Today’s volatile economy makes it difficult to plan equipment budgets. So it is no surprise that many organizations are actively seeking any new methods to make their equipment costs more predictable. Equipment lifecycle management (ELM) practices can be pivotal in streamlining your material costs and operations.

ELM enables better-informed purchasing decisions, lengthens the operational lifespan of high-value equipment, and enhances the accessibility of equipment used in critical operations. 

This article explores how you can optimize your equipment lifecycle management strategy. We explain exactly how ELM works and share ten best practices organizations can adopt to improve how they use and manage their equipment. 

What is an equipment lifecycle? 

A piece of equipment’s lifecycle includes all information and activities from its purchase and entry into your organization to its disposal. At Realtime Networks, we use the expression “from the cradle to the grave.” 

Why is systematizing equipment management so important? Wouldn’t all critical activities happen organically during use? 

The core activities might happen, but business management experts have found that too many details are missed. The main benefit of ELM is optimization: purchasing optimization, usage, maintenance, and strategy. An organized ELM program extracts maximum value from equipment purchases and staff use of that equipment. 

Equipment lifecycle stages 

Equipment lifecycle management is typically broken out into five stages: 

  1. Planning 
  2. Acquisition 
  3. Use
  4. Maintenance 
  5. Disposal

In an established equipment lifecycle management program, every new purchase should pass through these five stages. If you’re starting a new program in an existing organization, you will already have a large amount of equipment in the Use stage. You’ll need to conduct an audit to gather the information you would have collected had they passed through your Planning and Acquisition stages. 


The initial stage, known as the Planning stage, commences as soon as a purchasing decision is made. The process begins with investigating the various alternatives available in the market. Or, in some cases, the development of a new piece of equipment in-house. 

For capital purchases, you likely want to involve stakeholders from your organization's different affected business units to provide insights on this major purchase. If you involve a wider group of decision-makers like this, you may want to conduct a use case assessment to ensure everyone has a shared understanding of the specific business problem you’re addressing with this purchase. 


Once you have identified the asset you intend to purchase, you move on to the next stage: equipment acquisition. But why does this require a distinct stage within the equipment lifecycle? 

Because acquiring new equipment involves more than just cutting a PO. In situations involving large or sensitive purchases, careful planning might be necessary to coordinate delivery, installation, training, and deployment to your facility. You also must have an established process for adding each new piece of equipment to your ELM inventory system. 


This is the stage of life where your employees actually use the equipment. Ideally, you want to establish a method to consistently gather and evaluate how employees use the equipment during daily operations. Typically, the most efficient approach is to use the automated tracking capabilities of a smart asset management system. 

However, if you don’t have such a system already, you can still capture valuable insights through manual tracking and meticulous record-keeping. To understand their equipment performance comprehensively, consider tracking specific aspects of equipment, such as user identities, usage timings, and any reported issues.


Based on manufacturer guidance, set an equipment maintenance schedule for all tracked equipment and adjust for any necessary local conditions. For example, how it is used in your workplace and how often. 

For larger, costlier equipment, like a forklift, consider implementing a preventive maintenance schedule, incorporating tasks like tire and battery equipment replacements. That will help lengthen their life cycles. On the other hand, a routine maintenance schedule might be more suitable for assets like handheld scanners, such as monthly software updates.


Eventually, every piece of equipment reaches the end of its usable life cycle. The conditions for end-of-life will vary asset-to-asset, but generally, it is when the cost of maintaining a piece of equipment over a given period exceeds the utility it provides to the organization. At that point, you may have a few options, depending on the nature of a given piece of equipment. 

For instance, you could recover funds by selling high-value equipment, like a retired fleet vehicle. But you’ll need to dispose of other equipment according to industry, environmental, and governmental regulations. 

10 Equipment Lifecycle Management Best Practices 

Every organization has distinct equipment management requirements, but many universal best practices exist. Here are ten useful, straightforward practices to enhance your organization's equipment management program. 


Connect purchasing decisions to business strategy 

“Why are we buying this?” It sounds like a rudimentary question, but too many organizations don’t actually ask this question before purchasing new equipment. Any new equipment purchase should contribute to revenue generation or expense reduction in some capacity. They should do this within your organization’s overall business strategy. 

Consider whether you need the highest tier model if you need equipment that doesn’t directly further the company’s mission or increase revenue. Could you buy it refurbished? Could you delay purchasing one or two quarters? Before making any major purchase, make sure your decision-makers pause and ask, “Why are we buying this?” 

Smart equipment management starts a snowball of value 

There are no hidden secrets to equipment inventory management. It is all about taking the time to put proven best practices into place. Each improvement makes your operations more efficient. Improving again and again over time will create a snowball effect where the value piles up. And smart equipment management systems, like AssetTracer, are some of the best platforms to create that value. 

See how a smart equipment management system can help you manage your equipment lifecycles.

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