Sometimes it just amazes me that despite the fact that almost every business professional has some type of cell or Smartphone so many still do not understand the value of maintenance mobility in the workplace operations. This article is intended to help senior management understand the high price of keeping maintenance staff disconnected.

For the purposes of this discussion, a day in the life of asset and maintenance staff is examined hopefully demonstrating that mobility in the workplace should never be limited to sales and CRM solutions because the reality is mobility in the workplace has to include operations if an organization is to meet competitive opportunities.

The first part covers the opportunity for improvement within an organization and the second part reveals the hidden benefits as well as how to counter the well documented, industry wide issue of how to address the skilled maintenance professional shortage that is plaguing every industry.

The Portable Maintenance Office

Let us say a maintenance professional has been assigned several tasks for the day by the management using the organization’s CMMS system. The tasks include; performing inspections which leads to completing a work request (with documentation) and completing a work order.

The skilled maintenance professional can either perform these tasks using a paper-based system or they can make use of a rugged mobile device. Although a laptop and/or cell with a scanner attached may be used it is not practical (see next sentence) and is limited in functionality and scaleability.

A rugged mobile device in this case is an industrial use mobile device capable of operating in harsh environments and has a variety on ingress ratings (IP) for dust, water and shock (being dropped, smashed etc.). They are very different than cell phones because of their durability, stability of operating systems and a much lower mobile total cost of ownership.

Maintenance At-A-Glance

The difference between a mobile and non-mobile maintenance crew can be seen below.

TaskPaper Based Maintenance SystemRugged Mobile Device Based Maintenance System
Performing InspectionsMost time, transposition errors, time in officeFastest, no keying errors, accountability
Filling out a Work RequestManual paper trail, time in officeComplete on Rugged mobile device
Completing a Work OrderRetrieve from office, manual complete, return to officeRetrieve, complete, turn in from Mobile device
Asset ManagementManual, labor intensive, spreadsheet/ paper, no bar code scanning,
high error rates
Scan asset with handheld, no transposition errors on input
Document Retrieval & AttachmentsLocate, retrieve, copy, labor intensive, lost documentsScan and attach to work, no lost documents

Good senior managers run the business by the numbers. It does not take a genius to figure out which side of the table above that you need your organization to be on.

The Hidden Benefits of Increased Mobility for Maintenance Management

Saving labor dollars by being more efficient and effective is not the only benefit of increasing mobility. The use of mobile devices also helps management assign accountability to the work being done. For example, used in conjunction with a CMMS, asset and maintenance managers can require proof of presence.

Proof of presence verifies that the assigned person was where they are supposed to be and ensures that critical assets have been worked upon as requested to have been inspected.

Another very important benefit is how increased mobility positively impacts the organization and staff image. With the average age of the skilled maintenance professional well into their 50’s, all industries are going to need to recruit new staff. Unfortunately, the pipeline for new maintenance staff is very weak and organizations must add new weapons to their recruitment arsenal.

Having a mobile connected workforce will provide the new weapons for recruitment because it:

  • Changes the image of maintenance from clipboards to modern technology increasing the level of perceived professionalism and respect.
  • Helps lower turnover by making the organization a desired place to work for.
  • Staff inherently wants to do a good job. Connecting them through mobility gives them the tools to accomplish more and make a greater impact.
  • Integrates well with newer technologies for predictive maintenance such as infrared thermography or ultrasound analysis.

The final benefit of going mobile for your operations team is that increased mobility allows superior internal customer service. With paper flow greatly reduced, maintenance staff can react to problems much faster.

For example, the Plant or Hotel Manager calls in an HVAC problem to maintenance management. Maintenance management can then complete a work request and work order and send it to the mobile device of an engineer who is already in the field. The engineer can go directly to the problem area without returning to the office. Results are reported back immediately and the BOSS is happy that the problem was resolved so quickly.

Knowing that increased mobility is cost effective, lowers turnover, increase recruitment of critical engineers and make the organization happier doesn’t it make sense to stop the staff disconnect today?