9 min read
Jan 26, 2021
Operations

Your Ultimate Guide for GIS Mapping for Asset Management

This guide helps you understand what is GIS technology, its application in asset management, and how you can implement it in your business.

H.S..
Harshit Srivastava Sr. Content Analyst

Asset management is not just about knowing where your assets are; it’s also about tracking their performance. But if your assets are spread over a large area, it can be expensive to employ enough staff to cover all the locations and assets. Moreover, organizing and arranging all the assets can be difficult if done using manual methods.

This is where the geographic information system (GIS) helps. The GIS technology provides you with information on the whereabouts of your assets and allows you to record other attributes such as air pressure and temperature. This gives you much better visibility into your assets, warehouses, and workshops.

In this guide, we’ll cover all the information you’ll need to kick start GIS mapping for managing assets. We’ll also help you select the right GIS tool for your business.

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What is GIS mapping?

GIS mapping is an approach that allows you to manipulate, visualize, capture, analyze, and store geographical data on a 2-dimensional map. It enables layering sets of geographical data points so you can view various combinations of data on a map and perform spatial analysis. 

Confusing, right? Let’s understand this with the help of a map:

Average annual temperature for US States

Average annual temperature for the U.S. states (Source)

This map provides a visual representation of the average temperature across different states in the US. Observe the color-coding: dark-blue represents the lowest temperature and red the highest. With just a glance, you could tell that the states in the north are cold while the ones in the south are relatively hotter. 

Now compare the visual representation with raw data that went into making this chart:

SN State Avg °F
1 Alaska 26.6
2 Montana 42.7
3 Michigan 44.4
4 Pennsylvania 48.8
5 Indiana 51.7
6 Maryland 54.2
7 Kentucky 55.6
8 Arizona 60.3
9 Georgia 63.5
10 Hawaii 70.0

See how much easier visual representations make analyzing and drawing inferences from raw data?

The weather map is an example of a GIS map that comprises two layers of GIS data: the first layer is the information about temperatures and the other layer is the information about the state boundaries.

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How GIS mapping helps asset managers

GIS mapping lets you track your assets visually, which makes managing them much easier. Let’s understand these benefits with the help of another example. 

Say Tom owns a water utility company that repairs underground pipes and drainage systems. He manages a crew of technicians, who travel to locations, do repair jobs, and report back to the office. 

Asset tracking with GIS can help Tom in the following three ways:

1.Track maintenance tasks: Tom’s business involves installing pipes and pumps on water and drainage supply lines. These assets are expensive and their operational conditions need constant monitoring so his company also installs sensors to check their pressures and temperatures. 

With the help of GIS maps, Tom will not only be able to track the real-time location of assets, but also identify the ones that need repairs. With the GIS data from the failed systems, he can also pinpoint the root cause of the issue.

2. Manage work orders: With a GIS system, Tom can track work order details, such as the route, stops made, and the time spent at each job location. With this, Tom will be able to visualize the performance of each technician and identify potential areas of improvement.

3. Organize warehouse or workshop space: Tom can use the knowledge of the whereabouts of assets to come up with ways to better organize the inventory. For example, if Tom sees some equipment scattered across the workshop, he can get his staff to organize them together. He could also find empty space to store items.

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Ways to implement GIS for asset management

There are three ways you can implement GIS technology for asset tracking:

1. Custom maps

One way to create GIS maps is to use a web mapping solution, such as Google Maps or Apple Maps. In this method, you’ll need to mark the location of assets and routes on a customizable map. The following video outlines the steps of doing this on Google Maps.

Custom maps have some asset tracking limitations. Firstly, these services support only geographical maps, and therefore, you won’t be able to model warehouses and buildings. Next, you’ll have to manually update the location each time an asset is moved, which makes the entire process tedious.

Ideal for

Field service, maintenance, and utility businesses that need to map client locations, assets, and equipment across multiple geographical locations

2. GIS solution

For this approach, you’ll need to invest in a GIS solution. The tool allows you to create GIS maps by recording spatial details such as the location of assets and routes. The tool makes it easier for businesses to track the exact location and movement of assets in the factory, warehouse infrastructure, and repair workshop.

GIS solutions that offer GPS tracking functionality enable you to track field technicians. These solutions can provide you with maps that indicate vehicle routes, stoppages, diversions, etc.

While GIS solutions let you model warehouses and multi-story buildings, you’ll still need to update asset location manually.

Ideal for

Utility and maintenance businesses that require better detailing of workshops and multi-story building facilities

3. GIS solution coupled with RFID and barcode tracking system

As the name suggests, this method has two requirements: firstly, you’ll have to implement an RFID or barcode system to track assets, and secondly, you’ll need to invest in a GIS solution that offers RFID/barcode integration. 

Once you install RFID tags on each inventory item and equipment, you’ll be able to track its real-time location. Since this information will also be relayed to the GIS solution via the integration, any location changes will automatically reflect on the GIS map, thus eliminating the need for logging location manually.

While using a GIS solution coupled with RFID and barcode tracking system is more effective than the other two approaches outlined above, it can be expensive if your business doesn’t already have these tracking systems in place.

Ideal for

Manufacturers and utility companies that need real-time tracking of their equipment, assets, and inventory

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Selecting the right GIS mapping solution for asset management

If you want to track assets with the help of a GIS solution, you should invest in a GIS mapping solution that offers the following features:

GPS tracking: Allows you to track the location of your technicians while they are on the job. With this, you’ll be able to monitor their real-time locations, routes, stoppages, and other details while they are on the job.

3-D visualization: Lets you create 3-dimensional models of your buildings and warehouses. With this functionality, you’ll be able to track the precise location of each asset in your building, including which floor it is on and where it is placed.

RFID or barcode support: Provides you with the real-time location of an item whenever it is moved from one location to another. This functionality comes in handy if you are currently using any of these systems to track your assets.

If you are looking to invest in a GIS solution for tracking assets, GetApp’s GIS software catalog is a good place to start. On this page, you’ll be able to filter solutions by business size, ratings, integrations, and features, thus arriving at a shortlist of products based on your requirements. You can also read user reviews from real businesses like yours and learn about the product’s pros and cons.

Note

The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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