Published August 22, 2022 in Blog
Why integrating ERP and EAM is essential for transit maintenance management
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) systems aren’t new to the enterprise software scene. Each are designed to tackle complex needs all large enterprises face: managing the people, the money, and the physical assets that power an organization. ERP solutions were created to consolidate Finance, HR, Payroll, and Procurement software and data from a hodge-podge of solutions into a single platform. Some ERP systems offer asset and work management capabilities in their platform for capital planning and accounting.
Managing physical assets in an ERP/finance system seems logical at first (“everything in one solution”). While this may work in some industries, history has shown that using an ERP or finance platform to manage transit assets and work orders is destined to fail. Transit fleets, facilities, and rail infrastructure are unique and complex. Using an ERP to manage them typically requires significant development (modification), leaving the agency with a highly-customized system that is difficult and incredibly costly to upgrade and maintain.
For public transit agencies, the secret isn’t either ERP or EAM, but using the strengths of both together for maximum benefit. An ERP handles day to day financial and HR transactions whereas a transit-focused EAM makes sure all your passenger facing vehicles and facilities are safe, reliable, and fully functional.
There is no question today’s large organizations—public and private—need ERPs to efficiently manage countless workflows related to employees, finance, and procurement workflows. For years, ERPs have brought tremendous value to organizations by helping them track these key resources with greater accuracy than manual or standalone solutions.
But public transit agencies aren’t like other organizations. Transit assets—buses, trolleys, rail, and fixed assets—are far more complex than typical assets found outside transit. Transit workflows are also highly-specialized: pre-trip inspections, state of good repair, vehicle fueling/charging, component rebuilds, asset configuration management, plus specific regulatory reporting (NTD reports, etc.). The range of asset types and workflows is far beyond the capabilities of ERP solutions with a focus on managing the financial side of the organization.
As you dig into the maintenance requirements for each transit asset—the complexity of rail braking systems, electric bus battery management, signaling bungalows along tracks—problems become even worse. Mechanics working on a bus need to enter different kinds of information than a technician repairing a rail siding in the field. Each of these specific needs leads to more and more customizations to the ERP asset module to the point it looks nothing like the original system—and may cause even more integration and upgrade issues over time.
When maintenance teams have to work with a system that’s just not quite right, they stop using it and the agency slips back into paper-based work orders and haphazard data collection. When frustrations reach a boiling point, different asset divisions at the agency (bus, rail, facilities) may decide to go-it-alone and acquire their own separate work management solution. While this may fix one division’s workflow/data issues in the short term, it creates a whole new problem: asset management data silos.
As each part of the agency tackles their own asset management challenges—bus, rail, facilities, field assets—each is tempted to get their own asset management system. Each additional system may seem to solve the problem for that type of asset, but it introduces an even bigger issue: creating a data island cut off from all other parts of the agency. Data silos mean there is no coordination, consistency, or integration across the larger organization. An asset management system needs to connect to other parts of the agency—ERP especially—for collaboration, workflows, and accounting.
Data silos make that challenging at best, impossible at worst.
When fixed route maintenance wants to tie into Ops and Dispatch, they need to create their own connections between systems. Then rail needs to connect in. Then wayside. Then they all realize they need to still interface and feed data into the ERP system for finance, procurement, HR, and payroll.
The number of custom interfaces from each system to all the others inevitably creates data management chaos. Maintaining the separate interfaces becomes a management headache for IT. How can an agency truly understand what’s going on across all departments if each system records data differently? If there is no consistency across systems how can you know if the data you’re looking at is accurate?
Simply, you can’t.
In transit a single, central asset data repository is essential for:
The industry term for this best practice is having an asset database that is your “single source of truth.” From a single source of truth, your agency can all rely on the same data set for all tracking, planning, coordination across departments, and connecting to your ERP system.
Solving the ERP vs EAM challenge isn’t either-or, but yes-and. ERP systems are best-of-breed for doing what they do—finance, accounting, HR, procurement. Transit-focused EAM systems are best-of-breed for doing what they do—managing the complex array of vehicles, facilities, and equipment that comprise a transit agency’s asset footprint. An EAM system tailor-made for transit can handle all the assets within an agency, but still allow for the flexibility needed for rail, bus, and facilities maintenance.
With a single EAM system managing all your agency’s assets, you can create a single connection to ERP to support automatic synchronization of your vendors, employees, parts, and requisition/PO transactions. When you only have to connect only two major systems together (ERP + EAM) via a single data exchange, IT’s job is exponentially easier. One EAM system with consistent data structures is much easier to manage than two or three separate ones with different data models.
A single ERP + EAM interface means reports can be generated faster, more consistently, and more holistically across the agency. Your data is vetted, complete, and accurate knowing it’s handled the same way across the entire system. Each system becomes the “best of breed” single source of truth for your agency. You get the most out of both systems when you let them each focus on what they do best.
Trapeze EAM was tailor made for the unique needs of public transit. From the outset, Trapeze EAM was created to go beyond better data and support better workflows and tools as well. Teams struggling with ERP asset and work order screens that that are cumbersome to use, that get in the way of getting the work done, results in poor quality data. Without screens purpose-built for transit maintenance roles, maintenance staff will inevitably fall back to old, paper-based, work-around solutions.
Trapeze EAM lets everyone from the shop floor to the field, parts room to management get what they need to get done, and quickly. Whether it’s a mobile app to record fixed and linear assets in the field or a technician’s portal that makes ordering parts a one-click task, people use Trapeze EAM. The system’s asset insights help people do their job, so they can get work done quickly while continually improving the safety and reliability of your vehicles and equipment.
Learn more about Trapeze EAM and get a demo to see how EAM plus ERP is the “yes and…” your agency needs today.
Trapeze EAM’s solution introduce MobileFocus function, where the data is both cached locally in the device as well as automatically synchronised with the main EAM system.