By Paul Lachance
From the August 2023 Issue
If you recall how difficult it was to get in touch with people in the days before cell phones, you’ll experience similar frustrations without a mobile device in maintenance operations. For those who do not use their mobile device as an extension of their Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) and still rely on paper printed from their desktop computer, they enter an information void as soon as they leave their office and walk into the plant, grounds, or facilities. Of course, as maintenance professionals, we always get our jobs done, but sometimes we lack crucial information while in the plant that cannot be retrieved without backtracking, making a call, or taking our best guess.
What Is Mobile CMMS?
The long history of CMMS has largely been relegated to desktop-based computers—either in your work office, home, or a shared computer on your plant floor. CMMS is known for its core features including asset information, work orders, preventive maintenance, spare parts and other management capabilities. Mobile CMMS is exactly the same thing, just in the palm of your hand. Mobile CMMS has been around for over twenty years, dating back to early generation “PDAs” (Personal Digital Assistants–the precursor to today’s mobile devices). Products such as Tandy Z-PDA, Apple Newton, Handspring, Palm Pilot, BlackBerry and others all came before the iPhone (2007) and Android (2008) phones. Each of these earlier mobile devices tried to capture mobile operations but had limited staying power. Apple and Google Android changed that, and we have not looked back.
Maintenance operations was slow to adopt a mobile CMMS, but better-quality internet access combined with cloud-based CMMS, faster devices, and apps that keep our phones in our palms have changed that. Today, mobile CMMS is mandatory from any CMMS vendor and is often the first choice over desktop for shop-floor or facilities-based teams.
Common Uses Of Mobile CMMS
In the past, mobile CMMS might have been limited to a few features, but today you can do nearly everything operationally through mobile. A few examples include:
- As a maintenance tech, you can walk up to an asset, scan a barcode and quickly pull up a multitude of features, including open or historical work orders, asset information, inspections, step-by-step operational instructions, and safety and compliance-related information.
- As a manager, you can easily reassign a work order or automatically process a maintenance request.
- As a tech or manager, you can access basic dashboard information such as the number of open work orders, late work orders, and operational metrics.
In general, the same workflow, notification, and escalation you would see on your desktop CMMS seamlessly occur in the mobile version.
What Features Do Mobile Devices Offer Operations?
Today’s mobile devices are full of amazing technology that is incredibly helpful to maintenance operations professionals. A few examples include:
- QR/Barcoding: You can quickly scan a barcode with your device’s camera to automatically pull up that part, asset, or work order.
- Camera: Recording pictures and videos, as well as annotating, can be extremely helpful. If you see a problem in a facility, Mobile CMMS makes it easy to make a request, snap a picture, add notes and move on, knowing that the CMMS workflow will automatically work towards a solution.
- Offline Capabilities: A good CMMS will still allow you to access and manage information while in a “dead zone,” syncing when back in range.
- Mapping/GIS: You can easily create a geo-tagged work order with accurate locations for those who prefer a visual representation.
- Mobile Data Entry: Adding new assets on-the-fly while you are standing by them is a fast and easy way to build your asset repository, parts, and more.
- Talk-to-Text and Device Features: It has become extremely easy to add notes with new features like talk-to-text.
How Does Mobile CMMS Benefit An Organization?
Efficiency is at the top of this list. Just think of the time you would save by avoiding walking back to your desk for additional information, or to the spare parts room only to find that a part is out of stock. Imagine getting immediately notified of an emergency work order on your device with a notification chime as compared to seeing a physical note on your desk hours later.
Mobile CMMS improves communication between maintenance staff, management and the general population. Essentially, all the same efficiencies we experience while using mobile devices in our day-to-day personal lives can directly translate to efficiencies in our work operations:
Mobile CMMS saves us money by reducing labor costs and creating longer lasting assets and facilities.
- Streamlined and efficient teams allow you to “do more with less,” saving you over-time, allocating that time for preventive maintenance and other more productive projects, and more.
- Quick access to CMMS helps our operations run smoother, reducing downtime, decreasing waste, and promoting better quality work.
In the end, mobile CMMS saves us money by reducing labor costs and creating longer lasting assets and facilities.
The Future Of Mobile CMMS
Today, we use our mobile devices for just about everything, but in the future, they’ll become even more powerful. Embracing mobile CMMS today will help usher in exciting, future capabilities like the following:
The role of a well-planned, multi-pronged maintenance strategy is to minimize the likelihood of unexpected failures and the consequent operational disruptions. Read more…
- “Hands-free” mobile using the concepts of augmented reality is a future but exciting development, where you’ll be able to see content “floating” next to your assets, equipment and facilities.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming more prevalent and will allow for smarter diagnostics of issues utilizing historical data. AI will naturally extend to our mobile CMMS.
- Future mobile devices will have additional sensors, thermal cameras, and other abilities natively to help with asset issue diagnostics. They’ll also be able to connect with existing sensors on the assets and use predictive analytics to help streamline maintenance.
If you’ve ever forgotten or lost your cell phone, you know that sinking feeling. And while there are times to put the phone away, day-to-day operations in our organizations is not one of them. Mobile CMMS allows us to keep in touch with our teams and general staff while freeing up more time to do better and more productive work.
Lachance has spent his entire career devoted to optimizing maintenance teams by enabling data-driven decisions and actionable insights. A regular speaker at national trade shows, he’s been featured at IMTS, Fabtech and SMRP as well as several industry magazines. He is a manufacturing technology consultant on behalf of Brightly Software.
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