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Author's profile photo Oscar Del Castillo

Lessons learned from EAM Enterprise Structure and Master Data – Equipment Records

In the third post of my series “Lessons learned from EAM Enterprise Structure and Master Data” I will discuss the value of creating equipment records, the cost of keeping master records up to date, how to decide if equipment records need to be created, which data should be stored in them, and mistakes that I have done or seen others do while creating equipment records.

On this post, we’ll start with some simple SAP definitions:

Functional Location

The business object functional location is an organizational unit within Logistics, that structures the maintenance objects of a company according to functional, process-related or spatial criteria. A functional location represents the place at which a maintenance task is to be performed.

A functional location represents a system area at which an object can be installed. Objects that can be installed at functional locations are called pieces of equipment in the SAP  System.

Equipment Records

The business object “Equipment” is an individual, physical object that is to be maintained independently. It can be installed in a technical system or part of a technical system

The cost of keeping equipment records up to date

All consultants have one thing in common: They all leave. If you are going through your fist SAP implementation, keep in mind that someone within your organization has to be ultimately accountable and responsible for keeping master data up to date, so be realistic about which records you need to create and which data you will maintain on them.

Keeping master data up to date requires a commitment, not only from the person maintaining the SAP data, but also from the technician executing maintenance activities. Regardless of how the master data update process is done, technicians need to understand the value of having the right information on the equipment records and management needs to be realistic about the level of effort which takes to keep master data up to date.

How to know when to create an equipment record?

With some exceptions, most of the SAP standard fields between functional locations and equipment records are the same. As mentioned on my previous post, it is also possible to use functional locations to create notifications, orders and maintenance items.

The table below indicates common maintenance activities and whether functional locations or equipment records can be used for them.

Activity Functional Location Equipment 
Create notifications Yes Yes
Create orders Yes Yes
Create maintenance items Yes Yes
Assign class &  populate characteristic values Yes Yes
Activate & Deactivate Yes Yes
Populate master data Yes Yes
Install / uninstall No Yes
Use SAP serialization No Yes

By looking at this table, a user might believe that they could operate only using functional locations. In some cases, this is actually true.  The decision depends on whether if you need to track  the asset history at the individual asset level (e.g. pump) or if you just need to track the asset history at the functional location level (e.g. heating system).

The following workflow can be used by the business to have an idea of whether to create an equipment record or not.


Some shapes in the diagram above require some explanation:

#2 – The value of the equipment record is to be able to create notifications, orders, items and to report on unique (individual)  assets. Sometimes you don’t need this level of granularity for reporting in those cases there might not be a need to create an equipment record.

#6 – Some users see SAP as a system of record that they can use to keep information for all of their assets ,even the ones which might never be used in maintenance activities. I would argue that the cost of gathering the necessary information to create the assets as equipment records and keeping the data up to date is not justifiable. Additionally, having more assets tracked in SAP makes it harder to find the assets that are truly important to you in an asset hierarchy.

#8 – If you want to know how often a “part” of your system has failed, but you’re not interested in tracking “which part”, you can use catalogs for that. Think about it this way: You are responsible for maintaining the streetlights of your city, each streetlight has a photo controller, a luminaire, conductor, and etc. The photo controllers are regularly just run to fail, and you’re not interested in knowing which one failed, you just one to quantify how many failed. You don’t have to create an equipment record just for the photo controller, you can just use catalogs.  Here is a good blog which talks about it


Which data should be stored in an equipment record and how to map it?

There are two main ways to store information in an equipment record. Either using the standard SAP fields, or using classes and characteristics. If none of these options can be used, you could also extend the SAP tables, but that’s regularly a last resort.

When deciding which information should be stored in an equipment record, there are three basic question which needs to be answered:

  1. Is the information needed for a maintenance planner to identify or categorize the equipment?
  2. Is the information needed when a technician is performing a maintenance activity?
  3. Is the information needed for a planner or analyst to categorize the equipment to run maintenance reports? 

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you should keep the information on the equipment record. If the answer is no, then don’t keep this information in SAP.

The next step in creating equipment records is to decide how the data should be stored. The easiest thing to do is to compare the list of the asset fields which you need to have in the equipment record against standard SAP fields. Whenever a standard SAP field works, use it – whenever you can’t find a standard field, create a characteristic value.

Three common mistakes while creating equipment records

Here are three common mistakes I’ve seen companies do while trying to decide which equipment records to create

“I want all of the information from my BIM model, legacy system, Excel file (etc)  in my equipment records just in case I need it”

When mapping data from Excel spreadsheets, a BIM model or a legacy system into SAP it is common for users to think that they need all of the information of the asset stored in either standard fields or characteristics.

As we have already stablished, the more data that you store in SAP, the more data which will have to be maintained in the system. Personally, I do not see SAP as a replacement for the system of record to house critical information of the asset, but as the system of record which you will use to record maintenance done on the asset and plan for future maintenance.

Because users try to keep as much data as possible, I’ve seen instances in which a large number of characteristics are created for one class (or multiple classes) which causes users to struggle with creating list view displays or finding the data that they need.

“I don’t want to maintain more master data, I will just use cost center reporting to know how much time and money I’m spending on maintenance”

Some users think that PM orders are just needed to collect costs and don’t truly understand the value of having reports which can be ran for individual equipment records.

I’ve seen plenty of users try to replace maintenance reporting with cost center reporting. The end up drastically increasing the amount of cost centers that they need, and can never achieve the granularity that their reporting requires.

“I need all of the assets from my old ERP system in SAP as equipment records to make the conversion easier”

Some companies do not want to spend time analyzing which asset should or should not be considered an equipment record, so they decide to just import everything. I recommend starting with the assets that your team really believes will be used in maintenance activities and decide if additional equipment records need to be created later.

What other lessons have you learned while creating equipment records? What errors have you seen? Post a comment and we’ll start a conversation!


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