The power of a mobile CMMS
Remember the days before mobile phones? Some of you might be too young! I sometimes recall “olden times” stories with my kids about the days before cell phones, where if you needed to connect with someone, you had to call your own home phone from another phone and press all the codes to hopefully listen to a voicemail on your answering machine from your friend. Communication was harder those days. My kids look at me like I was crazy.
Maintenance operations face similar challenges. For many who do not use their mobile device as an extension of their computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and rely on paper printed from their desktop computer, as soon as they leave their office and walk into the plant, grounds, facilities or wherever their maintenance takes them, they are now in an information void. Sure, as maintenance professionals we always get our jobs done, but sometimes we lack crucial information that cannot be retrieved without backtracking, making a call or just guessing. Like the old-time days connecting with friends pre-cellphone era.
What is a “mobile CMMS”?
The long history of CMMS has largely been relegated to desktop-based computers—either in your office, home or “kiosk” style, set in fixed locations around your operations for staff to take turns using. A CMMS has core features such as asset management, work order automation, preventive maintenance routines, spare parts management and more. A mobile CMMS is exactly the same thing, just in the palm of your hand. They have been around for more than 20 years, going back to early generation “PDAs” (personal digital assistants—the precursor to today’s mobile devices). Products such Tandy Z-PDA, Apple Newton, Handspring, Palm Pilot, BlackBerry and others (remember any of these?) all came before the iPhone (2007) and the Android (2008) phones. Each of these earlier mobile devices tried to capture mobile operations but had limited staying power. Apple and Google Android changed this, and we have not looked back.
Maintenance operations was slow to adopt a mobile CMMS. Better quality internet access, cloud-based software, faster devices, as well as tons of other apps that keep our phones in our palms changed that. Today, mobile capability is mandatory from any CMMS vendor—often being the first choice (over desktop). Having all your asset info, work orders, parts and other info—anywhere, anytime—is a game-changer.
What are common uses of a mobile CMMS?
In short, nearly everything operationally you can do on your desktop CMMS. In the old days, a mobile CMMS might have been limited to a few features, but today we can do nearly everything. Typical scenarios faced include:
- As a maintenance tech, being able to walk up to an asset, scan a barcode and quickly have access to a multitude of features. A few examples:
- Access current open or historical work orders (preventive, reactive, etc.)—this includes all history (notes, pictures, etc.)
- Reviewing any asset info (make, model, documentation, etc.)
- Having detailed access to any step-by-step procedures—in text, pictures or even video. This is very helpful especially given the mass-retirement of amazing maintenance operations veterans. You may not be able to stand next to one of these legends and watch them work, but you can do the next best thing—seeing a video
- Identify spare parts you might need including on-hand quantity availability, saving you from walking across your facility only to find you are out of a part
- Safety and compliance-related info
- As a manager, you can perform similar tasks to what you would do from your desktop—examples might include reassigning a work order or processing a maintenance request so it moves along toward a remedy.
- As a tech or manager, access basic dashboard information, such as the number of open work orders, late work orders, and operational metrics.
While a mobile CMMS may not have all the features of a desktop browser version—limited to the smaller screens—but the core capabilities you need while away from your desk are available and even preferred over the core browser/desktop version.
What advantages do mobile devices have to help with operations?
Today’s mobile devices are full of amazing technology that is super helpful to maintenance operations professionals.
- QR/barcoding: Quickly scan a barcode with your devices camera and it automatically pulls up that part, asset, work orders, etc. This creates super-fast searching and saves everyone time.
- Camera: Recording pictures and videos, including annotating, can be extremely helpful. You see a problem in a facility, it is super quick to make a request/submit a work order, snap a picture, add notes and move on. Normal CMMS workflow automatically kicks off, shortening a remedy.
- Offline capabilities: Even though internet speed and connectivity have made amazing progress, there are still “dead zones” where you cannot connect. This cannot stop you from using your mobile device. A good CMMS can still allow you to access/manage information, syncing when back in range.
- Mapping/GIS: Maps are standard on mobile devices these days; this directly translates to CMMS for those who are GIS/map focused. Easily create a geo-tagged work order with accurate location.
- 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.
- Talk-to-text and other device tech features: It has become easy to add notes with modern devices, including talk-to-text capabilities. “Fat-finger typing” is no longer a barrier.
- In the future, mobile devices will have additional capabilities, improving a mobile CMMS’s functionality.
Bring your own device?
There is often a debate among operations management whether to use company-issues devices or allow staff to use their own devices. Some factors:
- Some organizations have super strict security protocols that won’t allow for the use of personal devices, so that would be a requirement for them to provide a device. The same security precautions around users, rights/privileges and related on your desktop stand for the mobile versions, so even if you allow personal devices, it is secure.
- Android and Apple iOS are by far the two most common mobile operating systems on the market. You can’t use your hip-old-school flip phone with Asset Essentials mobile CMMS! (But you will still look cool using it in a coffeeshop). Downloading the app is as easy as any other app.
Personally, unless a super-security-sensitive operation, I advocate that personal devices be allowed; the benefits are significant.
What are the benefits of a mobile CMMS?
Efficiency is at the top of this list. Just think of the time you would save from walking back to your desk for some information, or to the spare parts room to find a part that is out of stock. Imagine if an emergency work order automatically shows up on your device with a notification chime versus seeing a note back at your desk. Quick access to work orders, including the ability to edit, manage and close them is a great timesaver. Improving communication between maintenance staff, management and the general population of staff submitting requests is amazing. The same efficiencies we see using mobile devices in our day-to-day personal lives can directly translate to efficiencies in our work operations.
These efficiencies have direct benefit to the organization:
- Streamlined and efficient teams allow you to “do more with less,” saving you overtime, freeing up time for productive projects (including more preventive maintenance) and other benefits.
- Quick access to a CMMS can help our operations run smoother: reduce downtime, better quality from our assets/facilities, less waste and other general CMMS benefits.
- In the end, a mobile CMMS saves us money: reduce labor costs, better running/longer lasting assets and facilities and more, all translating to better budget adherence and profitability.
Have you ever forgotten, lost or dropped your cell phone? That sinking feeling of being out of contact is palpable. I do feel that there are times to put away ALL forms of communication and media so we can “just be” (family-time for example), but day-to-day operations in our organizations is not one of those times. A mobile CMMS keeps us in touch with our teams and our general staff, as well as giving us more time to do better and more productive work.