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Smart Stuff: A Brief History of EAM


July 8, 2020


Steve Richmond, Founder/CEO, Projetech

Early on, I realized that the solution to maximizing the return on my capital investments was in computerized asset management, and I got hooked by the possibilities technology affords. It is really cool stuff. I still get excited by the evolution of technology. In fact, I can’t imagine not being excited about it! It keeps me on my toes, looking out for the next best thing.

Today, we track more stuff related to maintenance and reliability than ever before, but this is just the beginning. Did you know that IBM has predicted within the next decade, Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems will digitally track over a trillion objects worldwide?

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Let me explain further, now with current developments in RFID and nanotech, not to mention trends in mobile technology and cloud computing, you are going to have more maintenance and reliability data at your fingertips. Giving you sharper analytics, an even better return on your investment in your EAM system, and—most importantly—improve your operation. In the very near future, we are going to be able to track things on an even more granular level, even tracking things that in the past we never considered unreliable, like parts of parts on our equipment. The computers that track your data will continue to shrink as they become more powerful and more portable, and the most interesting development is that all your stuff will talk to you.

Moving on to The Internet of Things, which is upon us, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Internet of Things is maintenance and reliability professions. If you are not exactly sure what the “Internet of Things” really means, you are not alone. It is a technological tsunami that is going to be as big as the internet itself, and very few people have even heard of it, let alone understand what it is.

Actually, it is a pretty simple concept: all sorts of mundane objects will be able to connect to the internet, sending and receiving data to each other. Bernard Marr, an Enterprise Performance Expert, notes that:

This huge increase in data means we can use it to create a smarter world, where buildings sense and predict temperatures outside and adjust heating or air conditioning systems inside, where cars will drive themselves, where electricity and water grids self-diagnose problems…and where your baby’s diaper [will] tweet you when it needs changing. A futuristic vision? No, all of these things are already here today. (Marr, What the Heck is…The Internet of Things?)

The point is that now you can get feedback from your stuff through the internet, which you could have never done before.

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This is the idea behind the “Smarter Planet” concept: your assets and your human resources will all participate in your EAM via the internet, whether they are in your headquarters or operating location.

I have been in this revolution since the beginning when businesses were just starting to transition from old fashioned paper systems to Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS).

High-speed internet connectivity has driven numerous changes in the way we communicate. Person to person, person to machine, and machine to machine connectivity is growing rapidly. This paves the way for the internet of things, and the proliferation of cloud computing.

I am excited about the inevitable future, but I realize that there is still a lot of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, or FUD, out there when it comes to the emergence of new technologies in maintenance and reliability. Sure, a lot of people are warming up to these changes, since in the last few years more and more products have become cloud-enabled, and the Internet of Things is becoming a recognized concept. Despite this trend, I still find a significant portion of the population has legitimate concerns about what it means to keep up with these trends.

I want to address this FUD by giving you a chance to look at EAM from the point of view of someone who has been in the game since the beginning. I have a feeling that if we can have a sensible conversation about it, you will realize that the future is going to make your life much easier. My hope is that by telling a story in plain English, I will be able to demystify cloud computing and the Internet of Things to help you see that it is exactly the direction you need to take your company’s mission for maintenance and reliability.

Technology is moving so fast that our assets are now talking to us, updating us on their status from thousands of miles away. Companies that are slow to keep pace with technology will be gone.

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If you look at US businesses today from a demographic point of view, I think you will find that in many cases the wrong people are in charge. It is a radical thing to say, I know, but hear me out. I am talking about the folks with gray hair.

We are in an era that requires businesses to make decisions about how to manage new technologies. Unfortunately, I think many of the grey-headed guys are not necessarily the best ones to make those decisions because they tend to be slow adopters of new technologies. Even Jack Welch was willing to admit in his book that he was sixty years old before he learned to type. I mean, the guy’s running GE, and he could not type.

I have been in the maintenance and reliability profession for over thirty-five years, but in many ways, I have a unique perspective for the “gray hair” type. I started out with my hands on equipment, making repairs and upgrades, and managing service jobs with nothing more technologically sophisticated than a landline telephone.

Early on, I discovered the power of technology to improve maintenance and reliability, and I have seen how the constant technological improvement of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) has made it possible to boost operational efficiency, reduce downtime, and save companies money in ways that were not even imaginable twenty years ago.

I believe firmly that by knowing history we can understand the present and gain a reasonable sense of where the future is headed. That is why I want to begin this book with the story of how I got into the software side of asset management. In my opinion, the more you know about the evolution of CMMS to Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), the better plugged in you will be to its continued evolution.

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