Patrick Crampton-Thomas, global head of Digital Products and Asset Management at SAP, took some time sit down with ASUG and discuss the large scale trends he is seeing in the EAM space. In this prelude to Patrick’s keynote address at our upcoming ASUG Best Practices: SAP for EAM, he discusses how this field has changed, what the future holds, and what is exciting him the most.

ASUG: Can you start off by telling us about your role at SAP and what you oversee?

Patrick: I am responsible for the SAP Solution Go-to-Market for Asset Maintenance and Service, as part of our Digital Supply Chain Solution Management organization. This covers solutions including SAP S/4HANA for Maintenance and Service, SAP Field Service Management and mobile solutions, and SAP Asset Performance Management.

ASUG: As we are entering 2022, what is the state of the EAM field as you see it?

Patrick: The boundaries between suppliers, operators, and service providers are blurring. Companies are differentiating through new collaborative services including digital content, equipment monitoring, predictive maintenance, and ‘product-as-a-service’. With this change manufacturer “service” processes merge with maintenance, become a way to differentiate industrial equipment through value-added services which in turn can offer improved customer experience, asset performance, and increased revenue Increasing use of third parties, and the need for remote asset management offers an opportunity for companies to streamline and automate field operations in service and maintenance, including use of advanced scheduling techniques and intelligent mobile apps for field teams and collaborative resource management work execution with partners.

Companies are continuing to look at digital transformation to reduce costs in maintenance and service operations through automation, but also to adopt new asset performance management processes using advanced intelligence about the equipment, and to enable innovative and differentiated services to customers to be more competitive and create new revenue streams. Technologies such as Industry 4.0 and machine learning bring increased “intelligence” to asset management to move away from planned and reactive to predictive maintenance with real-time condition monitoring. Assets are maintained exactly when they need to be, work is planned ahead of time reducing failures, costs, and unnecessary work. Advanced processes for criticality, risk, and reliability management improve asset performance, ensuring the right strategy is in place to maintain each unique asset to meet cost and service goals

ASUG: The past two years have affected so many aspects of our lives. What would you say is the most significant to the EAM field spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Patrick: COVID-19 proved that resilient supply chains are critical, whilst the world responded with drastic measures businesses had to continue to meet demand, adapt to it as it hanged, and to keep operations running. The role of the asset in this is key, and with environmental pressures too, companies are realizing they need to invest more to extend asset life and performance, to get more with less, and to keep existing assets running.

ASUG: How have the supply chain difficulties over the last two years affected EAM?

Patrick: There have been many impacts beyond what I describe above, not least of which is the fragility of supply. Spare parts, semi-conductor chips, new equipment lead times were all impacted, and organizations have to respond to keep the lights on. The advent of such variability was unprecedented, and as it seemed to be nearing an end, we get the global crisis in Eastern Europe and dramatic impacts of sanctions and energy costs. What will be next? The only sure answer is that we don’t know, but something will come. This introduces the need for a new approach to operations. Risk assessments and tight supply chain integration is needed to ensure each and every asset can be kept running, with contingencies to minimize risk and disruption

ASUG: What are the biggest technology trends in the EAM space? What types of solutions—IoT, analytics dashboards, edge computing—are gaining the most traction with your customers?

Patrick: The EAM space is quite conservative, and not quick to adopt new technology compared perhaps to manufacturing where Industry 4.0 has driven huge changes or supply chain where networks and artificial intelligence are commonplace. However, I do see this changing as IoT becomes an integral part of new equipment, along with the need to operate equipment remotely perhaps under product-as-a-service contracts or to monitor it to enable the move from reactive and planned maintenance and service to a dynamic and flexible predictive approach. We also see a shift in people profiles and skills in our industries. Younger workers have different expectations, and despite less experience can be highly productive given the right intelligence and tools at their fingertips. There is low-hanging fruit, using mobile technology for work automation and analytics connected to machines, and then more advanced visual collaboration with Augmented reality, although the content and tools for AR (augmented reality) are still in “pilot” mode and widespread adoption is not yet to start.

ASUG: Why are these technologies you discussed being considered in the EAM field, especially if they might be difficult to adopt?

Patrick: Just as we see in other areas like supply chain and procurement, there is a limit to how far operational excellence and business process improvement can go without new technology. To make the step change, more intelligence is needed, requiring things like IoT and ML to not only improve decision support but actually to automate it. Technology also increases the speed and scope of planning and execution, allowing companies to integrate those processes whilst in the past, they were often disconnected, meaning that typical weekly or monthly planning cycles can be real-time and pro-active, re-run hourly if needed to be more responsive to changes in demand. Further sub-optimal ‘aggregate decisions’ can be replaced with automation allowing segmentation at individual assets to make sure each has the best strategy and policies for performance and risk.

What would you say are the biggest pain points you hear EAM customers discuss?

The end-to-end process is often broken. Strategy does not talk to planning, planning does not talk to execution, and execution does not feedback to planning and strategy. Hardly surprising considering how many systems and tools are typically involved, and the continued reliance on an off-line tool like excel.

ASUG: How is SAP going about addressing those pain points?

Patrick: SAP is uniquely positioned to integrate maintenance and service across the enterprise and supply chain. The SAP Intelligent Suite eliminates siloes across an asset's lifecycle from design-to-operate, offering asset intelligence and automated processes across the organization, and collaboratively with partners

Customers can eliminate the gap between strategy, planning, and execution. Integrating risk and reliability management, with real-time insights from Industry 4.0 for condition monitoring and prescriptive maintenance, and for customer service, predictive service, field operations are optimized with intelligent resource scheduling and routing, with mobile apps to automate work and so technicians have the intelligence at their fingertips to achieve rapid enablement even of new technicians. These domains all share a common language, and business processes are natively integrated to ensure strategy and planning recommendations are implemented for execution and allowing closed-loop reporting and analytics for continuous improvement

ASUG: What excites you the most about the EAM field?

Patrick: The shift in focus to APM, adding the “Intelligence” to asset management, and the positive impact best-in-class asset management can have on environmental goals.

ASUG: What do you think the future holds for EAM? What should we be expecting from SAP and from the EAM space over the next one to three years?

Patrick: SAP has been launching our APM suite over the last couple of years, and this is an exciting journey. The latest releases are re-architected to work natively on top of S/4HANA Cloud and by sharing a one domain data model, this will be transformational to simplify adoption and enable scale. As such, I am really looking forward to moving to mass adoption of both SAP S/4HANA and SAP Asset Performance Management to deliver on our Intelligent Asset Management strategy.

Be sure to register for ASUG Best Practices: SAP for EAM, which kicks off next week, to hear Patrick's full keynote.