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Author's profile photo Till Schirrmeister

[Asset Management Blog Series] PART 1: What is asset management?

This blog post series is a result of a research project I conducted in 2021. The goal was to develop a maturity model for physical asset management. I wanted to make visible what opportunities companies have to digitalize their asset management. As a result, this blog post series contains 4 articles. In part 1 to 3 I want to provide you overview of state-of-the-art techniques. I am going to define every technology you need to know when it comes to asset management. In the end of the blog post series, in part 4 I am going to present the maturity model I created last year.  

Since the beginning of the industrialization, physical assets are an important part of our economy. Due to a continuously increasing degree of automatization, companies have become more and more depending on well-functioning assets. The requirement of reliability and productivity let to the first concepts of asset management and as a result we are facing a new kind of industrial revolution. The industry 4.0 provides plenty of new concepts and approaches to bring maintenance and service to the next level.

How to define Asset Management?

Before I get into the various technologies, let me define asset management first. According to the ISO standard 55000, an asset is something that has protentional or actual value to an organization. An asset can be tangible or intangible if it provides some economic value to an organization. Assets can categorize into various forms: physical assets, financial assets, human assets, or informal assets.

The term asset management describes the coordination of all asset related activities of an organization to extract added value. This includes inspections, maintenance, and restorations. In this blog series, I will focus on physical asset management.

How to store asset data?

Now I want to take a closer look on how store asset data to enable new technologies in asset management. A well-structured asset data is the foundation for every application. In modern asset management solutions, the data is object-oriented hierarchically structured, and, in each object, properties are stored in the form of attributes.

This graphic shows a representative excerpt of an asset management data model. Here, the starting point is the class. To visualize the structure, I want to explain it by an example. Let’s assume I want to model the class “Pump”. I can now assign different subclasses of the class “Pump”. These could be various kinds of pumps, for example “Submersible pumps” or “Diaphragm pumps”. Now I can assign different models from several manufactures to this subclass. If a company owns one of these models, it will now be instantiated. After that you can assign components like “Equipment” or “Spare parts” to the model which you also instantiate as soon as you put them in operation.

What is the Internet of Things?

Besides structuring asset data, it is useful to collect data from IoT-devices to enable the full potential of modern technologies. The so-called “Internet of Things” is a term introduced by Kevin Ashton in the year 1999. It combines different technologies. IoT is defined as a system which connects different physical devices, sensors, and objects. Its architecture is the following: On the lowest layer, there are the IoT-Devices. They can be identified by a so-called “universal unique identifier”. The devices are connected by a network, which enables the communication between the devices (M2M communication). Additionally, the network recognizes new devices and builds up a connection with them. It enables collaborative execution of tasks. The next layer, the IoT-Platform, handles all service-related activities. This includes the management and storage of data. In addition, the layer provides a communication interface to the application layer via API. The top layer is called IoT-Application layer. This is the place where the data gets processed and the communication with the user takes place.

Storing data alone is not enough to face the modern challenges of asset management. In the next blog article, I want to take a closer look on how to share asset information along its asset life cycle and how to collaborate and enable new business models with the help of an asset collaboration network like SAP Asset Intelligence Network (AIN).


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      Author's profile photo Liudmila Turkina
      Liudmila Turkina

      Thank you Till, it is a really topical issue. You gave an example of the  assets, which are not mobile. Have you ever dealt with rail transport? A railcar has spare parts. A wheelpair  has its own lifecycle. A wheelpair can be replaced (rotate) from a railcar #1 to a railcar #2. Replacement of the component (a spare part) is recovered by a Service provider when a railcar is in a different region which is far from a parking space. 

      How can we get online info about spare parts status: it is on a stock, it is under a railcar ? 

      Following to IAS 16 " Depreciation: Each part of an item of property, plant and equipment with a cost that is significant in relation to the total cost of the item shall be depreciated separately". It means, for example, a wheelpair which is accounting as a current asset (material master record in MM) must be accounted as an non-current (tangible) asset in FI_AA. 

      An equipment item (PM) has one unique link between material master record (MM) or asset master record (FI_AA). 

      As you would manage the architecture task? 

      1. If a wheelpair is material master record (MM) it allows make material planning, stock accounting etc
      2. If a wheelpair is asset master record (FI_AA) it allows to calculate Depreciation and represents the assets in a financial statement more accurately.
      Author's profile photo Till Schirrmeister
      Till Schirrmeister
      Blog Post Author

      Hello Liudmila,

      Thank you for your question. The same architectural conceptual concepts apply to any kind of assets, no matter whether they are mobile or not. If you are interested in a use case in the railway industry, I can recommend you the following success story:

      The important difference of this architecture presented in the blog article and the architecture you have in traditional PM is that you now have so called templates. A template is a blueprint for equipment or spare part etc. (see the picture). As soon as we are initiating the template it has the same functionality as it has in PM, with its life cycle, link to MM or FI_AA and so on. Why is this template so important for a state-of-the-art asset management? It is now enabling the option of collaboration between asset manufacturers, service provider on one data layer. An asset manufacturer can maintain its master data “as a template” and an asset operator can use this master data too, by initiating the template as soon as the asset gets installed. If you are interested in this topic, feel free to check out my second blog article, there I am explaining the topic in much more detail.