Organizations have assets. From their very beginnings, long before the era of automation, all business entities, machines, equipment and things have been classified as assets. From horse-drawn field crews to rack servers with digital cloud-based services, everything is a plus.
It is from this core truth that today we get field service management, enterprise asset management and the less acronym-sensitive sister disciplines of work order management and inventory management. All of these elements of asset-centric work often end in traversing and staying in a corporate resource management system, and luckily our initialisms end at that point, at least for now.
IFS (Industrial & Financial Systems) works specifically in the FSM, EAM and ERP space. Committed to serving a number of key markets with a pronounced use of asset management and field service requirements, IFS has pledged to stay within its six chosen industry verticals. To sum them up here, these independent but equally asset-related industries are energy and utilities, service companies, telecom, aerospace and defense, manufacturing, and construction and engineering.
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IFS Unleashed, heat off the hook
Now describing itself as a global cloud enterprise software company, IFS used its user meeting this month to explain where its platform is headed and how its software toolset is evolving. The shamelessly named IFS Unleashed conference took place in Miami’s South Beach neighborhood in October 2022.
The fall release of the software in 2022 is the company’s second biennial release cycle. IFS’s central technology proposition boils down to a promise to help global companies connect operations across sites, functions, people and assets.
At his company’s annual show this year, Christian Pedersen, IFS’s chief product officer, spoke to a private press and analyst group. In a discussion intended to distract us from thinking about FSM, EAM and ERP, Pedersen admitted that he would like to scrap these terms, mainly because every IFS customer solution consists of elements of each.
“We’re not going to get out of these terms, and there’s no need for me to try and argue that IFS doesn’t do ERP, because we do,” Pedersen said. “But when we think about how we build solutions for our customers’ assets, we identify application areas and data functionality from across our IT platform and create just the right combination of services – that’s what we’re selling them.”
Realizing that asset-centric automation happens at every level, Pedersen explains that his team works with clients to help them monitor their operational frameworks and explore where they are on their personal automation curve. This involves a process of searching for relatively simple business functions, such as scanning an expense report, which are still performed through manual data entry.
What this road to automation boils down to is the difference between asset data and process data, and the IFS platform exists specifically to span both worlds and capture data from both sources. Understanding the difference and relationship between these two data realms allows us to apply automation to make business systems run more efficiently and, quite simply, slicker.
Asset Data vs. Process Data
Resonating with the asset reality mentioned here at the beginning of our story, Pedersen explained that asset data is data related to corporate assets, where an asset itself could be an edge device, a server, a factory forklift, or an airplane — then what? also. When we look at asset data, we track the asset’s system status to know if it exists and is deployed, to understand what shape and size it is, and what function it exists for within an enterprise.
Likewise and vice versa, process data is information related to what the asset has been doing. Typically subject to telemetry analysis to obtain measurements from an instrument, device, or thing, process data works to tell us how efficiently the asset is operating and performing.
But process data goes further. It also includes information regarding how a device or other asset is maintained, repaired, updated or replaced. Further, process data also extends to tracking which engineer or technical team has the best track record in repairing or updating an asset based on current needs.
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This last measure of “best solution” would be a factor taken from a list of criteria an organization establishes to measure its asset maintenance tasks. That list of factors could include cost efficiency, time spent on work, time required for the next update or repair, and ultimately a measure of customer satisfaction regarding how and where that asset is being used.
Paper to handle gap
As much as this is automation, there is a gap to be bridged here. Organizations looking to move to this type of technology implementation with IFS or its competitors will move from paper to electronic processes.
To cover some of the product specifications that IFS has updated and recently launched, the company detailed how its human capital management capability can now help organizations manage global absence restrictions. The software works to set and manage absence limits based on the absence requirements legislation of a particular country, providing global human resources teams with a complete view of multiple country absences.
In the field of service management, IFS has rolled out software tools to extend the scheduling capabilities for shifts. This helps ensure that the right people with the right skills are available for scheduling, including call scenarios, with improvements to the dispatch console for managing work in-flight.
In the field of aviation maintenance, new IFS software makes it possible to reduce the turnaround time of aircraft maintenance with the introduction of a new maintenance solution: repair and operational service providers who perform line maintenance by third parties.
“As companies grow and expand into new international markets, they face a range of new regulatory challenges, market practices and operational approaches,” said Pedersen. “Our October release of IFS Cloud provides businesses with the capabilities they need to meet these challenges and thrive on the global stage. Through our IFS Cloud solution, we deliver software that can bend and evolve to meet the growing needs of our customers, both today and well into the future.”
Every asset has an edge
Then comes the circle, in the post-millennial era of cloud, mobile and the internet of thingsevery time we think about an asset and its life within a company or public body, there is probably an edge device.
Driving the flow of information that creates process data for the higher-level asset data pool in an organization, edge devices play a critical role here. Through this discussion with IFS, we may now see edge devices as a more directly influential cog in the business wheel. We will soon be able to talk fearlessly about the requirements for field edge assets.