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Reap the value: Mobile inventory and asset management

By Leah Gabriel, Senior Director, Infowave Software

Today, organizations in equipment-intensive industries find themselves at a crossroads. Market conditions have regularly affected the level of investment organizations make in their asset infrastructure. The current economic pressures and the increasing size of mobile workforces are forcing organizations to take a closer look at how they utilize their assets and the costs associated with their current operations. Many find that current capital-intensive operations, such as preventive and reactive maintenance, are ineffective and cost millions of dollars a year in lost time and equipment. The bottom line is that enterprises need to improve their approach to the mobile worker if they want to preserve their assets, maximize productivity and save money.

When done correctly, deploying mobile solutions can greatly strengthen an organization's bottom line. By providing mobile workers with access to enterprise data in an easy-to use format that maps to their natural business processes, organizations experience a variety of substantial and positive operational effects, including:

  • Improvements in maintenance planning and equipment scheduling
  • Reduced inventory costs
  • Increased asset life-cycles
  • Improved safety and regulatory compliance
  • Improved data accuracy and integrity.

Well-executed mobile asset and inventory management can help organizations dramatically reduce costs associated

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with equipment. Mobility enables field service reps, technicians, auditors and warehouse personnel to perform a variety of tasks such as reconcile assets, change asset statuses, capture asset location, perform site audits, build and maintain complex asset relationships, and perform asset swaps while eliminating paper-based processes. Enterprise benefits include:

  • Collect timely and more accurate asset data for better capital management. From the point-of-work, field technicians can collect timely and more accurate information about an asset's condition to update backend systems and return the asset to the supply chain.
  • Update asset data at the point of work to track, maintain and service assets better. Mobile end users use bar code readers on their handheld devices to reconcile lost assets with current inventory, decreasing revenue leakage from unused, expensive parts and equipment. While performing inventory checks, field personnel capture and compare the location of the asset to its listed status from the back-end system.
  • Reduce order turn-around time and increase customer satisfaction. Enterprises ensure that parts are available for timely delivery, by enabling mobile end-users to scan barcodes from mobile devices, automating receipt, inspection, put-away, cycle counting and management of assets within their domain. Increased efficiency expedites movement of stock, minimizes shelf life loses, and promotes just-in-time inventory.
  • Streamline inventory, POs and stock processes for better inventory management. Minimize shelf-life losses by streamlining warehouse processes, such as inventory checks, stock transfers and purchase orders, all from the point-of-work. Field technicians can issue stock out to work sites, search and retire stock, return equipment to vendors for repair or replacement, and manage stock hierarchies.

A set of software vendors has emerged to make mobile asset and inventory management easy and quick to deploy. This new technology offering, termed Enterprise Mobile Applications (EMA), aims to provide packaged, configurable, pre-integrated enterprise applications for increasing operational efficiency and improving asset utilization.

Organizations that utilize enterprise mobile applications (EMA) find that, when implemented correctly, they experience a rapid return on investment and improvements in overall costs savings associated with equipment-related operations. Typically, EMA offerings include the following packaged features.

  • Mobile workflows: Enterprises should look for enterprise mobile applications that put the mobile end-user at the center of the application design. These type of applications deliver an application that is intuitive and transacts needed information at the right time. Mobile workers can function at the highest level of productivity possible, providing the enterprise with rapid returns and streamlined enterprise operations.
  • Pre-integrated and flexible EAI architectures: The optimal enterprise mobile application provides access to many different data sources. For example, in the utilities sector, field techs often need access to documentation for equipment information, work orders from Enterprise Asset Management systems, customer information from CIS systems, and Time and Materials forms from financial applications so that they can accurately do invoicing and cost accounting on financially bound work order and equipment. Selecting a solution that packages flexible EAI architectures within their offering helps deliver data from traditionally disparate systems to provide information at the right time.
  • Vertical configuration: Vertical expertise and experience from a vendor enables the delivery of packaged applications that address industry-specific issues. Vertical-specific solutions also offer faster deployment, reducing initial services costs while addressing an organization's unique business needs and optimal mobile workflows.
  • Packaged delivery: Configurable, off-the-shelf applications enable rapid deployment of full-featured applications. In addition, administrators can make application changes quickly and cost-effectively as needs change and user bases expand to enjoy an overall lower cost of ownership.
  • Standards-based mobile technology: Standards-based mobile architectures are essential to effective deployments. However, as standards are solidified and mobile technology becomes more common, underlying mobile technology differentiators between vendors become les and less important. If a vendor can offer uninterrupted application access regardless of network connection, support for any network, device management capabilities and security, customers will have the necessary capabilities that are critical to ROI and achieving the business objectives of the implementation.

A packaged, industry-specific application approach enables enterprises to accrue a variety of benefits that will serve them well into the future. Of course, some vendors do a better job than others of bringing to market applications that realize the desired benefits, but, on the whole, packaged enterprise mobile applications codify a business process and the features that are needed in order to make ROI more rapid and administration easier.

 


About the author:
Leah Gabriel, Senior Director, Corporate Marketing
Leah Gabriel is responsible for Infowave's branding, strategic communications, lead generation, partner marketing and market and competitive analysis. Prior to joining Infowave, Ms. Gabriel was Director of Marketing for Telispark (acquired by Infowave in January 2004) where she built and led communications and branding strategy to help establish Telispark as a leader in the enterprise mobile applications (EMA) marketplace. Previously, Ms. Gabriel led marketing efforts for iConverse, one of the first mobile middleware providers to market, where, for her efforts, she was named to PR NEWS prestigious "15 to Watch" list for 2001. Ms. Gabriel has also held posts at CRM provider Exchange Applications, PR firm Schwartz Communications, and CBS News in New York.

About the company:
Infowave (TSX:IW) provides enterprises with scalable and robust mobile solutions for improving operational efficiency and increasing the productivity of mobile workers. Infowave's configurable enterprise mobile application (EMA) suite, Telispark Mobile Enterprise, is designed to streamline and integrate business operations required by mobile workers. Infowave mobile solutions are sold directly and indirectly through telecommunications carriers, independent software vendors and systems integrator partners. Some of the world's most innovative organizations, including Hydro One, Shell Oil, Unilever and the U.S. Navy use Infowave solutions to increase the efficiency of their large mobile workforces.

This was first published in July 2004

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