In A Perfect World... There Would Be Perfect Asset Lifecycle Management
On October 21,1832, Baron Schilling produced the first commercially viable transmission of signals between two telegraphs, giving birth to the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) industry. At that time, the assets and infrastructure required to produce the communication was simple; two electromagnetic telegraphs and a cable running between them. It was easy for him to track and manage the assets, as they were located in two different rooms of his apartment.
Forty-four years later, Alexander Graham Bell produced the first commercially viable audio transmission, which was the genesis of the Telecommunications industry. Similar to the setup in Baron Schilling’s apartment, Bell’s infrastructure and assets contained a transmission device, a cable, and a receiver - all located in plain sight in his Boston laboratory.
Those were the only two points in history where an ICT organization recognized 100% asset integrity with regard to their critical infrastructure. It was easy then, with a minimal number of assets contained in a singular field of vision. As the ICT industry grew, so too did the assets required to support it, as well as the ever-expanding geographic locations. In short, it became logistically impossible to have perfect visibility, insight, and control of an ICT’s assets throughout their respective lifecycles. Over time, ICTs grew to accept less than perfect accuracy rates as an industry standard. According to a 2015 TeleManagement Forum survey, asset managers reported an average asset accuracy rate of only 74%. Even more shocking, those same executives said an 87% level of accuracy would be acceptable. The “acceptable” losses are staggering, given that the global ICT industry invested 350 billion dollars in expensive network assets in 2015, with that number expected to rise steadily year over year. No other industry on earth would allow this level of inaccuracy.
The 350 billion dollars represent over 50% of the global ICT industry’s annual capital expenditures. Because the infrastructure costs are so significant, the ability to use Asset Lifecycle Management (ALM) to reduce and optimize Capex becomes an ICT’s biggest strategic advantage in a fiercely competitive marketplace. ALM is the complete end-to-end management of network equipment through each of the many lifecycle stages, from acquire to retire. These stages include, among others, receipt of shipment, warehousing and spares management, picking and shipping, min/max settings, transfers, assembly, installation, deployment, maintenance, upgrades, repairs, returns, audits, cycle counts, and decommissioning.
Network Operations, and Engineering Executives, along with CFOs, Accounting, Finance Managers and Supply-Chain Executives can all benefit from powerful, intelligent, flexible ALM for a number of reasons. It reduces or eliminates the purchasing of duplicate equipment. It allows for the efficient reuse of excess inventory and spare equipment. It gives visibility into invoiced equipment to understand what has really been received and if it matches the Purchase Order. It gives visibility into the status of equipment going through the return and repair process. It reduces theft, fraud, and hoarding. It gives ICTs an accurate picture of what is actually active (as well as what geography inventory resides in) to allow for accurate property tax payments. It supports internal controls to allow for compliance, which greatly reduces organizational and regulatory risks. It removes excessive repair and replacement expense through accurate warranty tracking. It also allows field technicians to locate spares quickly, with visibility into network information, revision numbers, and updates.
The ideal solution does all of this and takes ALM a step further, adding a mobile solution to provide accurate, real-time information that allows you to keep track of where every asset is - across the field, warehouse, datacenter, or back office. It can be configured to let any worker scan 1D, 2D, or Micro PDF barcodes with the least number of attempts required, capturing data as it flows organically throughout its lifecycle. The right solution should work on any major scanner or smartphone scanning platform in any environment. Of course, this mobile solution should also require enterprise-grade security from end-to-end, ensuring the data you collect remains uncompromised. This includes a secure log on, user limited permissions, and encrypted password protection to safely connect to any integrated system through a secure transport layer behind your own firewall.
In a perfect world, multiple-step processes could be configured for different types of users, ensuring intelligent directed decision support and visibility into all inventory at every step -whether the field tech is offline or online. Intelligent decision support tools would allow you to see and control everything you need to accomplish your job, no matter who you are, what mobile platform you are using, or where you are located.
Many ICTs attempt ALM through ERP, OSS, or BSS. The problem is that these solutions have one common weakness - a disconnect between what happens with assets in the real world and what is reflected in the database. Instead, ALM sits in the middle of multiple systems and improves the accuracy of their data by means of data reconciliation as well as data collection. A great ALM solution can reconcile and verify any and all asset data regardless of the source, to provide every connected system with the most accurate data possible, at either a high or low level. This ensures the integrity of your asset information, reduces the need for physical audits, and serves as the Database of Record for all assets.
ALM includes software, services, asset tags, and mobile hardware to make sure your solution brings you the highest possible asset assurance. From a best-practice perspective, a productive ALM suite tailors and customizes its routines to match your specific business processes. This requires up-front business analysis and consulting around the needs of all departments working with network assets (Supply Chain, Engineering, Finance, Operations, and Tax). It also involves the implementation of process improvements across all departments to maximize operational efficiencies.
As part of the set-up process, there is a data clean up and pre-load of legacy asset data into the ALM database, which may require an audit of all network and warehouse sites. When that’s completed, the full software solution can be deployed, which includes integration between the ALM application and other key enterprise applications. To ensure successful adoption, a proper and thorough training of ALM system users also happens up front.
Fulcrum Technologies’ CATS solution addresses all of these ideal scenarios.
The fact is, equipment and other assets move around a lot during their lifecycle - whether it’s due to regular maintenance, the upheaval of mergers and acquisition activity, or the technology cascade that occurs when new equipment is deployed and old equipment is reassigned to new locations or retired. Successful ICT organizations use ALM to get visibility, gain insight, and take control of their assets, with the ultimate goal of driving their accuracy score back to the level it was in 1832 - a perfect 100%.