The future of EAM

BUSRide spoke with Afthab Zainudeen, senior solution architect in public transportation at Xerox, about the future of enterprise asset management (EAM) systems – how recent improvements will shape tomorrow’s system integration and data collection, management and analysis.

Please provide an overview of the current market with regard to EAM.

In the current market, there are several EAM options available that are marketed to transit agencies. However, there is no “one size fits all” that will track all of an agency’s assets. They also lack automation.

Adoption of these systems has been very slow due to a lack of information about the availability and capabilities of these offerings, as well as resistance to change by the agencies. The reality is that the majority of transit agencies have a manual tracking method that is very time consuming and inefficient.

The current market uses automated RFID tags integrated with GPS/tag, accurately locating assets to their position in a yard or garage within feet of their actual location. These systems now integrate with operation dispatch systems to help track vehicles in the yard or garage for accurate assignments.

Once you get past the buses – large equipment, tools, and high-value assets may or may not be tracked. If they are, many agencies still use asset number and manual tracking systems. If they use an RFID tag and back-end system, they only track possession of items, but not their actual location. This can ultimately lead to loss for the agency and additional costs to replace them.

Having a standardized enterprise asset tracking system that tracks more than just vehicle location will help an agency to manage more efficiently.


From the standpoint of the end-user agency, how have today’s EAM systems been streamlined over systems that were operating five years ago?

Not so long ago, EAM was done manually with a person walking the yard with a paper pad, noting vehicle locations. Equipment was tracked by wall-to-wall inventories done on a regular basis.

Now, with the advent of AVL/GPS, barcodes and RFID, the process has become automated and streamlined, providing up-to-date and accurate information, saving agencies man-hours and helping to reduce losses of smaller assets.


Conversely, if you were to look five or 10 years into the future, what would EAM systems look like?

In the future, agencies will not only be able to track where the asset is, but also the condition of the asset and its remaining useful life, as well as provide a method to track high-value consumables to help with inventory management and agency budgeting and planning.

Standardization of RFID and GPS solutions will help transit agencies develop EAM specifications to OEM suppliers to include in procurements.

This results in standard integration of EAM devices into OEM buses, providing added value for OEMs, consolidating procurements of systems into single procurements, as well as streamlining agency replacement and maintenance strategies.

Agencies will be able to improve maintenance by tracking which assets get used most frequently. Maintenance and replacement schedules can be based on miles and hours versus monthly scheduled maintenance. They can also broaden the assets they track. The technology exists today to track small items like hand-tools using a GPS location tag, giving agencies better control over all their valuable assets.

Better maintenance of vehicles and equipment will result in more reliable, on-time service for passengers. The condition of the equipment that riders interact with (such as fareboxes, wheelchair lifts, destination sign systems and bike racks) directly relates to the experience of the rider.

Integration of EAM with passenger information systems can provide added value to the rider. For example, sensors on bike racks that interact with the passenger information system will let riders know when the next arriving bus has room for their bike.


What changes do you foresee in system integration in the future?

Standardization of technologies will allow for easier integration with back-end systems and, combined with better infrastructure in garages, will improve automation of yard and maintenance operations and reduce manual processes. Automated bus assignments and tracking will soon get to a point that operators will know before they enter the yard where they are going. When an asset is put out-of-service, operators will automatically be reassigned.


What role do you believe open architecture will play in EAM systems in the future?

Interoperability with no more proprietary systems will result in greater competition, which will drive down costs. It will also allow for easier integration with systems that exist today, as well as emerging technologies, providing unseen possibilities to agencies down the road.


How will data collection and analysis look in the future – and what will that mean for the operator?

Today, we can display assets on the screen to tell where they are located, the health of the asset, and provide that information to the end-users (operator, yard supervisor or dispatcher) in real-time. Capturing additional data and metrics, and using more dynamic, real-time reporting tools and dashboards will provide agencies with more insights to make better decisions about fleet maintenance, staffing and other issues

In addition to integrating data from different departments, agencies can integrate with other government systems. For example, if an operator’s license gets suspended, agencies are automatically updated and the operator is no longer qualified to use the asset in the system.

Operator will be able to easily find the asset and know if an asset is in good state of repair and can be operated safely, and they will only be assigned to assets they are trained or certified to operate.  For example, if a bus has new equipment installed, the system will only assign an operator that is trained and qualified to use it.


How can agencies best use EAM data, especially as EAM systems are growing more advanced and collecting more and more data? How can an agency keep everything organized and easily actionable?

Agencies need to become more data oriented. A unified transit database that combines AVL, I.T., human resources and operations can be used to provide real-time, dynamic reports. Dispatchers, supervisors, maintenance managers, transit planners and executives will have access to more accurate data. They can use this data in real-time, to make faster, better decisions on a daily basis, as well as for long-term planning and forecasting based on accurate, historical data.


Afthab Zainudeen is the senior solution architect in public transportation at Xerox. Visit Xerox and follow them on Twitter and social media.