Tire-Kicking Tech: Top Five Technologies Being Tested This Year

Our survey identified the top technologies queued up for testing this year. Here’s how five companies are already reaping the benefits.

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4. Asset Management

"It is important to get more from your assets by increasing capacity and improving reliability," says Houghton LeRoy, research director for asset management at ARC Advisory Group Inc. in Dedham, Mass. "If your assets are performing well, your business is going to do better."

This applies to IT hardware as well as other physical assets. For Gwinnett County Public Schools on the northeast edge of the Atlanta metropolitan area, the problem is keeping track of the buildings and equipment needed to educate its rapidly expanding student body. The district serves more than 152,000 students, up 7,000 from the year before, at 106 schools. Another 35 school complexes will be constructed in the next five years. Some 1,500 buses and 500 support vehicles travel 121,000 miles a day.

"We receive 400 work orders a day, not to mention about 1,000 preventive maintenance jobs we need to do every month," says maintenance engineering supervisor Carter Wood. "We can't tackle every job all at once."

The district is rolling out asset management software called Maximo from MRO Software Inc., which was recently acquired by IBM. It started with the building maintenance departments, then expanded the deployment to the custodial repair support and the grounds maintenance crews. To date, more than 24,000 items, ranging from buildings to floor buffers, have been counted and tagged. The inventory also shows the capacity of equipment such as generators and how old they are. And when a repair work order comes in, the system indicates whether the machine is under warranty.

"We have greater certainty on our installed base than ever before," says Wood. "This lets us write a better preventive maintenance schedule, and we have made a lot of productivity gains."

Next up is expanding the asset management system to the transportation department and its nearly 2,000 vehicles. While the other three facilities departments run on a single instance of Maximo, transportation will be on a separate system. Then, over the next year, Wood says, the district plans to provide the maintenance crew with mobile devices, which will help them move to a paperless environment.

"Right now, the work orders are transmitted electronically from the customer, but then we print out the work order and handle it on paper," he says. But with the mobile devices, technicians will input data at the job site and sync up to the server at day's end.

Once those are in place, Wood says he plans to establish a link between Maximo and the district's PeopleSoft financial system so inventory and budgeting data is handled automatically on a daily basis, rather than having to be manually entered into the financial system.

Words of Wisdom: Wood says installing the asset management system was easy for the users — primarily office staffers who enter attendance and other data over the school network. But it was a bit harder for some of the maintenance staffers who were less computer-literate. "These are people who are dedicated to serving the customer, not the paperwork, and the customers appreciate them," says Wood. "Because they are valuable workers, they deserve to have a better tool, and that is what Maximo is for us."

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