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Asset managers crave location data

Michael S. Goldberg | Sept. 30, 2014
Visually seeing and tracking your company's assets can help save money, time and trouble.

Businesses implementing GIS-based asset management systems cite lessons familiar to IT project leaders: Business drivers guide them. Data quality is paramount. If the new applications change existing business processes, it's likely that end users will need training. Applications that are simple to use engage more employees and lead to better results.

A look at the experiences of the Port of Rotterdam, Scheid Vineyards, Express Energy Services and other organizations demonstrates the range of ways asset managers are using these systems to monitor their investments, assess risks and find opportunities in the things they already own and run.

"Three clicks to insight"
At the Port of Rotterdam, two factors drove the development of the PortMaps system. First, the port's existing systems could not support its goals to grow from 400 million tons of cargo per year now to 750 million by 2030. The port's jumble of 40 or so disconnected applications were created for specific groups like lease managers and maintenance crews. These applications often used different terms to describe the same things. GIS data used by some of the applications included 1,500 layers of information, Rademaker says.

The second driver was the need to get users on board. "We would use the map as a single point of entry, available for any user, without any training, in just three clicks," Rademaker says. The goal was to "make it a simple system, like the iPhone. Easy to navigate."

So Rademaker's team started over. In one year, they held 90 workshops with stakeholders to discuss their work and information needs, all to define data structures and functionality that a new system would support. Organizing the data models took another year. The project team came up with three data categories: water, land and the fixed border between them.

All assets -- moorings and pipelines and financial agreements like leases -- were connected to these categories, and maps would draw lines based on those connections. (For example, a light pole is attached to a road on land.) To streamline data management, the team set the number of asset descriptions in each category to 10 items: lease sites, roads, railways, green areas, pipelines on land; waterways, ship berths and harbor areas on the water; and quay walls and water banks with mooring facilities.

After six months of implementation work -- including a final bakeoff between two proof-of-concept implementations, in which teenage children of port employees tested the system's user friendliness -- PortMaps launched in January. It runs on Esri's ArcGIS platform using that system's geographic data, and includes financial and administrative data from an SAP ERP system and Microsoft SharePoint for documents, images and files.


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