High-IQ Asset Management: IBM Adds New Intelligence to Transportation

Smarter transportation strategies deliver tremendous value on a global scale

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

IBM's Smarter Planet initiative offers a transformative view of how organizations can best manage assets over time to create far more value. And as a specific example of how that could work in a practical sense, the transportation industry is a great example.

Smarter Planet ideas, for instance, include these:

Toward that end, a big part of making assets smarter, and services more useful, lies in collecting and analyzing information from sensors that, once added to the assets, provide information about asset operation and condition. This information helps organizations create and optimize a maintenance strategy in order to increase asset life-spans and improve asset reliability and availability

Now consider how naturally such ideas apply to transportation. The world we live in depends on a complex web of transportation systems and assets of many kinds, utilized in many ways. Collecting and analyzing information about those assets makes it possible to maintain them better, leverage them to accomplish more, and replace them less frequently—all very desirable goals from a business standpoint.

That's particularly true in transportation, as recent studies show, and on a global scale as well. Almost a quarter of scheduled flights in the U.S. in 2008 were delayed; how much more value would have been created if they had flown on time? Traffic congestion in the European Union is estimated to generate costs of roughly a hundred billion Euros per year. What if that money could be spent in more beneficial ways, to fulfill more immediate human needs?

Similarly, some 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are believed to stem from transportation, contributing to a global warming trend that is bound to increase costs and generate undesirable complexities on the largest possible scale, in every nation around the world.

IBM Maximo for Transportation generates more value from every asset in the complex transportation infrastructure

Exactly this kind of holistic thinking is what led IBM to introduce its Maximo family of asset management solutions—an integrated portfolio that pulls asset information into a shared repository and then, through a unified business process engine, helps organizations leverage that information to get a better business outcome in many different ways.

"Via Maximo capabilities and benefits, services scheduled for particular times—train deliveries, airplane flights, etc.—are more likely to occur at those times, instead of being delayed. This leads to a significantly improved customer experience: customers receive their orders on time, and flight plans are actually fulfilled instead of having to be adjusted ad hoc due to delays."

Those capabilities apply extremely well in the transportation field. Among other capabilities, Maximo solutions can help transportation organizations:

And in order to generate these benefits, Maximo solutions aimed at the transportation field include many special capabilities, delivered as integrated modules that were developed specifically for the unique challenges and complexities associated with the transportation industry.

Transportation-specific features and functions enhance both assets and human processes

For instance, consider telematics. The idea here is to empower clients to collect sensor data from assets, use it for diagnostics, and thus assess asset performance—establishing the asset's de facto health, and its ability to contribute to business goals in the intended way. Data of this type can help organizations not just keep assets properly maintained and performing optimally, but also predict problems likely to occur in the future—then prevent them from happening, and also prevent the business impact they would normally have created.

Another point: information collected by Maximo can be used not just for these purposes, but many others. If, for instance, a particular asset associated with a vehicle fleet turns out to be far less reliable than expected, that information can be routed to related business domains such as procurement and budgeting, to modify purchasing plans, get a better-performing version of that asset, and thus get a better long-term outcome from the vehicle.

Maximo solutions are excellent not just for addressing the technological side of asset performance, but also the human side of scheduled maintenance. Suppose a given asset, or class of asset, requires updates of one kind or another. The process by which those updates are rolled out can be created, overseen, and optimized by Maximo, making it as efficient as it can reasonably be, and driving down all the associated costs. Or, if it turns out assets need to be replaced completely because they've reached the end of their useful lifespans, Maximo can orchestrate the replacement process in much the same way—taking into account related issues such as safety to customers, business priorities, available inventory for replacement, and others, to yield the best possible overall replacement strategy and execution of that strategy.

Warranty processing is another feature within Maximo for Transportation that helps to optimize return on assets by ensuring that all warranty-related transactions are captured and managed properly. Using it, organizations can identify warranty incidents, associate them with active warranty contracts, and create claims to be submitted to vendors. The significant amount of money and parts that organizations can then recover from the vendors is a direct boost to the bottom line.

From a holistic standpoint, Maximo for Transportation also empowers a more proactive asset management strategy. Instead of reacting to problems when they happen to a complex asset infrastructure (such as a fleet of vehicles), the organization can minimize the odds those problems will happen at all.

And instead of spending more money at that point on replacement or repairs, the organization can spend less money in advance on asset management strategies. More business value is being generated for less money and with less effort.

Better asset management translates directly into better services for all of us

It's also clear that these capabilities deliver many benefits directly applicable not just to transportation as a field and transportation-centric organizations, but in a larger sense, everyone who relies on transportation services (which is to say, virtually everyone).

For example, via Maximo capabilities and benefits, services scheduled for particular times—train deliveries, airplane flights, etc.—are more likely to occur at those times, instead of being delayed. This leads to a significantly improved customer experience: customers receive their orders on time, and flight plans are actually fulfilled instead of having to be adjusted ad hoc due to delays. This situation, in turn, leads to a significantly improved business outcome for the transportation organization, since business success ultimately derives from customer satisfaction.

The win/win outcome delivered by Maximo capabilities in the transportation space is thus a great example of how Smarter Planet offerings really do benefit the planet—by making transportation a safer, more efficient, more predictable, and less costly service from which we all ultimately benefit.

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