Companies are changing how they acquire equipment, and that in turn is accelerating the need for integrated asset management software. So says Greg Dukat, the president and CEO of service delivery software company Indus, who argues that a company's remote workforce is now a key component in its ability to grow.

What's happening is that the predominant way companies acquire capital equipment is shifting from purchase towards leasing and usage-based models, he says. Even equipment that's already installed may change ownership without changing its location or usage mode. As a result, the supplier's profit margin is shifting too, from manufacturing to service.

"So you need to drive significant efficiencies in service," Dukat adds. This means making better use of the resources you have out there in the field - not just connecting them back to a scheduling system, but linking them into your asset management and customer information systems too.

He argues that Indus is one of the first to have integrated service management software with an asset management suite. The result, he says, is a system which can tell you what you have under management, who your customers are, what the current service calls are, where your technicians are, what skills they have, and so on.

"There's a fundamental difference between asset management and asset tracking," he says. "It's the ability to better utilise your field-force. It also drives the up-sell potential, for instance the service engineer can offer a contract for other hardware, do predictive trending on failures, and so on."

Most systems in use today either do asset tracking or service management, but not both, Dukat claims.

"It's a very fragmented market today, for example the CRM companies have some light functionality," he says. "The ERP players don't have an optimisation product. Then you have the niche service or asset players who're not integrated.

Joining up the dots
"The service management systems in use are despatch and scheduling systems, they don't take advantage of GPS, the skills of the driver, and so on. The second thing [missing] is the ability to connect the physical assets with the availability of the workforce."

He adds that an integrated asset/service management system also needs to support M2M (machine-to-machine comms), where an embedded mobile phone allows a managed piece of equipment to report problems for itself. Dukat says M2M is already available in some industries - for example, commercial printing presses can drive messages back to an asset management suite - and will spread to others as its value is recognised.

Dukat says that building this integrated service delivery capability has been his mission since joining Indus, originally as EVP of world-wide operations.

"When I arrived at the company three years ago, it was focused on maintenance systems. I looked for complementary markets and found that connecting international asset management systems to remote workforces would give benefits," he says.

"So we acquired two companies to expand outside the maintenance area - SCT for its customer information system for utilities and Wishbone Systems for workforce scheduling and management productivity.

"The pervasive driver we're seeing is that the industry's predominantly viewed after-sales service as a necessary evil. Now they're seeing it as a way to drive customer loyalty as a source or revenue - they now view this as a real opportunity."

He concludes, "The significant value is now our customers can be proactive - preventative maintenance. A lot of service management applications today are rudimentary or home-grown scheduling systems. What we offer is the integration to the asset."