Monday, October 19, 2009

Geotagging, Equipment and Asset Management with Mobile Handhelds

Are you familiar with the term Geotagging as it relates to Asset Management? If not here is today's definition from wikipedia. This is an important concept for professionals involved in Asset Management or in the equipment services and maintenance business. Let me explain.

Many field services companies involved in the repair and maintenance of equipment offer their customers annual service contracts. In these contracts, the service company will agree to a limited set of inspections, services and maintenance tasks on certain equipment for a given time period. The field services companies limit their exposure to loss by limiting the services included in the annual services agreement. It is very important that the services company run a very efficient operation in order to generate a profit on these contracts. This related article discusses some of the mobile software applications and IT systems strategies that can be implemented.

Geotagging, in the context of Asset Management and equipment maintenance, means you can identify the exact location of the equipment you have under contract. How? Someone geotagged all of the equipment and entered it into a database. This can easily be done with a GPS enabled handheld computer with a mobile data collection software application. A person walks around and geotags all of the equipment and wirelessly synchronizes this data with their asset tracking and maintenance system. Now the exact location of the equipment can be shared across applications.

Here is one use case - you may have agreed to an annual contract to service all of the air conditioning units in a specific business complex. Within this complex are a variety of air conditioning brands and models. The service company may also have different service technicians certified to repair and service the different brands. As a result, it is very important for the service technician to service as many of his certified units as possible when he is at that location to save on travel time and fuel costs.

Geotagging helps the service technician know the location of all units that need serviced. It could be the latitude and longitude, street address, campus, building number, floor, room and location in the room.

The service company, for efficiency sake, would want to schedule a service technician to inspect and maintain all of the units at the same location at the same time. At least the ones he is certified to service. Therefore, the service company could schedule a day and time, and prepare a map of the equipment locations, so the service technician could complete his tasks as fast as possible.

Geotagging is not just for static objects. Asset tracking, which often means placing GPS tracking units that wirelessly report their locations on various movable equipment is also very relevant. We will discuss this component in a separate article later this week.

A good scenario would be for the service technician to wirelessly receive a dispatched work order on his rugged handheld computer. The work order would list all of the required services and tasks for each piece of equipment and their asset tags and geotags. The tasks on the work order would be in the exact order that the equipment could be found. The result is a fast and efficient service call that is very efficient and requires only one visit to service all the units.

The completed work order is wirelessly synchronized back to the service company's ERP or CMMS (computer managed maintenance system).

Vehicles and fleets of vehicles are also very important assets that need to be tracked and managed. Since these are moving assets solutions specifically for real-time fleet tracking are available as described here.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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