain their capital assets and ensure optimum performance, their ability to make intelligent use of the data generated by CAFM systems will become a lynchpin in their strategies.

With every expenditure being scrutinised for justification, the pressure to find new and more imaginative ways to make better use of existing assets and schedule their replacement carefully has never been greater.  CAFM really is the key for decision makers who want to regain dynamic control of assets that have been left to the mercy of an unsophisticated blanket maintenance culture, and work more closely with their contractors to ensure greater efficiency and the wiser use of maintenance budgets.