Best Practices for Physical Asset Management

Implement a Physical Asset Management Program the Right Way

You don’t need to have an international fleet of service vehicles or run the largest correctional facility in your state to benefit from a reliable asset management program. Organizations of every size, in every business sector can benefit from implementing one. They can:

  • Better manage risk
  • Reduce equipment loss and expenditures
  • Improve staff performance and efficiency
  • Improve equipment service and support, so assets retain their value

Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all asset management plans. Every industry and every individual business is going to have different equipment to manage, regulations to follow, and workflows to carry out.

But there are best practices you can follow that will help you design the best possible asset management program for your organization. This guide will explain exactly what an asset management program is and how to design and implement one at your organization.




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An Overview of Asset Management

Asset management is the control and direction of an item’s use over its entire lifecycle with an organization. The goal of asset management is to maximize the value of that item over its lifecycle, while mitigating any risks associated with its ownership or use. No matter whether they follow a formal program, or carry it out on the fly, asset management is a core practice of every kind of organization, from small businesses to large enterprises, from local non-profits to federal government agencies.

If your organization is unsure whether it needs a more rigorous asset management program, consider conducting a self assessment to determine how well your current management activities meet overall goals.

Why Implement an Asset Management Program?

Developing a rigorous asset management program supports a range of important business initiatives.

Key Benefits

  • Improved Operations: Better control over the workflows involving your managed equipment improves your organization’s performance.
  • Better Risk Management and Process Control: The tracking and auditing processes built into an asset management program support better decision-making about how equipment is purchased, deployed, and handled in the field.
  • Loss Prevention: Constant monitoring of equipment transactions and use ensure that a complete audit trail always exists. This supports the rapid investigation and recovery of missing assets.
  • Cost Reduction: An asset management program ensures more effective use of your organization’s equipment. The correct, working assets are always available. Condition checks ensure maintenance is conducted on schedule. And the value of each individual asset is preserved.
  • Aids Overall Business Growth: An asset management program reaches across an entire organization. The collaborative workflows it develops allow business units to work more tightly together. An asset management program better connects an entire organization’s operations to its business goals.
  • Encourages Accountability: Training personnel to pay better attention to the care and use of your organization’s assets will carry over to foster a wider culture of responsibility and accountability.
  • Builds Your Reputation: Demonstrating to stakeholders and customers that you have a clear and effective strategy for managing your resources improves their confidence in your organization, strengthening your business relationships.

Some Inspiration

A whole range of different workflows can be improved by a rigorous asset management program. Here are some examples from customers utilizing Real Time Networks’ range of smart locker systems for asset management:

Compliance Reporting

One of the primary outputs expected from running an asset management program is detailed transaction and usage information on your equipment. If you use an automated, electronic system it can also generate reports, including compliance reports, on the fly. For organizations that work with regulated materials, like law enforcement, EMS agencies, pharmaceutical companies, or even utilities, this can be an efficient way
to demonstrate compliance.

Content surveillance tools, like scales for weight checks, can measure and verify assets upon return. For law enforcement agencies who need to verify whether OC (pepper) spray cans have been used by checking their weight, this automates an important and necessary task.

Automating Service Workflows

If IT teams need to be notified of break-fix issues as soon as laptops, tablets, or other assets return from the field, you can turn smart lockers into a service tool for them.

When a staff member returns an asset, the touchscreen interface on the smart locker can prompt them to log any issues encountered. For laptops, for example, it could be anything from a crashing application to an entirely dead device. That logging triggers an email alert to the IT team and unlocks a designated ‘Service’ locker. The content surveillance system then ensures that the specific device
that user signed out is the one placed in the Service locker.

This general workflow—a staff-entered code triggering a specific locker opening—can be used for other assets that need attention. Like supply kits that need restocking, firearms that need maintenance, or delicate instruments that need cleaning.


Verifying a Chain of Custody

If assets are particularly sensitive, expensive, or regulated, a content surveillance system built into an asset management program with smart lockers can confirm in real-time whether they’ve actually been returned. And instantly notify supervisors if they’re not, for time-sensitive response. Without that automated verification it may not be until the next shift, or even days later, that a mission-critical device is found to be missing.

Kit Component Checks

Checklists completed at smart locker panels during asset transactions can help verify necessary quantities of critical materials, like medications. EMTs can log lifesaving medications as low or damaged when they return kit bags at the end of a shift to be pulled for restocking.

How to Plan

To properly design an asset management program you need to work backwards, by first defining your outcomes. What exactly does your organization need to get out of the time, effort, and money it invests in implementing such a rigorous new program? For many organizations their desired outcomes break down into one or more of these three topics:

  • Adding Value to the Organization for its Stakeholders
  • Ensuring Compliance or Quality Assurance
  • Better Aligning Operations with Organizational Goals

To achieve these outcomes, or any others that your organization defines, a number of planning steps must first be completed.

1. Determine Who Needs to be Involved

It’s first important to establish some context for your proposed asset management program. Start by identifying the internal and external stakeholders directly and indirectly impacted by the program’s deployment. Internal stakeholders would be from different business units in your organization. From the front office, to operations, the supply chain, marketing, customer support, and security. External stakeholders include regulators, business partners, and customers.

2. Understand Stakeholder Expectations

Seek input from those stakeholders about what matters most to their particular units. While valuable guiding principles can and should be gathered here, an underlying goal is to establish the process from the outset to be collaborative and transparent for all affected parties.

3. Understand Your Organization and Its Business Environment

One of the best ways to do this is to apply a focused version of a traditional business environment scan. An environment scan is the process of collecting information about items in and around your organization that bear on its performance. Anything that could be considered an opportunity or a threat is usually considered something to be monitored in environmental scans.

An environmental scan used for developing an asset management program might include monitoring equipment losses, purchasing schedules, and service requests over time. It might also include tracking materials-related compliance violations, and noteworthy changes in the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for departments using those materials or equipment.

The outcome of this particular asset management environmental scan should be a list of key indicators relevant to your particular organization about how effectively it uses its equipment and material assets, and how effectively it performs its associated workflows.

4. Determine the Scope of Your Management System

Once key indicators are organized, next compile all materials and pieces of equipment that need to be managed into a single all-encompassing asset portfolio for your organization. Assets in the portfolio are within the scope of the management program, and will receive the full resources, attention, and controls prescribed by the program.

But remember, not every single asset requires rigorous management. It’s perfectly fine to leave assets out of the portfolio, and treat them as out of scope of your management considerations.

How to Design

The planning phase described above is designed to clarify your organization’s priorities and goals before any actionable design is undertaken. Once the program scope is agreed upon you can move onto designing an operational asset management system. At this point it is important to decide on the specific physical tools you will use to achieve your goals and meet key indicators established in the Planning phase. This may mean using an electronic asset management system, pen-and-paper controls, or a combination of both. For the steps below, as an example, we will consider how an electronic system might be implemented.

1. Plan Your Installation

Start by mapping the locations within your facility where assets are currently used, or plan to be used, as well as where they are currently stored, if those are not the same locations. Also assess which individuals throughout the organization use those assets. One useful brainstorming approach to cover all of this is to list your Five W’s for each asset: Who accesses What, Where, When, and Why.

2. Determine Storage Configuration

This task is often about balancing optimal access control with efficiency. In a perfect world, you would be able to secure every individual asset in its own individual compartment. In the real world compromises on cost, transaction time, and storage space all need to be made.

Often assets can be grouped together based on their use, as long as storage allows. But you will likely need a locker or storage system that has different sized chambers to accommodate a wide range of items. For example, a law enforcement facility might want a storage solution that can accommodate rifles, body cameras, and first aid kits all in the same system.

3. Determine Content Surveillance Requirements

Sensitive, regulated, dangerous, or just plain expensive assets often should have some level of content surveillance to better manage risk. Content surveillance systems verify which assets are placed in your lockers, and provide data on their condition. The goal of any content surveillance is to give you better insight on the asset and its use.

Wireless tags are attached to or embedded in assets, and tag readers are mounted inside the locker cabinets. The readers can even be configured to detect multiple tagged assets within carrying cases.

4. Determine Access Control Methods

If your asset management system is pen, paper, and lockbox-based then this is a simpler matter to sort out. It matters much more when you’re assembling a smart locker system that will integrate with an existing access control system within your organization.

Many different methods are available for authentication and access control. Some of the more popular ones supported by Real Time Networks are PIN Codes, Proximity (Prox) Cards, Biometrics, Iris Scans, and Smart Phones. You can combine multiple methods for higher levels of security, as business needs require.

5. Determine Workflow Support Opportunities

This primarily means defining the reporting and checklist options you need built into your asset management program to support the work associated with different pieces of equipment. Smart locker asset management systems allow you to build checklist-based workflows right into their access control panels, and compile automated reports as transactions are logged.

The control panel is programmed to know exactly who has access to which locker compartment, and when. It enables users to choose the item they wish to access, all while keeping a full audit trail of all activities. These panels can integrate with other security systems in your facility, including access control systems, key management systems, and mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

How to Implement

Implementing an asset management program means more than just deploying the physical and IT systems you’ve designed up to this point. Most importantly, it means training all affected work units within your organization, and communicating with all stakeholders.

For example, make sure all employees are informed of a new Asset Management Policy. Employees who will be using the asset management program need to each receive credentials programmed for the management system, and a means of authenticating themselves with the system. And then arrange training on all of the
necessary physical storage components that you’ll use.

Final Thoughts

Deploying an asset management program that is truly effective and transformational is a serious commitment of time, money, and resources. But it’s not an impossible task, and is in fact, well worth the effort. A number of valuable resources are available beyond this set of best practices. Some are listed below.

External Resources

ISO 55000 Information

ISO 55000 is an internationally-recognized standard for asset management. It is highly-flexible and suitable for a broad range of use cases and industries. The 55000 Series standard launched in 2014, replacing the earlier PAS 55 standard.

ASTM Asset Management Standards

These standards include methods, metrics, and best practices for pursuing physical asset management and administration.

Useful Aids from Real Time Networks

Thumbnail RTN Whitepaper Top Ten Checklist

10-Step Purchasing Checklist for Key Management 

Another good starting point resource. The principles discussed are very applicable for evaluating asset management systems.


6-Step Security System Purchasing Process

A comprehensive guide for defining your purchasing goals and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of various systems.

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