April 21, 2021
4 mins

How asset tracking apps can help SMEs survive throughout COVID19

Protective masks arranged on the floor to form the word 2021.

Throughout economic history, crisis and opportunity have never far been apart. The times of greatest turmoil have witnessed the birth of amazing companies such as Hewlett-Packard, and transformative technologies like the Polaroid. In the wake of a recession or a black-swan catastrophe, the best companies have consistently demonstrated their survivalist streak by bringing new products to market and filling the gaps left by struggling competitors.

In the wake of Covid-19, businesses, particularly small businesses, face a new wave of opportunity. Using the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, SMEs decimated by the pandemic will be able to rebuild their business and gain first-mover advantage in the new world of remote working. And no technology offers greater possibilities than enterprise asset management, which will finally enable these companies to squeeze every drop of potential from the assets at their disposal.

Of course, many businesses will struggle to appreciate such possibilities right now. Seven in 10 SMEs have suffered a dip in revenues as a result of Covid; around one in five fear they may have to default on loans or reduce their headcount. For many, simply reaching the end of the month will be an achievement in itself.

But we are already seeing SMEs finding glinting nuggets of growth in the wave of recent digital innovations. Indeed, studies in the UK show that around half of all SMEs have introduced new digital technologies as a priority within the last 12 months. And the rewards are clear: as Vodafone put it in its September 2020 survey, “those SMEs that have digitalized are more likely to have found new business opportunities during the pandemic. In fact, the most digitalized businesses highlighted opportunities at more than double the rate of the least digitalized.”

These companies are using the power of Cloud computing to churn huge amounts of data about their market and competitors. They’re using AI to turn this data into actionable insights, and the Internet of Things, the network of physical objects which can be controlled using sensors, to gain greater control over their physical assets.

Now, by investing in enterprise asset management technologies, they can combine the benefits of all these technologies to achieve true 360-degree control over their entire operation, breaking down damaging data silos and anticipating future problems. For SMEs which are grappling with wafer-thin profit margins while simultaneously managing the delicate transition to remote working, EAM won’t just ensure survival: it will allow the company to retool itself in preparation for the post-Covid world.

A more accessible proposition

For most of its brief history, EAM and its benefits have been out of reach for most SMEs. The technology grew out of costly computer maintenance software, with a high bar to entry, and its main focus lay in larger companies in asset-heavy industries such as power and transport, which were underpinned by vast operations and specialist roles such as fleet manager, facilities manager or equipment manager.

But the new generation of EAM is a far more accessible proposition. The great migration to the Cloud has enabled EAM providers to move away from on-premise physical architecture and towards Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, which are both easier to set up and cheaper to host. Many of the latest SaaS-based products are available for as little as £20 per month.

At the same time, these solutions are being equipped with a suite of mobile and collaborative features which allow users to manage assets directly from the field or on-site, from the office or on the go. Through IoT, clients can now pull in data about the location and condition of their assets, automatically and in real time.

Until recently, it may have been difficult for smaller firms to handle all this data. But the current advances in AI and machine learning enable EAM users to see patterns within the numbers. As well as being able to see the current performance of an asset, operators are now able to monitor its role within the overall fleet, and gauge whether it is performing to potential.

Harnessing the inventory and lifecycle management functions offered by today’s EAM software, SMEs will be empowered to squeeze the maximum value out of fixed assets by understanding total ownership costs; at the same time, asset tracking systems will enable them to ensure these assets do not go missing. And crucially, the latest generation of AI-powered management systems will enable them to achieve the holy grail of predictive maintenance – anticipating potential outages before they happen.

Growing uptake

As the benefits of EAM solutions become more obvious, so the market is becoming more democratized.

Businesses are waking up to the fact that EAM’s benefits go way beyond oil, gas and other heavy industries, and can be applied to any industry which relies on physical assets. In fact, some of the biggest ROI gains from EAM software can be seen in sectors such as real estate and hospitality, which require a vast fleet of mobile equipment and where operations and customer service rely on physical assets.

As the world slowly emerges from the chaos of the pandemic and steps into a new world, defined by distributed working and seamless digital collaboration, we believe this adoption will only increase. Those SMEs which triumph in this new reality will be the one that re-organize the fastest, maximize the value of their resources and find a way to automate as many core functions as possible.

In EAM, they have the perfect solution to tackle this new normal.


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