history of asset management Gene Wolf

Early Asset Managing

When I wrote the "Asset Management" supplement last year, I found that these super sophisticated systems had the beginnings as pages in the early electric companies’ ledgers – yep, simple paper records. Someone in these predecessors of today’s electric utility had to keep track of their equipment. To do that they entered all of the equipment (assets) into a ledger. The technology took a jump forward with the development of cardex files.

More than likely, the accountant asked an engineer or maintenance technician for help organizing the equipment ledger. They recognized the benefit of having a list of equipment for scheduling maintenance, but they didn’t want all of the information the accountant needed. It would be much easier to put specific information in a cardex file and the silo-record keeping system was born.

One of the utilities I worked for had a couple of cardex files in the engineering department listing data on equipment that was critical to each group. There were also several of these cardex files in various maintenance groups recording much the same information. Each of these systems required someone to keep it updated and no one shared their data with anyone else.

The next big improvement came with the introduction of the personal computer (PC). The PC introduced a host of new software such as data base systems and spreadsheet applications. Soon a lot of cardex files were transcribed, which allowed people to quickly search through a lot of data. Over the years more functionality has been added to these simple systems. Today’s asset management systems offer a great deal of abilities, capabilities, and competences but amazingly, many groups in our industry have not kept up with the technology. They are taking a wait and see approach and still using spreadsheets, cardex files, and paper records. It reminds me of the old adage that there are three kinds of people in the world: people who make it happen, people who watch it happen, and people who wonder what happened.

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