Shared from the Mon 16 Apr, 2018 - Financial Review Digital Edition

Data to help companies predict the future

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Big data is allowing modern companies to predict what’s going to happen in the future, rather than just react to it.

Loc8, a leading global asset management and maintenance software developer, is at the forefront of a new data revolution.

The company, which operates in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the US, provides a cloudbased software platform for asset maintenance and job management for 500,000 sites and 10 million assets.

Loc8’s clients range from governments, notfor-profits, education providers and property owners to service providers in sectors such as fire, security and social housing, to contractors, including smaller single trade operations.

Assets that are managed and maintained by the group include everything from buildings, to railway rolling stock and even things like birth certificates.

Loc8 founder and managing director David Hodges sees a clear division between those few organisations that use data to solve problems and the rest that merely store it.

‘‘Typically, software platforms provide reports and information, but there’s a demand to go beyond that now,’’ he says.

‘‘The amount of data out there and the tools that are available to analyse and interrogate that data – the machine learning and analytics platforms that are available now – are really able to look at trends in data that we have never seen before.

‘‘So, it’s really becoming important to collect accurate data at the most practically granular level in a very accurate way.’’

Loc8 provides a state-of-the-art framework to replace spreadsheets and ageing software and interact with business processes.

The software is easy to use so that people at the operational level can maintain, procure and dispose of assets.

But outside the immediate or emergency functions, organisations can now use data to enhance asset performance or extract more value from assets.

Loc8’s Service Supply Chain, which gives its clients the ability to open the system to their contractors, dramatically improves data collection capability, accuracy and efficiency.

Clients can give their contractors jobs to be executed within defined frameworks, with realtime data pushed back to the organisation.

‘‘So, for example, when a field tech goes to perform an inspection of a damaged hot water system, rather than booking a return visit if he doesn’t have the parts, the skills or the authorisation, he is able to take a photo that can go all the way back to the customer’s organisation in real-time and someone can make a decision about what to do on the spot,’’ Hodges explains.

The system reduces the need for revisits and also cuts the time taken to finish jobs, which ultimately drives better customer service.

Another example of how data can be used to solve problems is Loc8’s forecasting and scenario maintenance modelling tool. The technology uses data about timing, asset risk, condition and cost to generate a forward plan for future maintenance jobs and their estimated cost. Critical assets can then be prioritised and Loc8’s clients can model and cost different scenarios to decide the most beneficial budget, the results of which are then monitored in real time. Even in the tender process, most of today’s tenderers want to know more information than just the service or product and a price – they require data as well, says Hodges. ‘‘Companies are no longer trying to white-label software saying, ‘we can do everything’, but instead, they are saying ‘we’ve got a partner who’s an expert in asset management and is able to collect all of this data,’’ he says. ‘‘And then (they’re) saying to their customers, ‘we will give you access to that data, we will provide you with visibility of what we’re doing and how we’re performing and provide you with insights into the status and performance of your assets’. It’s a big change for service organisations.’’

New technology is allowing asset managers to move from traditional time-based maintenance programs to predictive programs.

This predictive potential of data is transforming how companies operate.

Software platforms have traditionally provided reports and information based on past technology, but these days, mobile and web platforms have the capability to track and collect data from many different sources at the same time.

‘‘Going back and looking at data from 18 months ago and two years ago is providing new understanding of information and trends that were not visible back then,’’ Hodges says.

‘‘We’re seeing large organisations that are doing so and looking at past data with new trending tools and machine learning modelling, which is giving whole new insights into the way they work and do things.’’

The competitive advantage for organisations using data in this way, rather than merely storing information, is clear; ‘‘There are some companies who are well advanced in that space,’’ Hodges says.

‘‘But we still see a lot of organisations, even very large ones in the $400-500 million revenue space, who don’t have data warehouses, who are not collecting data, and aggregating, and centralising and normalising data.

‘‘So, there has to be a shift from those organisations who basically won’t be able to compete in the coming years.’’

It’s really becoming important to collect accurate data at the most practically granular level.

David Hodges, Loc8 founder

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