When Bad Data Happens to Good Companies

by | Mar 15, 2011

Indeed sustainability is a strikingly simple idea. Yet the concept of reducing environmental liability in business is too often viewed as a stand-alone discipline – resulting in missed opportunities to maximize the full potential of initiatives. I believe companies that have successfully, and measurably, embraced risk mitigation have come to value the intelligence that lies within the atomic nucleus of everyday operations:  data.

For sure, a majority of firms still struggle to understand how to leverage data as a strategic asset in sustainability efforts. It’s a reality that has spawned whole new classes of software designed to tackle aspects of monitoring and reporting, including comprehensive platforms for building maintenance, fleet optimization and energy management to name just a few. Frequently absent from this list of asset management solutions, however, is product lifecycle management.

From the perspective of eliminating financial and environmental risk, Lifecycle Management (LCM) tools are critical to aggregating the depth of knowledge required to maximize the value of infrastructure assets from acquisition through disposal. More than just monitoring age, status or location of assets, LCM practices must join financial, legal, regulatory and basic product data to optimize their utilization.

Critical to this is the recognition that as assets age, so too does the associated data. Effectively extending the lifecycle of depreciating assets requires the ongoing management of dozens of significant product attributes and commercial relationships that can affect the servicing, sale, transportation or disposal of each asset. Without spiraling into analysis-paralysis, quite simply the better and more accessible the data is, the better the decisions you will make.

In an industry such as telecommunications, for example, which is governed by the constant turnover of millions of unique and inter-related elements, managing network asset data at this level is a complex task. I highlight this industry not only because it is the one that my company serves, but also because today it contributes nearly two percent of all carbon emissions globally, a number expected to double by the end of the decade.

With the proliferation – and rapid obsolescence – of technology in telecommunications and other industries, global e-waste volumes are growing at an annual rate of 40 million tons, making the management of product lifecycle data a particularly compelling and timely idea.

In most organizations, much of the data needed to make informed lifecycle decisions is locked away in the knowledge bases of subject matter experts, field service representatives and legal staff struggling to keep up with new product introductions and end-of-life announcements. This dependency creates a point of vulnerability that most organizations would prefer to mitigate.

From a telecom carrier perspective, the benefits of managing lifecycle data can be far-reaching. To illustrate the point, look no further than the thousands of regulations that impact their daily operations – a liability compounded by the introduction of services into diverse geographic markets. Compliance can be daunting, right down to capturing the ECCN codes that govern the export of any given asset from one service location to the next, or the identification of hazardous material components that impact handling and disposal. Failure to meet contractual obligations or regulatory requirements can result in costly fines and other risks.

Ensuring the accuracy of lifecycle data is a continuous, collaborative process that must be supported by streamlined procedures for data integration, validation and user access. One approach would relinquish the burden of data management to the manufacturers and vendors who sell to your organization. With investments in their products or services, you likely have leverage to require vendors to provide the level of product data needed to manage a concerted product lifecycle strategy.

Finally, making every stage of an asset’s lifecycle as environmentally friendly and profitable should embrace straightforward approaches to procurement and supply chain management that incent  your organization financially to reuse new or used components, resell obsolete assets and recycle materials responsibly.

Having designed lifecycle strategies that impact sustainability for some of the world’s largest organizations, I can attest to fewer equivalent opportunities to mitigate risk. The ability to capitalize on product data can positively impact every aspect of your operation, from planning and sourcing to resale opportunities for infrastructure elements not yet at the end of their useful lives or revenue potential.

Trade Wings’ Chief Executive Officer and Founder Todd Adelman is passionate about driving business model innovation within the Telecom industry. With more than 20 years of supply chain and asset management experience, Todd leads a number of strategic initiatives designed to establish Trade Wings as a trusted authority on the development and implementation of reuse optimization strategies for network assets.







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