If we thought that 2022 would be a year of recovery following the pandemic, we were sadly mistaken. Supply chain challenges and skills shortages continued, with new risks emerging due to a lack of growth and potential global energy shortages. So how did the asset management community respond to the challenges of 2022? Chris van den Belt, Team Leader Product Management, at IFS Ultimo, looks at the results of the Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Trend Report 2022, which is based on an extensive survey of asset managers across sectors.
The annual EAM Trend Report is rapidly becoming an essential source of reference for asset managers. It is based on rigorous research undertaken by EAM solutions provider IFS Ultimo and provides an interesting insight into developments in the field of EAM. Participants include asset managers, maintenance managers and facilities managers across industries ranging from manufacturing and logistics to utilities and healthcare. The survey results give a clear indication of their priorities and how these are changing year on year. It also provides insights to help those involved in EAM to respond to the evolving internal and external challenges they face.
Asset management: the eye of the storm
Last year, businesses around the world found themselves in a political and economic environment that seemed more volatile and indeterminate than ever before. As if a global pandemic hadn’t been enough, a war in Europe and the impacts of climate change shook the old certainties around supply chains and energy supply. In these circumstances, being able to make reliable forecasts and manage assets effectively while controlling costs was more important than ever.
Asset managers were at the eye of this storm. It is their job to ensure that a company’s assets continue to deliver value, whatever the technical and economic pressures. For example, their role encompasses digital transformation: not only the technological aspects but the methods of communication and training requirements involved. The deployment of mobile technology, energy efficiency and lifecycle management are equally part of the role. Cyber security, the requirements of sustainability and the circular economy are also coming within the asset managers remit. How did they prioritize these diverse demands in 2022?
According to the EAM Trend Report 2022, unplanned downtime remained a constant concern. Indeed, incidents rose 14% in 2022 with 68.6% of respondents experiencing this issue compared to 60% in 2021. Many have tried to address this trend through investment in new assets and technologies. The vast majority (82%) of respondents are now using dedicated asset management software in the cloud or on-premises.
The overwhelming majority of asset managers surveyed stated that uptime was their most important KPI, followed by efficiency (19.2%) and cost control (17.7%) - priorities that remained unchanged from 2021. For comparison, we also asked them to identify their least important KPIs, with some interesting results. Asset longevity (29.4%) emerged as the least important, yet aging assets were identified as the most significant risk to uptime by 31.7% of respondents. This may indicate that many asset managers are still focused on corrective maintenance rather than predictive techniques and lifecycle optimization.
One reason for this may be the lack of access to operational data. Such information is critical to making well-planned decisions that can improve efficiency and productivity, but nearly a third of respondents said they didn’t have the data they need to monitor asset health and performance. This not only makes strategic planning and cost optimization activities challenging, but can also reduce competitiveness.
Despite most respondents having described their approach to maintenance as being in control, only 6.8% were very happy with their approach. Many are actively working on improving the processes to move towards preventive maintenance.
Most organizations claim to hold sustainability high on the agenda, but asset managers ranked sustainability as their second lowest priority. Indeed, there were some very mixed messages around this topic throughout the survey results.
Most respondents were aware of their company’s sustainability initiatives and had an opportunity to influence initiatives relating to the topic. However, it appears that some managers are not utilizing one of the most efficient tools for improving asset efficiency. Less than half said they regularly review asset performance data to identify ways to boost
sustainability and efficiency. This means that over 50% don’t make use of the data provided by their asset management software, even though it could make it simple to identify poorly performing or faulty assets or inefficient processes.
Of course, sustainability is just one aspect of a much bigger picture, so we asked asset managers how they would tackle the multiple challenges facing companies today. Investment in the workforce emerged as the single most important way to futureproof operations, with improving cooperation across the organization a close second. More than 40% of respondents wanted to prioritize investing in the workforce, and 27.6% to focus on improving communication and collaboration.
Clearly, asset managers appreciate that, while investment in quality assets is important, the operation is not secure unless it is managed by skilled people who can share their knowledge easily. This theme was consistently reinforced when asset managers were asked to rate cooperation with the maintenance team and other departments. When the collaboration was rated very good or good, most attributed this success to clear and regular communication and information-sharing between the teams. For the managers who rated the cooperation as average, needing improvement, or bad, the poor performance was ascribed to a lack of interaction and siloed working practices, frequently heightened by understaffing.
The good news is that moves to address skills and understaffing are already underway. Asked what steps they had taken to improve response to unprecedented events within the last year, 26.8% were focused on improving cooperation across the organization, and 22.9% had invested in the workforce.
It’s clear that data-driven decision-making, optimal cross-team collaboration, and smart use of technology continue to be key success factors for asset managers. While sustainability is not yet on the daily agenda, it will be interesting to see if this picture changes in future, particularly given the stark messages coming out of COP-27 and warnings of potential energy black-outs.
Regardless of what the future brings, one thing that will remain central to successful asset management is data. Businesses that have access to operational data and, crucially, the ability to make the most of it will have a significant competitive advantage in the market. Solutions such as EAM are set to continue to play a crucial role in giving asset managers the insight, structure and control they need to futureproof processes and successfully navigate future challenges.