What is an Equipment Management System and Why Should You Care?

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

Take a look around. Besides the computer, phone, or tablet you’re using, what kind of other physical tech keeps your financial institution running? If you’re working from home, it’s probably all somewhere else. And spread far and wide, right?

The first impression is that you have lots of office equipment, branch gadgetry, and ATM/ITMs. You’d be correct. And there is far more. Your institution depends on a wide range of hardware, strewn all over the place, just to perform your day-to-day service.

Yet it isn’t just the hardware itself. You need to ensure that they stay maintained, whether that’s literally oiling them up or performing security updates to their operating systems. That means contracts with companies of all kinds, each handled separately.

And you haven’t considered what happens if one of these essential systems breaks!

You May Need an Equipment Management System

This article discusses Equipment Management Systems and how they can:

  • Save your team time and energy
  • Save your institution money
  • Provide better service to your account holders

Below, we’ll help you understand the wide range of equipment in use as well as the challenges institutions have in keeping track of it all. Then, we will explain what an Equipment Management System is, how it works, and what benefits it can provide for your institution.

At the end, you’ll be able to decide if learning more about such a platform makes sense for your situation. Most likely, it will, and in later articles, we’ll share the best providers for Equipment Management Systems in our industry.

For now, let’s establish the need.

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What Equipment Do You Have To Manage Now?

Here’s a basic sample of equipment and associated agreements you may have across your headquarters, operations, call centers, branches, and stand-alone units:

ATMs

ATM Console
  • First Line Maintenance
  • Second Line Maintenance
  • Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs)
  • ATM Managed Services

Cash Dispensing Equipment

  • Teller Cash Dispenser (TCD)
  • Teller Cash Recycler (TCR)

Security Equipment

  • Alarm Systems
  • Card Readers/Access
  • Embossers/Endorsers
  • Vault/Safes
  • DVR (Cameras as well as the storage system and wiring)

Drive-Through & Drive-Up Equipment

  • Drive-Up Lanes
  • Drive-Up Windows
  • Remote Teller Systems
  • Point-to-Point (Wireless communication systems)

Money Management

  • Check Scanners
  • Currency Counter
  • Coin Wrappers
  • Self-Service Coin Sorters

Office Equipment

Row of Workstations
  • Multifunction copiers, scanners, printers, and collating system (ie. your giant Lexmark or Xerox machine)
  • Mailing Equipment
  • Standalone Desk Printers
  • Shredders
  • Telephone Systems (Both the hardware and the platform which keeps it all running)

How many of each do you have across your institution? Would this be a difficult question to get exact answers for each product/system? If so, you’ve already demonstrated a need for an equipment management system.

Depending on the size of your institution and number of branches, there could be hundreds of these devices spread throughout. That’s a lot of hardware to manage, if anyone has even tried.

And yes, an Equipment Management System can simplify remote work setups as well. Who says an employee home couldn’t just be considered another location in the database?

What Happens if Something Goes Wrong?

Copier Machine Open
Anyone know how to resolve Error Code 98b?

Whether you have a process or address issues as they arise, it’s staff time and resources getting spent each time. Is that the best use of their expertise? Plus, when the tech does have a problem, you want to ensure it gets fixed and back up to full service as soon as possible.

Downtime can impact your account holder experience as well as staff productivity.

Of course, seamless tracking, rapid service/maintenance response, and reduced costs (in terms of money, effort, and time) are a noble goal. But are they possible? Turns out, yes.

Sidenote: Ironically, this is really just a story about managing your data. It just so happens this data is made of physical devices. Whether spreadsheets or ATMs, good data management practices can change your entire institution.

Will an Equipment Management System Help Your Financial Institution?

For most institutions, like your digital information, this kind of real-world data management is best handled with assistance from an expert partner. In this case, that’s an Equipment Management System.

Does this make sense for your financial institution? Let’s discover how many of the limiting factors you currently experience.

Existing Silos

Yes, you have them. One typical example is that a class of hardware is the responsibility of a specific department. If it can break, it needs to be centrally-managed. Otherise, you risk confusion among staff as to who gets issue reports, and slow down repairs.

Plus, it just takes longer, and no one wants to see that paper jam for any longer than necessary.

Repair History

Pile of Printers
Stop fixing. Recycle, replace, and reap the benefits.

Speaking of paper jams, have you ever encountered that one device which always seems to break? Imagine if you had repair and reliability data on every piece of equipment. You could make the case that a replacement is a smarter financial decision.

Or, you could bring this documentation to a vendor and inquire as to why they keep “fixing” what amounts to a lemon. Plus, you can check how quickly your service calls get addressed. Are they meeting their contractual obligations? Could another provider do better?

Finally, you can tabulate the total cost of repairs, not necessarily in money (if they’re under a service contract) but in lost time to staff and account holders.

Your hardware exists to make life easier, not waste it trying to get them fixed. Get the data. Make better decisions.

Myriad of Service Contracts

Papers and Magnifying Glass

Quick, give me a list of every piece of equipment at your institution. Is that a difficult request? With an Equipment Management System, it’s easy. Follow up, show me every service contract you have. Yep, that can be simple, too.

Most institutions have a large number of vendors providing contracted services for hardware as varied as drive-up units, ATM machines, cash counters, or copiers.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could consolidate those contracts while saving money? It’s like that triple-play package from the cable company, except, well, it’s truly a good deal. There are cost savings to be had. Sometimes substantial. We’ll get to that later.

For now, having your service contracts and device lists in one place saves time, energy, and money.

Expiration Dates Can Cost You

Beyond not easily referencing which company handles which machines, there’s also the issue of tracking service contract expiration dates. Why would this matter?

  • Ensure coverage is maintained
  • Perform annual due diligence, before the contract renews for another year (or two, or three!)

You’re an important customer. Leverage that buying power. Multiple service contracts across different companies, expiring at different times, costs more in every way. Unless you want to forego the opportunity for streamlining and savings.

Know About Your Evergreen Clauses

Since those contracts all expire at some point, they also all renew sometime. Most have evergreen clauses, meaning they automatically renew for a new term unless either party provides notice of termination.

Did you know these kind of contracts can have annual rate increases? Yes, you could be paying more every year without even realizing! That’s not good financial management.

Golden Handcuffs can be on your equipment, not just your employees.

How Inefficient Is Your Current Process?

Golden Arrow and Target
Are your processes right on target?

“Time is money.” Who wants to waste either? Every minute that passes without productive activity of some kind costs your institution in some way. So let’s make sure you are using it efficiently.

Part of that is having the right tools to maximize your time to money relationship. Here’s a realistic scenario of a critical piece of equipment going down. Can you find all the inefficiencies?

Equipment Failure Scenario (No Management System):

Error Message Contact Support
It may as well say, “wave goodbye to the next 2 hours.”

A piece of security equipment at a branch goes down. Unsure as to how to start the process or which service contract vendor to notify, one of the branch employees phones your Administrative office for guidance.

After a slight hold, the employee is advised that their department does not oversee contracts on security equipment and is advised to contact a specific person at another facility. The employee makes the suggested call. Unfortunately, that person is in a meeting.

The voicemail recording suggests all emergencies go to another staff member.

This employee now needs to decide if this failure qualifies as an emergency. If not, more time will pass with no action taken towards a resolution. However, if she considers it an emergency but the recipient does not, it could reflect poorly on her. Decisions!

Our dedicated employee decides it is an emergency to get that equipment failure reported.

She calls the back-up staff and shares all details on the machine. This includes its location, make, model, serial number along with what seems to be happening with it (won’t power on, error message, etc.).

The staff member takes down all that information and places a call to the service contract provider. He shares the issue details and receives a claim number along with a technician ETA.

Finally, he calls back the original employee with claim details so she can share with her department and manager.

Scenario Review

Finger Touching One Star Review
Wasted my day. Would not address again.

Not. Very. Efficient. In other words, the time to money equation looks pretty poor.

While this is a common scenario, it isn’t necessary. Like your other improved processes, you can do better. We touched on a range of problem areas, including:

  • Information Silos
  • Different service companies
  • Unknown repair history
  • Multiple people involved

With all that effort, your original reporting employee deserves overtime pay! Lots of money and time wasted, while they were unable to serve your account holders.

Plus, no one knows (besides maybe the service company) if that failed device has had a history of failure. Maybe it’s time to replace rather than repair.

That’s how a typical failure situation looks without a system. After you learn what’s involved in an Equipment Management System, we’ll repeat that scenario assuming the institution has one.

Benefits & Advantages of an Equipment Management System

Get A “Holistic” View

Have you ever wanted to simply pull up a dashboard, and be able to view every piece of equipment, while also knowing its service history, purchase date, and any repairs made? Then, be able to request service with a click, or even reorder supplies for that model?

I’ll bet you an afternoon Venti half-caf, soy milk, two pump pumpkin latte that’s exactly what your operations manager would like to see. And your office staff. Plus, then you have time to plan out your most complicated coffee order.

Dashboards are the window into data management systems because they offer quick, easy-to-visualize system status in one place. It’s like your Amazon homepage featuring recent orders, up next episodes, and last viewed items. Data of you, for you.

This drives improved decisioning, efficiencies, and cost containment practices. But what do data management systems have to do with equipment management systems? In reality, they’re the same thing.

I’ll repeat that: Data management systems and equipment management systems are the same thing. One unifies digital information. The latter unifies physical and digital information.

Here’s just a taste of what you can gain with an Equipment Management System:

Cost Reductions

Calculator and Paper Budget
Go ahead. We’ll wait.

How much does your institution spend on service contracts? If you can’t answer that question in a few moments, without speaking to multiple people, there’s a benefit right in front of you.

Most likely, you spend “a lot”. Did you know some of them have annual increases built in with their auto-renewals?

An Equipment Management System can consolidate service contracts into a single master one. Besides eliminating unnecessary complexity, you can also see cost savings as high as 20%. Of course, this isn’t required, and your system can just better track existing contracts.

As time goes on, you can slowly transition out of those Evergreen contracts, avoiding the 2-4% annual increases. Imagine how many years that’s just been…happening. With the right system, it doesn’t have to continue. So you can better use funds for serving account holders.

Service Dispatch Efficiency

As we saw from the scenario above, the process for reporting an issue can be arduous and include far too many steps. With an Equipment Management System, in theory, any employee can report a claim and initiate a service request.

We say “in theory” because, while the system can do it, you may not want to give that access to every employee, but maybe only ensure local managers can start requests. Empowerment is important, but what matters is that your institution decides your process, not the servicer.

In the case of a failure or issue, the employee just signs into the system. There, they can find the device a number of ways:

  • Search by location and equipment name
  • Scroll through the entire equipment inventory
  • Enter a unique device identifier (like a serial number or internal code)

Then, it’s a matter of choosing a problem type (out of ink, jams, not powering on, error code, etc.) and submitting the report.

That creates a support ticket in the system which also notifies the service provider (or dispatch, if necessary). Any authorized user can view status updates in real-time, so everyone is on the same page.

Track New Equipment

Underwood Typewriter
Even “new to you” counts.

Your institution regularly invests in new equipment. Like a car, each of these purchases include a manufacturer or provider warranty. Of course, you may not buy everything at the same time. Avoid any confusion by registering them in your Equipment Management System:

  • Track multiple warranty start & end dates
  • Receive notifications before warranties expire
  • Eliminate out-of-pocket service costs incurred under warranty
  • Include service dispatch notes for your warranted items

Just as with a data management system, if you’re going to organize information, you have to do all of it for any of it to be useful. In the data realm, it’s called a “single source of truth”. By adding each new piece of equipment, you can keep this going in the physical world.

Vendor Choice

Your institution brings in technicians who specialize in the repair and maintenance of specific items. The multitude of service contracts allows this to happen. Consolidating in just organization strategy won’t change that at all. Consolidating contracts doesn’t, either.

Why would you want to have fewer service contracts active? If you can manage them all in a single system, what’s the downside?

We believe that once you’re able to see them all together, with their renewal policies, price increases, and terms, you will see the value of discussing a consolidation of service contracts.

Most Equipment Management Systems will offer your institution a choice of highly-rated servicing companies across the country to select from to service your institution. Some will even let you switch contracts and keep the servicers you already have!

Maintenance Data Insights

Road Sign Knowledge Data
It’s blatant. It’s also true.

Go open up a Slack or Teams chat with your accounting department. Ask them how they handle depreciating assets or budgeting for long-term improvements (like replacing carpeting or repaving a parking lot). They’ll love talking about it, and you’ll get helpful insights.

So why did you just have that conversation? Because what they do can be applied to your equipment as well. Some things have a fixed lifespan, while others can just be “lemons” and become an issue far too often.

Having accurate and accessible data on your experiences with every item provides a helpful guide to:

  • Avoiding downtime
    • If you see a device keeps breaking, the next service call might be for a replacement. Without good data, you’ll just keep wasting money and time fixing the bad unit.
    • Like your car, proactively maintaining hardware can help it last longer with fewer issues
  • Cost control by producing an accurate budget for equipment operations (with accounting for long-term and high-cost replacements)
  • Improve security by ensuring the digital and physical protection measures are fully active and up-to-date on all equipment

Consumables Restocking Efficiency

Ink Cartridges

How many times have you gone to change out the low ink in a printer, only to discover the one that’s out is the exact color you don’t have? Oh, just me? Ok, guess I’ll order more Cyan.

That process takes time and effort from your team which wasn’t necessary. Some equipment has consumable supplies like ink, paper, toner, thermal rolls, and more. So it can happen across a range of products.

Your institution may be able to save money by ordering these supplies directly through your Equipment Management System. In addition, some systems can track levels from your devices, proactively suggesting what’s needed or even automatically ordering it.

No more wasted trips to the supply closets. Even if your staff is working remotely.

Data Management For Your “Stuff”

An Equipment Management System can offer a wide range of benefits for your institution. This introduction only covers a sample of what they can do.

At its most basic, you’re empowering your entire team to have essential data on every piece of “stuff” at your institution. Then, by understanding current service contracts, there is opportunity to reduce costs and improve management.

What’s possible beyond this is really up to you. We’ve seen systems which can help you get faster servicer truck rolls, upgrade path notices, and much more.

Of course, not all Equipment Management Systems include all the features discussed. Some providers may even focus exclusively on certain classes of equipment. It’s our opinion that you embrace a platform which brings the most data under one “roof”.

Continue Improving Your Data

Efficiency can come from everywhere. This article focuses on your physical equipment in the built environments of the institution. Just as important is having reliable and accessible data on your data…yes, that was correct. What you don’t know is hurting the institution!

From choosing the best provider to why you may want to consider certain services, our Learning Library is here to share our best data with you. So you can make great decisions. Be sure to subscribe so you get the latest we have to share.

Joe Winn - CU Geek

Blogger. Speaker. Part-time Jedi.

Focused on helping your bank or credit union grow in the face of emerging challenges.