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Critical advice on the enterprise asset management market

Infor, SAP, Epicor and Oracle all offer EAM products. Here's a look at why you might consider one over another.

From its humble beginnings selling produce at a farm stand in Anaheim, Calif., in 1968, Grimmway Farms has grown to become the largest producer of carrots in the world.

However, as Grimmway evolved from growing full-size carrots to being a top producer of baby carrots, the company realized that its computerized maintenance management system, Infor MP2 Express, couldn't keep up with its growth.

Consequently, Grimmway set out to find a flexible asset management system to effectively maintain its seven facilities: carrot processing plants, a juice plant, a frozen food facility and multiple vegetable packing sheds, said Katie Diesl, EAM development manager at Grimmway Farms in Arvin, Calif.

After researching the enterprise asset management market and finding a number of systems, Grimmway decided to upgrade to Infor EAM.

"We have an in-house software development group, and we have written our own software to support the functionality that would normally exist in an ERP system," Diesl said. "And we have the EAM system integrated with pieces of our suite of enterprise applications."

The Infor EAM system feeds information back and forth to Grimmway's enterprise application related to inventory levels. Conversely, there are some integration points where events or activities that occur in Grimmway's enterprise application push into EAM and either receive inventory or issue parts, Diesl said.

"Infor EAM gives us a lot of visibility into the transactional information," she said. "So it gives us a lot of granular detail about what specific items divisions are purchasing, how many, how frequently. There's not [insight on] that in Excel because all the data has just gotten too big."

Asset management is important for all organizations in virtually every industry because manufacturing operations are becoming increasingly automated.

In terms of maintenance, Infor EAM makes Grimmway more efficient as it has enabled the company to develop a predictive maintenance program with condition monitoring and alerts, Diesl said.

Today, asset management is important for all organizations in virtually every industry because manufacturing operations are becoming increasingly automated and companies need a better way to monitor, manage and report on the state of all their assets, according to a report by Technology Evaluation Centers. Here's a look at the enterprise asset management market to help you in your search.

The enterprise asset management market -- niche vs. ERP

There are two main contenders in the EAM sector: ERP systems offering a consolidated approach to tracking the organization's activities and standalone EAM systems offering best-in-class functionality, said Tracy Smith, president of SwainSmith, Inc., a consulting firm in Franklin, Tenn.

However, there is an ongoing debate over which software platform is best suited to manage physical assets, he said.

Assuming a company isn't already locked into an ERP system that doesn't have a robust EAM system, the requirements of the company from an ERP perspective might supersede its EAM needs, said Seth Lippincott, an analyst at Boston-based Nucleus Research.

"So they would buy into an ERP and have to purchase the EAM system separately," he said. "For example, if the customer needed a particular ERP solution due to the industry expertise they require. If that vendor didn't offer a robust EAM solution, they would need to look elsewhere. Otherwise, I can't see much reason [to opt for a standalone EAM system]."

From an integration standpoint alone, being able to have both the EAM system and the ERP system from the same vendor would save time and energy during implementation and ongoing management, he added.

"But it might really come down to their EAM needs, too," Lippincott said. "Buying a best-of-breed EAM solution due to the vendor's experience in a particular industry or to service a particular customer base can make the additional integration headache worthwhile."

Although some vendors of niche EAM software often have solid products for specific industries, segments or geographies, they don't offer as much functionality as top-tier EAM systems, Gartner noted in its "2017 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Asset Management Software" report.

Infor EAM adaptability

Infor's cloud-based EAM product is designed to integrate with its own ERP product, as well as with other third-party applications, including other vendors' ERP systems.

"Unlike niche solutions that simply can't grow with you or ERP add-on products that require extensive customization, Infor EAM is the purpose-built asset management software that's ready to scale and transform with your organization," according to the company.

The latest release of Infor EAM supports core EAM functionality, such as planning, work orders, inventory and procurement. Infor EAM is relatively easy and cost-effective to upgrade and maintain and is highly scalable, Gartner noted in its report.

"What we've seen in the marketplace, especially with one of our main competitors, IBM Maximo, and others, is that they were taking their application and breaking it up into components that had to be modified and customized, and we just didn't want to do that," said Kevin Price, EAM product evangelist and strategist at Infor in New York City.

Infor, on the other hand, wanted to keep its EAM application as a product, he said.

"So, you can install it and move on," Price said. "You can configure it, personalize it, bring visibility elements into it and you can integrate stuff, but we didn't want to change source code and require development dollars to be spent on the implementation side. And that separated us in a big way."

SAP EAM capabilities

When it comes to the enterprise asset management market, existing SAP customers may want to look into the SAP ecosystem for EAM capabilities.

SAP EAM is preintegrated into the SAP suite of enterprise applications, including financials, procurement and HR, and should be considered by organizations already invested in SAP ERP systems, according to Gartner.

"The product is highly scalable and suitable for large and midsize enterprises across the full spectrum of asset-intensive industries," Gartner noted.

SAP EAM supports organizations by efficiently managing the entire lifecycle of physical assets, enabling them to reduce operating costs and better manage capital expenditures and asset utilization, according to the company.

There are a number of SAP products that cover asset management, said Karsten Hauschild, solution manager at SAP, who focuses in part on EAM.

"We are talking about capabilities [rather than named products], like environmental, health and safety capabilities and asset performance and intelligence capabilities," he said. "And underneath, we have products, but for our customers, it's not that important. They just want to know if they can solve a business problem."

SAP has asset management products, including predictive maintenance, that integrate with the back-end SAP ERP system: for example, a mobile asset management system that can run in the cloud or on premises -- a technical but integrated software, according to Hauschild.

"When we communicate with our customers, we say we can do mobile asset management; we do work order management and predictive maintenance -- that's what they're interested in," he said. "And underneath, we have different product sets, but they're integrated."

According to Gartner, SAP EAM is best for companies that are fully committed to using SAP ERP as a platform -- for example, S/4HANA. However, it's not a practical candidate for a standalone EAM implementation or integrations with non-SAP ERP systems.

When it comes to the enterprise asset management market, there are some vendors that say they are "best of breed" and they are better than SAP because SAP is a suite, Hauschild said.

"We have customers who implement just our plant maintenance module, and it's good because we are also best of breed for work order management systems," he said. "And it works. However, these customers have to interface to whatever financial systems they have or to whatever inventory management systems they have."

Epicor automates field service

Epicor has a new EAM add-on offering called Field Service Automation (FSA), which has come out with the newest release of its ERP system and which leverages internet of things (IoT) technologies, said Terri Hiskey, vice president of product marketing for manufacturing for Epicor Software Corp., in Austin, Texas.

"We have this fully integrated [offering] for companies to manage all aspects of their service workforce," she said. "It's much more than just looking at pieces and parts but actually service calls, managing equipment that is out in the field by [taking advantage of IoT] by adding meters or tracking devices."

Companies would then log all the information from these meters or tracking devices into FSA.

"And if you had IoT-connected reporting, it would report back through the Field Service Automation component back through your ERP system," Hiskey said. "So, you have one system that you're tracking where the work is going on, who's doing the work, what's the cost around it, what are the spare parts that we need, when do we anticipate that it will be fixed."

All of those things can be tracked within the FSA capability, she said.

Oracle EAM in the cloud

Oracle is another vendor in the enterprise asset management market that has been offering legacy EAM products for a number of years.

"Our newest product line is the Oracle Cloud applications product line, and we have EAM or asset lifecycle management as part of that product line," said Andy Binsley, vice president of manufacturing and ALM strategy at Oracle Corp.

In a suite of products like Oracle, the company views ALM  as something that belongs in the suite because assets impact things other than just maintenance management, such as fixed assets, procurement, accounting and the things that come with an ERP system, he said.

A large part of Oracle's philosophy is to ensure that its EAM system integrates with all of those modules, he said.

"If someone truly wants an EAM system, they would buy our maintenance cloud product, along with our financials in the cloud and our procurement in the cloud," Binsley said. "Those are the primary systems that would give you a complete enterprise asset management system."

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