What is asset lifecycle management (ALM)?
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What is ALM?

Asset lifecycle management (ALM) is the process by which organizations keep their assets running smoothly throughout their lifespan. ALM combines a range of strategies designed to extend the lifespan of an asset and increase its efficiency.  

An asset is defined as something that is useful or valuable to an organization. The term includes both physical and non-physical assets such as infrastructure and equipment, capital and people.

The asset lifecycle refers to the end-to-end process by which an asset is purchased, stored, used and maintained over the course of its useful life by its owner.

Organizations track the health of their assets by using several methods. Many use data provided by sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor asset health, real-time performance and to perform preventive maintenance when necessary.

As part of an overall maintenance strategy, asset maintenance is performed regularly in order to reduce maintenance costs, extend asset life and avoid unplanned downtime.

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Stages of asset lifecycle management

Most organizations implement an asset lifecycle management approach in four core stages. 

Planning

During the first stage, stakeholders assess the need for an asset, its projected value to the organization and its projected cost. They formulate a plan for how an asset will be operated and maintained and carefully consider any risks associated with the assets acquisition.

Risks can vary depending on the type of asset and organization but typically include the likelihood of technological advancements that might make an asset redundant, i the likelihood of failure or replacement, and the availability of resources needed to operate an asset such as fuel or parts.  

Valuation: It’s important to carefully gauge the overall value of any asset to an organization. To do this, decision-makers will need to take into account an assets likely length of useful life along with its projected performance over time.

With the amount of information available today through the Internet of Things (IoT), one technique that is becoming increasingly valuable during the valuation part of the planning stage is the creation of a digital twin of an asset that is under consideration.

Creation of a digital twin: A digital twin is a virtual representation of an asset that allows operators to run tests and predict performance based on simulations. With a good digital twin, decision makers can know how well an asset is likely to perform under the conditions they subject it to.

According to a recent report by Mind Commerce, digital twin technology is likely to emerge as a business imperative soon, forming the foundation of businesses in the “connected IoT era” with its advanced asset monitoring capabilities.2

Procurement and installation

The next stage is the purchase, transportation and installation of the asset. One of the most critical pieces to consider during this stage is how the new asset fares within the overall ecosystem of the larger organization.

As an asset is put into operation, how will it be integrated with other assets? How will it fit in to an organization's existing inventory management plan? How will its data be shared? All these questions must be answered as part of an overall plan to optimize the asset and keep it performing at peak levels.

Usage

The objective of asset lifecycle management should be to maximize the performance of a new physical or digital asset by monitoring it for problems and performing preventive maintenance. Enterprise asset management systems, or EAMs, have fast become the preferred and most effective way of accomplishing this.

Enterprise asset management (EAM)

EAM is a method of asset lifecycle management that combines software, systems and services to lengthen asset lifespan and increase productivity. A computerized management system, or CMMS, is a typical component of EAM that monitors assets in real-time and helps recommend maintenance when necessary.

Top performing EAM systems not only monitor an asset’s performance but also maintain a historical record of its activity including critical information such as when it was purchased and how much its maintenance has cost an organization over time.

Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)

A computerized maintenance management system, or CMMS, is a type of asset management software that maintains a database of an organization’s maintenance operations and helps extend the asset lifespan. Many industries rely on CMMS as a component of EAM as well as their overall maintenance ecosystem. These industries include manufacturing, oil and gas production, power generation, construction and transportation.

Asset tracking

Technological advances have made the tracking of assets and the measuring of asset performance and location in real-time a crucial part of asset lifecycle management. Types of asset tracking systems include radio frequency identifier tags (RFIDs), QR codes, wifi and global positioning satellite (GPS).

Radio frequency identifier tags (RFID): RFID tags are small tags affixed to assets that broadcast various information about them using radio-frequency signals and Bluetooth technology. They can transmit the temperature and humidity of an environment along with an assets precise indoor location and an abundance of other vital data.

Wifi enabled tracking: Wifi enabled tracking systems use a tag affixed to an asset that broadcasts information over a local wifi network. Like RFIDs, wifi enabled tracking is only effective as long as an asset is indoors and within range of a wifi network.

QR codes: QR codes are a significant upgrade on their predecessor, the universal bar code. Like the bar code they can provide an abundance of information on their asset quickly and easily, but unlike bar codes they are two-dimensional and can be read by something as common as a smartphone from any angle.

Global positioning satellites (GPS): Many businesses use global positioning satellites to monitor an assets location in transit. A tracker is placed on the asset that then communicates with the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) network. By transmitting a signal to a satellite, trackers enable managers can see where an asset is, anywhere on the globe, in real-time.

Disposal and replacement

To properly deal with an assets’ depreciation over time, decision-makers must consider a strategy for its eventual disposal and replacement. Valuable assets can be complex and markets are always shifting so it’s important to consider the overall return on investment an asset is yielding as it nears the end of its life.

Decision-makers want to consider the assets’ uptime, its projected lifespan, the shifting costs of fuel or spare parts needed to run it and of course the overall value of the tasks its performing for the organization when deciding whether to retire it.  

Benefits of asset lifecycle management

Effective asset lifecycle management helps maximize an organization's return on investment (ROI) in their most valuable assets. Here are some of the benefits organizations who deploy an effective asset lifecycle management strategy can expect.

Extended lifespan

With the information collected from an asset via sensors (IoT) operators can now measure asset performance in real-time. Using this information they can repair assets before they break down, replace key parts when needed and schedule maintenance when it’s optimal for their organization.

This approach, known as preventive maintenance, plays a key role in an overall asset lifecycle management strategy, extending an assets useful life and optimizing its performance.

Reduction in costs and downtime

When organizations take a proactive role in both monitoring and enhancing their assets performance through regularly scheduled maintenance rather than waiting for a breakdown they reduce the likelihood of costly repairs and downtime.

By anticipating necessary repairs and being proactive about performing them organizations can schedule maintenance when it suits them, not after an unexpected equipment failure.

Greater efficiencies

According to a recent IDC survey, increasing operational efficiency was the top priority for organizations in 2022 (51%).1 To realize this, many are investing in on an asset lifecycle management strategy that use IoT capabilities and artificial intelligence to perform preventive maintenance.

Rather than waiting until month-end or quarterly to review performance numbers, operators can get data in real time and use it to make changes as needed, on-the-go.

Use cases

Technological advances in asset lifecycle management are driving significant changes and enhancing the day-to-day capabilities of organizations. Here are a few use cases of bleeding edge tech that’s being deployed in the field right now.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning

As AI and ML continue to evolve and become more advanced, they are being tasked with more complex missions across the asset lifecycle, including:

Predictive and prescriptive maintenance
: AI and ML are playing crucial roles in predictive and preventive maintenance, by using asset information to recommend repairs that help reduce costs and downtime for organizations.

Parts management and inventory
: Using information about an asset’s repair history paired with knowledge of an organization's current inventory of spare parts, AI and ML tools can make recommendations on which parts to replace and when based on their availability.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

AR and VR technologies are helping organizations with asset lifecycle management by performing various tasks including:

Technical training and education
: AR and VR technologies have gotten advanced enough that they can train workers to perform tasks as complex as piloting a plane or as simple as fixing a leaky valve. 

Onsite diagnostics
: Enhancing diagnostic capabilities with AR and VR technologies is becoming more commonplace among workers who need to take regular readings, assess damage and schedule maintenance. 

Site safety
: AR and VR capabilities enable workers repairing equipment to receive real-time safety alerts no matter where they are or what kind of work they are performing. 

Remote work:
With AR and VR capabilities in the field, workers repairing equipment at a remote location have access to the same information they would in their office.

Robotics and drones

Increasingly, robotics and drones are being used to perform various tasks that were previously performed by maintenance workers enabling them to refocus their skills on higher value work for their organizations. These tasks include:

Site and equipment
inspections: Robotics and drones can perform routine inspections of equipment and facilities that were previously done by employees. 

Repairs in dangerous locations
: Robotics and drones equipped with maintenance capabilities can perform repairs on equipment housed in dangerous locations such as dams, underwater pipelines, highly trafficked roads, radio towers and more. 

Sensor readings
: Readings on pumps, pipes, tanks and other critical pieces of equipment and infrastructure used to rely on the physical checking of gauges by workers. Now that work is done increasingly by robotics and drones that can take temperature readings, test levels and components, and perform other data-gathering tasks that are critical to managers and maintenance workers.

Asset lifecycle management solutions
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Intelligent asset management, monitoring, predictive maintenance and reliability in a single platform.

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Take the next step

Unlock the full potential of your enterprise assets with IBM Maximo Application Suite by unifying maintenance, inspection and reliability systems into one platform. It’s an integrated cloud-based solution that harnesses the power of AI, IoT and advanced analytics to maximize asset performance, extend asset lifecycles, minimize operational costs and reduce downtime.

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Footnotes

Beauvais, Juliana, “Enterprise asset management 1.0” IDC MaturityScape, March 30, 2022, https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=US48512122&pageType=PRINTFRIENDLY (link resides outside ibm.com)

2 Mind Commerce (multiple authors) “Digital Twins Technology and Solutions: Cyber-to-Physical Communications and Asset Control Market Outlook and Forecasts 2020–2027,” March 18, 2020, https://ibm.northernlight.com/document.php?docid=IA20200519530000020&datasource=IBM&trans=view&caller=resultslist (link resides outside ibm.com)