In an industry where we are navigating a sea of change, including the introduction of the DCC, a push to SMETS2 and a flurry of new entrants to the market, it’s hard to overlook the main contributor and central point that drives it all…the smart meter.

So much focus has been on functionality, communication and rollout of the assets, that the on-going asset lifecycle management has seemingly taken a back seat. However, over the last 12-18 months, there has been a shift in this focus, with more importance being placed on more effective asset management.

This has been driven by pressures to reduce operational losses and ensure all capital expenditure is managed effectively, ensuring companies do not suffer heavy capital losses through asset loss.
There have been asset management solutions in place for many years, successfully tracking assets in the field, including data such as purchased date, when and where the asset was installed, by whom and ultimately, when the asset was scrapped at end of life. All have worked to the best of their ability and serviced the old market well.

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However, the main criteria for such asset management and tracking was to ensure stock was replenished in time, to capture any site visits for costing purposes and ultimately, to support accountancy practices to calculate depreciation.

So where have these systems gone wrong? Simply put, they haven’t. What has happened is that the market has evolved, the assets have evolved and thus, the demand for more advanced asset management solutions has increased.

Working in the market messaging arena at Generis, with well-established asset management solutions, we liaise with many industry players, both with existing customers looking for increased functionality and features to support the market changes and new customers looking for an innovative solution to manage their portfolios more effectively. This has led to some interesting observations regarding the increased demands for asset management solutions:

  • The main driver is the change from stand alone, low functionality, cheap assets to high value, multi-faceted, connected assets. With high asset costs and larger portfolios, many asset providers can no longer risk losing or writing off assets. Gone are the days where a 2-year-old dumb meter can be written off as an acceptable loss.
  • Increased asset types are another reason for increasing demand for greater asset management solutions. Not only are the meters now smart and thus more expensive, but many contain plug and play modules, also valuable assets. Add an increasing number of data concentrators, IHUs and the explosion of IOT connected devices in the home, the sheer number of assets requiring full lifecycle management is dramatically increasing.
  • A requirement for more advanced, tailorable and flexible solutions to proactively manage assets to stay ahead of the game, identify any stock issues and prevent any loss of service/problems.
  • There has been an increase in customer switching, therefore assets need to be transitioned as opposed to just writing off the cost.
  • Assets are now more complex than ever with multiple parts or modules. As a result, more granular management is required to support smooth jobs/site visits and improve support/efficiency/up-time.
  • There is increased interaction with field service management, therefore a seamless solution to capture data is imperative.
  • MAPs need to manage and report when assets are on the wall to ensure they maximise rental revenue and minimise any technical losses throughout the process. Organisations we have spoken to are particularly keen to manage:
    • Average time between receipt and installation
    • Minimum/Maximum time from delivery to installation
    • Number of assets with no current supplier
    • Forecasted installation v actual installation accuracy (per MOP/MAM/ Supplier) over varying time periods e.g.1 month, 3 months, 6 months 12 months etc.
    • Forecasted delivery vs actual delivery accuracy (per manufacturer)
    • Predicted shortfall / overrun on asset stock vs forecast installation
    • Battery Changes due, forecast, actual
    • Manage damaged assets in warehouses
    • Asset movements
    • Asset purchases
    • Installation/rollout review and planning
    • Forecast future rollouts
    • KPI/SLA management
    • Number of faulty assets within/outside warranty period
  • A push to reduce or eliminate site visits. As we all know, site visits are one of the most expensive operating costs to any organisation in this industry. By allowing the asset management solution to be able to capture and maintain the most up to date information, this allows better remote management and anticipation of issues and therefore less wasted site visits for swaps or repairs.

So, with the above changes and demands being placed on the asset management solution providers, what do we see in our products to ensure we meet this demand?

First and foremost, the solutions undertake full lifecycle management for all assets and cover a full suite of assets. There is also seamless integration into other supporting solutions, whether it be to capture site visit data from field service engineers, data from other industry participants, the management of contracts or integration into other 3rd party solutions.

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One important area where solutions have evolved is in how data is processed, used and reported to all parties. Interactive reports are now providing vital, up to date, tailorable information to all users to ensure they have an accurate, up to date snapshot of where their assets are at any point in time.

This is further enhanced using interactive dashboards, allowing users to tailor their information and reporting to allow them to proactively identify issues, trends and pre-plan asset movement and replenishment.

Gone are the days where a licensed, on-premise (and higher cost) solution is the only option and we are now seeing a shift into the cloud. This ensures that the asset management solutions are scalable, reliable, economical and easily accessible. Traditional solutions are now being brought up to date with web based front end technologies to allow users to view all asset details on desktop, laptop, tablets and mobile devices, anywhere, anytime.

All of the above features ensure that anyone responsible for an asset, or its movements throughout its lifecycle, can fully optimise the assets utilization, increase reliability and up-time and as a result, reduce maintenance costs.

So what’s next?

As the smart meter rollout intensifies, so does the demand for effective asset management. Smart meters are becoming ever more complex and valuable, with longer lifespans, therefore increasing the requirement for full, end to end management.

Plug and play assets are becoming more modular, whether for communication or functionality and as such, go through more changes in their lifecycle. This will require more granular management as we advance further into the smart world.

The ‘Internet of things’ will play a bigger part in the asset world over the coming period, as more items are introduced into the home that can interact with each other. This will further increase the demand for a wider range of assets to be managed.

Ultimately, there will be ever more drive to reduce operating costs, reduce operating losses through asset loss, reduce site visits, reduce time to serve and increase service management of assets.

The question is, are you aware of where all your assets are now and where they will be in twelve months’ time? If the answer is ‘no’, then it may be time to start thinking about protecting your asset portfolio from any potential future loss.

Written by Robert Lloyd, Product Manager at Generis Technology.