What are the trends in asset management?

Asset management is more forward-looking now, incorporating digital technologies and sustainability in the plans.

By Plant Engineering June 7, 2023
Courtesy: Llumin

Asset management insights

  • Smarter factories and manufacturing facilities use machine learning, artificial intelligence and other digital technologies.
  • Asset management systems are traditionally computerized, and often include high-tech sensors and decision-making software.


Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

  • Andreas Eschbach, CEO and founder, eschbach, Boston
  • Ed Garibian, CEO, LLumin, Springfield, Mass.
  • Paul Lachance, industrial operations technology evangelist, On behalf of Brightly Software, Cary, N.C.
  • Danielle Newsome, global product specialist, repair and inventory services, Rockwell Automation, Sarasota, Fla.

What’s the current trend in asset management for industrial and manufacturing facilities?

Andreas Eschbach: Asset management as a shared service between supplier, maintenance, engineering and operations. Asset management is no longer a departmental silo but a process for which the responsibility is shared across the company and with external suppliers and customers.

Ed Garibian: Using real-time machine parameter and condition data to create rules for triggering maintenance and inspection actions. Engineering and reliability managers are super focused on not just preventive downtime, but also on creating well thought out, coordinated actions that reduce the time and resources needed for maintenance tasks and work orders.

Because the current trend shows approximately 40% of factories use predictive maintenance to reduce downtime, improve return on investment (ROI) and increase the overall longevity and efficiency of assets — and more than 50% of factories continue to use reactive maintenance strategies and preventive or proactive maintenance — asset and materials management software is evolving to help create a smarter factory by using machine learning (ML) to intelligently increase asset uptime levels, improve maintenance productivity and enhance workforce safety and compliance.

The current trend shows completely auto-generated work orders and workflow management, more reliable maintenance scheduling and compliance tracking and even more options in mobile functionality as well as cloud-based accessibility and facilitywide visibility.

Paul Lachance: The world events of the past five years — including the U.S. and China trade war, COVID-19 pandemic, war between Ukraine and Russia, etc. — have radically altered the global industrial and manufacturing landscape. These, combined with the already-in progress fourth Industrial Revolution, have left us in uncharted territory in terms of efficiently managing our asset and facilities infrastructures. There are numerous uncontrollable factors like inflation pressure, a skilled workforce shortage and supply-chain issues and organizations need to control costs and stay profitable despite these challenges. Industry 4.0 technology, combined with best-practice methodologies, give these companies the best chance to compete and grow. Smart organizations will embrace the digital transformation to remain competitive.

Danielle Newsome: Digital transformation is a key initiative in most facilities and will continue to trend as companies strive to capture and leverage their information to make data-driven decisions. Using your data to your advantage allows you to transform from a reactive to a more proactive environment, which ultimately helps to reduce your maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) spend, right sizes inventory and reduces unplanned downtime. Companies want simple, standardized and digital solutions that make it easy to realize quantifiable value.

Another key trend is sustainability, this is driving companies to think repair first. This mindset of driving greater life out of assets versus rip and replace is key to supporting the sustainability initiatives and benchmarks that are increasing in visibility each year.

Llumin asset management and predictive maintenance computerized maintenance management system software example. Courtesy: Llumin

Llumin asset management and predictive maintenance computerized maintenance management system software example. Courtesy: Llumin

What future trends should engineers, plant managers and designers expect for asset management?

Paul Lachance: Embracing industrial digital transformation is critical. You don’t have to do it all at once —and I’d recommend that you start slow, recognize value/ROI and then ramp up. But it is crucial to get started. Cultural adoption of this amazing technology is essential. If you have a low digital IQ in your organization, start by researching and learning. There are numerous promising technologies already available that will continue to have a major impact over the next several years. Harnessing data from your plant floor and facilities is an easy starting point and you can leverage low cost, easy to deploy sensors (using IoT). These sensors will enable your assets/facilities to automatically tell you when they need maintenance (preventive, condition-based monitoring corrective or predictive).

Andreas Eschbach: Emergence of the digital twin as an integral part of asset care and operation. Artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial internet of things as well as open standards such as SysML will help drive the management of assets through the asset life cycle, from engineering through to the supply chain and operations, with a digital thread throughout.

Danielle Newsome: Government regulations focused on environment, social and governance (ESG) efforts will be more than just a trend that plant managers need to be prepared for. ESG initiatives will encourage sustainable practices within a plant by driving innovation and allow for new opportunities to reduce costs, improve efficiency and reduce waste. Proper risk management and compliance practices will need to be implemented to avoid costly mistakes that could involve significant monetary penalties.

Sustainability goes hand in hand with ESG efforts. Preventive maintenance (PM) and repairs are two things that can be done to prolong the assets you have and achieve your sustainability goals. As consumers demand more sustainable production, plant managers will be at the forefront of optimizing operations to reduce waste and emissions in line with ESG goals. Effectively and accurately communicating the sustainability of your manufacturing will be an important part of brand loyalty and the buying process for consumers.

As companies begin to understand how to use AI, as well as the rapid advancement and growth of the technology, we can expect AI to be a disrupter to asset management. With the workforce skills gap and personnel shortages in manufacturing expected to remain for several years, more companies will turn to AI to bridge the gap within asset management. Maximizing the potential of AI will require facilities to have accurate data collection and analysis.

Describe the successes from using programs and systems that incorporate asset management. This may include Internet of Things-based systems, Industry 4.0, etc.

Ed Garibian: A properly deployed and automated maintenance and asset performance management strategy produces lower operations costs and minimizes production stoppages, reduces the cost of asset ownership and provides overall increases on the return on asset investment (ROA) for any organization. A quality deployment will also conserve valuable skills and human resources and provide advance notification when supplies or other resources will be needed.

Andreas Eschbach: Transparency through digitization means productivity and safety for many in operations. This due to applications that provide greater visibility into asset performance from sensor and operations technology-based data. The asset is no longer a black box.

For one process reliability manager working for a textile manufacturer, they were successful using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) because it enabled them to capture the cost of repairs directly related to the asset, see repeat issues, maintain parts supply and minimize downtime. Using an IoT-based system, they were also able to support a wide range of assets and asset types. It provided a great way to look at maintenance history, plan for upcoming projects and preventive work and reduce downtime. With the current situation with the supply chain for this textile manufacturer, reordering parts before they are needed is of the utmost importance. Using an advanced CMMS combined with the power of IoT, it provided reliability, ensuring parts supply is accurate and available.

Another director of organizational systems and design at an ethanol plant was able to more effectively manage more than $350 million in assets. With asset management, they enabled the ability to quickly obtain a list of equipment that is sorted by location and work cell, which proved invaluable when they needed to provide analytics back to their field teams. It enabled them with fact-based decision-making abilities. They auto-generated work orders, which helped them keep up with warranty-dependent PM schedules and allowed them to achieve more accountability with respect to the timing of requests and completion of work.

The implementation of these new processes helped their organization make an important shift by giving them the ability for continuous improvement. They could now catalog and visualize their plant assets in a way that aligns with their operations and their field teams would have the most relevant information they needed. A workflow engine and dashboards improved notification and communication of work in the queue, in progress and completed.

Paul Lachance: As a consultant who supports numerous manufacturing organizations, I am witnessing all aspects of manufacturing transformation by harnessing the amazing capabilities of Industry 4.0. Every historical software category from enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM)/CMMS, manufacturing execution, quality, supply chain, etc. are being influenced by IoT, AI/ML, blockchain, augmented/assisted/virtual reality, 3D printing and more. Each of these hardware and software technologies is showing success with the appropriate application.

Danielle Newsome: Reliability often means many different things to plant personnel. Regardless of the reliability tool set, process or strategy used by the plant, the end goal is the same: Understanding the failure and finding the solution that will correct and eliminate machine equipment downtime. Effective tools, like CMMS, can accomplish the reduction of downtime. Using a CMMS will allow you to analyze failure data, inventory usage and work order analysis. Because plant personnel may lack the resource bandwidth to perform all these functions, partnering with an expert can be an effective strategy to find the “Why?” and implement the correct strategies to improve operational performance throughout the plant.

What types of computer applications are in use to support your asset management functions?

Paul Lachance: EAM/CMMS are excellent examples of software that is evolving to better use AI, IoT and other technologies. EAM is a proven tool for optimizing and preserving all aspects of assets and facilities. Core applications of EAM include managing the workforce (work orders management), managing all aspects of facilities/assets, spare parts, safety, compliance, analytes and much more. The benefits and quick implementation of EAM make it a no-brainer for reducing unplanned downtime, extending the life of your assets, optimizing teams and much more — ultimately saving costs and improving profitability.

Andreas Eschbach: Ability to track the operational phase of the asset in real time and more adroitly repurpose its use in production.

Ed Garibian: SaaS or other applications being used for asset management processes include EAM or CMMS solutions, as well as IoT-enabled control systems or machine sensor networks. Oftentimes, these systems will incorporate enterprise-level data historians or other database warehouses that centralize information and tag history in a single platform.

Danielle Newsome: CMMS are modeled to support asset management systems throughout the entire life cycle. They provide the ability to maximize the value of production assets, systems, plants and processes with work order management, asset management and parts/supplies management. A robust CMMS can help maintenance and operations teams:

  • Schedule organize and track equipment maintenance (ideally with a cloud-based system).

  • Connect to business system

  • Make data-driven decisions.