Asset Inventory: The Gateway to Data-Driven Facilities Management


Jonathan Thomas


Asset Inventory, Equipment Inventory, and Asset Registry are synonymous terms the facilities management industry frequently uses to describe the inventory and data collection of maintainable and renewable physical assets in the building portfolio and loading of that data into the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). The CMMS can be part of a larger Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP like SAP), Enterprise Asset Management System (EAMS like Maximo), or Integrated Workplace Management System (like AiM, Planon, or Tririga).

An Asset Management Program is the organization’s strategic plan for realizing maximum value from the physical assets it acquires. Vital components of the asset management program include the asset / equipment inventory / registry, preventive maintenance (PM) program, life cycle model (LCM), and work order management workflows and standards and the accessibility of this information via the CMMS. Best in class work order management starts with appending assets to all applicable work orders. This should be done proactively in the case of PM work orders and retroactively in the case of corrective or reactive work orders. To do this, the organization must have the building sufficiently itemized and detailed in the asset inventory / registry.

The asset inventory is frequently taken for granted as rote or ignored altogether. The organization doesn’t attempt to close out work orders with assets appended. When this occurs, technicians are unable to do one of the most important steps in troubleshooting: reviewing the maintenance history for that asset. If assets are not appended to the work order, work order history will be lost for that asset.

Unfortunately, the asset inventory is frequently left incomplete or interminably delayed. Facilities managers must exercise the discipline required to get this done because it opens the door to adding value to your organization’s mission in many ways. I will write more articles on why this work gets deprioritized and the value that gets left on the table. For now, I want to provide seven tips on guiding your internal staff or the writing of a request for proposal or qualifications:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Ensure your staff and/or vendor understands the value and operational efficiency that can be gained from having a well-structured and executed asset inventory. Otherwise, they will deliver a poor product. If you put this work out to bid, receive four bids, and take the lowest cost bid, then know that your staff is going to have to add the difference between the price of the lowest bid and probably the second highest bid. I indicate this because it is unlikely that you are going to get four firms who fully understand this work. The opportunity cost of getting this foundational work incorrect is significant. Your staff have competing expectations and they may not have the expertise to do the work.
  2. Asset inventory work is time consuming, takes discipline and expertise to execute. It requires professional staff who can also communicate and interact skillfully with your valuable customers.
  3. Require gathering nameplate, design data, installation data like power source information, motor data, and consumable data like filters, belts, and lubrication. BMOC provides preventive maintenance recommendations and life cycle modeling as a part of our process. However, this is not a requirement to get the job sufficiently completed.
  4. If you have a small plant (<500,000 gross square feet), then you can pack a ton of information into a singular effort. However, if you are larger, then we recommend that the asset inventory work be streamlined so that the process will not get bloated, the timeline protracted, and the quality compromised. Following are valuable services deserving of stand-alone efforts that should not be forced into the asset inventory work:
    1. Lockout / Tagout (LO/TO) is not required for all assets and requires a more technical skill set. The tendency is for facilities managers to want to include every valve and switch / disconnect / breaker in their inventory. This is not required for a good asset inventory. It is important information. You can use the asset inventory to establish a more surgical and cost-effective approach that yields higher quality LO/TO information. This information would then be stored on the asset record rather than as individual assets.
    2. The MRO Spares Strategy is important. However, the development of asset bills of materials (BOM) can be done after the asset inventory is completed. In many cases, the parts module cannot even be set up because all parts required for various assets may not have a part number in the system. Take a prioritized and precision approach to developing this strategy after the asset inventory is completed. It also affects work order templating.
    3. Asset Criticality Analysis requires a detailed understanding of the value of the asset to the organization. This can be a complex heuristic. During the asset inventory, you can automate a simple criticality by asset type, group, or class. However, ascertaining the criticality of buildings and spaces requires more experience with the specific facilities. Furthermore, shutdown notification and details on asset redundancy must be understood. Customer contact information is difficult to acquire and can change frequently. If you attempt to apply the expertise required to do this during the asset inventory work, then the work will get unnecessarily costly. Complete the asset inventory and then take a precision approach to asset criticality analysis afterward.
    4. IIoT Device Installation at motors, bearings, etc. is highly valuable and has the potential to reduce energy consumption and labor costs. Do this work after the asset inventory is complete. You can then produce a report on the parameters you want to include in your condition-based maintenance strategy and put that list with locations out for bid. If you want to do a preliminary study, then you can provide this list and give your service provider a clear understanding of scope. This will reduce your costs.
    5. Work order planning, scheduling, and assignment is made easiest when the assets can be reviewed as a part of a comprehensive strategy. BMOC provides best practice preventive maintenance procedures as a part of our base service. With the assets and preventive maintenance procedures in your CMMS, you will have the building blocks for planning and scheduling preventive maintenance work orders at your disposal.
    6. Life cycle modeling should be applied to major assets to support repair / replace decisions. This work consists of ascertaining a date basis and renewal cost at the asset level and storing it in the CMMS. Some CMMS have a flag available to apply if an asset is past its economic life cycle. BMOC provides this information as part of its base service. However, it is something that can be developed after the asset inventory is complete.
  5. Your asset inventory approach should have a plan for complex variations of common systems. For example, a multiplex pump system is going to take longer to maintain than a single pump. An air handling unit with energy recovery, humidification, and a fan wall is going to take longer to maintain than a simple air handler and even require multiple trades for the work order. These differences need to be readily observable by your planning and scheduling staff. The preventive maintenance program and life cycle model must scale accordingly. OEM recommendation and industry standard recommendations for preventive maintenance often do not provide for the highest life cycle value for the asset. I will write more on this topic soon.
  6. Your CMMS developer likely has an app that supports asset data loading from the field. These applications are great for piecemeal asset updates. However, when loading data in mass, these apps will slow down the effort considerably. Hard-keying model and serial numbers is a time consuming and error-prone operation even in an office. Entering this data in the field increases the chance for errors. Information is rarely readily available at eye level. Most of the information is accessed on a ladder, while hunched over an asset, and on the side of the asset facing a wall with a 2-inch gap. Optical character recognition programs are not there yet. Beware of these solutions as well. We have attempted to use them and spend more time wrestling with the application than we would if we just didn’t use them. About eighty percent of assets are even candidate to attempt using this software. We recommend using a systematic photo logging process and transcription of data from the comfort and safety of an office. Use lower-cost staff to do the data transcription and data loading work.
  7. Have a label manufacturer preprint labels on a durable stock using simple serialized, next-up, asset identifiers rather than using a handheld or desktop label production system. These systems produce low-quality labels that are not as sunlight, heat, or water resistant as you would expect. Metal labels are overkill for most facilities environments, though. Eliminating the printing of labels and managing a label printing system is a great way to streamline your effort. As a corollary, apply simple serialized numbers instead of smart numbers. See this article.

BMOC provides this work as a part of our Facility Operations Readiness Support (FORS) service. Please feel free to contact me at, (877) 574-4313 (leave a voicemail, I will get it), or if you have questions or would like some help with developing your strategy.