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4 Ways Mobile Improves Maintenance Management

Workers are on the move today. Literally.

Entrepreneur magazine reported on an updated forecast from International Data Corporation that “the global mobile workforce grew from one billion in 2010 to an estimated 1.3 billion in 2015.” Technology has played a role in that mobility, and continues to transform the way people work with availability across a wide range of devices.

The maintenance sector has been affected in particular. What once required paper logs or terminal access can now be managed on the shop floor, on the road, at an offsite location – or while on vacation. Today’s modern mobile CMMS is helping pave the way for maintenance professionals to operate even more efficiently and more effectively.

“Technology…continues to transform the way people work.”

Four of the most important ways mobile CMMS can improve maintenance management include:

  1. So Long, Paper

    You may be well aware of colleagues with large stacks of paper work orders (or you may have such a stack of your own!), despite the time-consuming and laborious effort associated with maintaining these documents. Mobile CMMS access can enable you to reduce or altogether remove your reliance on printing and filing paperwork, thereby eliminating the operational barriers it creates.

  2. MRO Inventory On-the-Go

    Check in/out your spare parts easily through bar code technology. Physical count quantities may be updated using your smartphone or tablet, as well as the addition of new parts or tracking availability on the fly. This data can then be used for CMMS parts inventory reports on usage, costs, valuation, and more.

  3. Asset Management Mobility

    As you’re well aware, being a stickler for asset and equipment updates as conditions change is imperative for well-organized maintenance operations. Whether you need to update locations, a criticality status or another field, getting the right data into your system at the right time is critical. With a smartphone or tablet,  you can get directly to the asset detail page and make the updates quickly when you’re nearby or when it’s simply top of mind. Scan your tagged machines, view related maintenance requests or open work orders, or even the asset’s entire work order history. Perhaps the job requires more labor or extra parts to complete – with mobile, you can append the work order to add these items and more at any point.

  4. Maintenance Requests When You Need Them

    The need for maintenance activity can strike at any moment. Now you don’t need to go back to a desk, terminal, or even call personnel to report a broken machine or leaky pipe. Make a request for maintenance activity whenever – and wherever – you are through the convenience of your mobile device. Any requestor user can log his/her request, attach an image or associated file, and follow up on the status of their request at any given time. This means less time fielding requests and more time spent working on maintenance priorities.

While these four points highlight the top benefits users can see with mobile maintenance, how else has your operations been impacted through the use of modern, mobile CMMS?

It Takes a Plan to Change a Habit

If your maintenance department has fallen into the habit of chasing down repairs and fighting fires, it’s unlikely that implementing even the most feature-rich CMMS will change the culture.  In a reactive environment, the team member who gets saddled with the implementation will be sweating bullets as he slogs through asset data entry, while repairs pile up and work gets put on hold.

shocked worker

Without taking the time upfront to look at the “big picture,” understand maintenance workflows and come up with goals and objectives for the CMMS, the maintenance team will end up with an abandoned system that no one uses and a gradual return to paper binders and Excel® spreadsheets.

Hope Isn’t a Strategy

One way to ensure that CMMS delivers a decent return on investment in terms of time, money and a thriving team that can catch its collective breath is to utilize implementation consulting services to bring your team together to lay out a solid CMMS implementation plan and follow it through.

CMMS strategy and planning, configuring and set up, follow up and training are capabilities that maintenance directors should expect from their implementation consultants. An effective consultant should ask pertinent questions as planning gets underway.  For example:

  • How do technicians handle their workload today in terms of repairs and maintenance tasks? What steps are involved in that process?
  • Is there a champion to move the implementation along and gather knowledge that he’ll share with the team?
  • Ideally, what are the measures of success for improving processes and making maintenance more efficient?
  • How do you want to use the CMMS?  Will it be used to schedule preventive maintenance (PMs)? Track inventory? Manage work orders?  What about PMs for non-assets like safety tasks, training re-certification, fleet registration renewals, etc.?
  • Can the CMMS data be integrated into the budget process to help with decisions about replacing equipment when it starts to wear out?
  • Which reports will the CMMS need to generate for audits and regulatory inspections?

Matching the CMMS to Your Work Flows

For a successful set-up, managers need to configure the CMMS to match the work flows of their facilities and add unique information for the facility’s assets as necessary. And they ought to be able to eliminate redundancies. For instance, it shouldn’t require entering 20 separate PMs for 20 air conditioning units in different locations.

JumpstartConsulting

Smartware Group’s Jumpstart Consulting typically follows a sequence of eight steps, including four meetings, to assist clients in the setup, configuration, and implementation of its Bigfoot CMMS solution.

Once the team agrees on objectives and understands the benefits, and the CMMS is implemented, a competent consultant should structure the testing and follow-up phase to measure the success or failure of the implementation and make the proper adjustments by configuring the features that best match the needs of the individual facility or groups of facilities.

The consultant’s job is to also encourage team members to participate in training webinars and videos to learn about the CMMS early on in the implementation process.  Doing so can reduce the process down to a few weeks, if not days.

Championing the User

cmms_userFor technicians who lack computer skills, there’s an easy fix. First, it’s important that a solution is selected based on its simplicity of design, preferably with the maintenance user in mind. Second, technicians do not need to interact with the system at the same level as the administrator.

 

Initially, they only need to learn the basics: how to access work order (WO) assignments and what to do to complete them. As the CMMS becomes integrated into the maintenance functions of a facility, technicians can learn to use other features of the system when the need arises. Recap sessions to review CMMS procedures can also help build confidence and competency among staff members who do the hands-on work of equipment repair.

Once implementation is underway and the team is cranking out PMs and work orders, a CMMS consultant can move onto more advanced features, like generating reports that show which machinery is breaking down frequently, and which can be used to bolster requests for new purchases. He or she can show the team how to call up an archive of work orders and repairs in the CMMS and create an audit trail to make it far easier to comply with government or other third-party reporting requirements. In short, when all of the advantages of a CMMS become apparent to maintenance professionals, it tends to be a driver for follow-through to make the system more efficient and effective.

Maintenance Resolutions for the New Year

As 2015 quickly approaches, you may have to peddle faster to squeeze out your maintenance goals in time for the new year. Perhaps 2015 is the year you finally change the perception that maintenance does more than change a light bulb – that maintenance keeps up production and cuts down costs.

2014direction

Use your remaining time wisely to take stock. Make 2015 the year you widen back and look at the big picture. Do you oversee a maintenance culture that thrives? Are your employees well trained and happily on track with PMs and repairs? Does upper management know that your department helps keep capital costs under control?

If you hesitated on the answers, it may be time to review your plan, fine-tune your maintenance team, and exploit the powers of your CMMS. Start the new year with a consultant to help you fulfill your maintenance dreams and configure your CMMS to support them.

Plans already in place? Get outside help to identify and implement critical 2015 tasks:

  • Prioritize assets by risk associated with production and revenue loss
  • Lower asset maintenance costs — add up maintenance expenditures for each asset in 2014, i.e., frequency of repairs, labor costs, replacement parts costs, downtime, vendor maintenance costs; improve repair efficiencies
  • Increase conversion of asset maintenance tasks into PMs
  • Convert soft tasks into PMs, too: upload all machine schematics and procedures; lease payments, vendor contracts, vehicle drivers’ licenses and registration renewals, etc.
  • PM all safety compliance tasks
  • Cut spare parts inventory costs; use CMMS for inventory control; set up safe levels; reduce order overages

Or take the advice of your maintenance peers who weighed in on our LinkedIn discussion of 2015 goals:

We are taking a look at our 2014 performance and our ‘bad actors,’ making necessary corrections and prioritizing efforts. Our main goal is to lower costs and improve performance.

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The goal of maintenance should be reliable asset operation without downtime… which includes optimal spare parts inventory, optimal use of manpower to achieve maintenance safety targets and [here’s one you don’t hear every day, but not one to overlook either] ensure all employees enjoy their work life as well as their personal family life.

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Minimize equipment downtime, compared to last year…  Comply with all maintenance plans and schedules.

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2015 will be an easier year to resource work, having spent time fixing up maintenance plans and tasks lists to truly reflect the work. This will provide better budgeting and resource understanding going forward. It should also help to increase reliability of our plant due to carrying out the best possible maintenance outcomes. This is our ongoing improvement plan for the next few years.

But most of all, lead your team by example and “play in the mud;” encourage new ideas and have fun. If you hear rumblings of techs wanting to start up an employee baseball team, spring for the bats and mitts. Make 2015 the best year for your department yet!

Keeping the ‘Green’ in Greenhouse

Let’s face it. Changing a light bulb is not exactly a major technical challenge for maintenance professionals.

lightbulbBut what if your staff had to keep 20,000 light bulbs glowing every day of the week? And what if the success of your business depended on adjusting each of those 1,000-watt bulbs for maximum efficiency?

To deal with those questions, the maintenance team at a giant commercial greenhouse employs Bigfoot CMMS to manage grow lights and a host of other systems needed to run the climate-controlled facility. The greenhouse – which covers acreage larger than two dozen football fields – is used to grow produce year-round for major grocery chains and other markets.

To maintain proper growing conditions, literally thousands of components have to be kept in tip-top shape. Blowers, dampers, and sensors, as well as irrigation, heating and natural gas systems must all work together smoothly. In this indoor agricultural environment, if something as simple as an air vent fails to open or close properly, part of the crop could be ruined. And if the gears of an ordinary scissor lift get stuck, workers cannot reach the produce and harvest it for market. Staying ahead of breakdowns, then, is crucial; so the maintenance team depends on Bigfoot CMMS to schedule preventive maintenance items (PMs).

greenhouse_112013

A proper CMMS is necessary for facilities like greenhouses, in order to generate reports for government agencies like the EPA and the USDA, and to create maintenance records on PMs such as safety policy reviews, emergency action procedures, and spill control plans.

Then there is the issue of what to do with the waste produced by growing and harvesting plants. To address this problem, Bigfoot CMMS is monitoring CO2 emissions. Rather than dump leaves, branches, and other detritus into a landfill, the greenhouse managers decided to partner with another company to compost its waste. When that waste is blended into a slurry stream, it gives off methane gas that creates electricity. But methane also emits CO2. Instead of allowing that CO2 to escape into the atmosphere, the facility pumps it into the greenhouse where the plants absorb it and release oxygen.

And just because produce is grown indoors at the greenhouse, does not mean insects and other pests can’t get to it. Consequently, the maintenance team also has to keep careful records on pesticide use to comply with governmental regulations. Again, Bigfoot CMMS proves its worth on a regular basis through its ability to generate reports for government agencies like the EPA and the USDA, and to create maintenance records on PMs such as safety policy reviews, emergency action procedures, and spill control plans.

Given the complexity of the greenhouse operation, the maintenance team naturally fields complaints when things go wrong.  But since installing Bigfoot CMMS, the hundreds of daily phone calls from other departments have dwindled to a handful. Now, greenhouse employees can view updates on the status of repairs via Bigfoot, and unnecessary duplication of repair requests has been eliminated.

Read other success stories like this one at www.bigfootcmms.com.

Data Center Maintenance: Acing an Audit

When it comes to passing a government audit, three things matter most: documentation, documentation, documentation.

documentation_auditing

At data centers, maintenance professionals are not only tasked with keeping power sources and equipment running 100% of the time, they must also keep records of every interaction with the company’s information systems and networks. A CMMS, like Bigfoot, plays an essential role in meeting that challenge, because auditors today demand a detailed picture of everything an enterprise does to maintain data security.

Things weren’t always this way.

Back in the early days of computing, maintenance teams protected data by securing the physical plant, making sure gigantic mainframes stayed cool and unauthorized intruders stayed out – so a paper trail of their work was often sufficient. But now – between e-commerce on the Internet and data storage on clouds – securing data requires a symbiotic relationship between maintenance and the IT department. Computer technicians may build powerful networks to make life easier for consumers and erect firewalls to make it harder for hackers. But those techs need the maintenance team to keep the electricity on and fire systems in working order to prevent sensitive data center equipment from going up in smoke. And every time IT crosses paths with maintenance, it must be documented.

Compliance Challenges

To understand how preparing for audits has become a mandatory task for maintenance professionals at data centers, it is helpful to recognize how big an impact federal legislation has had on information technology. Perhaps the best example is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), legislation passed by Congress in 2002 in the wake of corporate scandals involving companies such as Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco.sarbanes-oxley

SOX requires all publicly-held companies to verify the effectiveness of their internal financial controls on a yearly basis, and to submit to an audit of those controls. On top of that, any changes to source data have to be documented, down to the day, time, and reason for the change plus information on who made any additions or deletions.

SOX rules to rein in Wall Street have trickled down to the maintenance team functions in a variety of ways. Documentation is required every time low-voltage maintenance professionals move, add, or change anything connected to a system or network that holds a company’s financial data. Facility managers must also adhere to SOX guidelines when engaged in bidding, contracting, and capital spending. And SOX auditors also ask maintenance teams to complete an extensive checklist of items affecting data center physical security.

Down to the Generators

For a large financial services company with data centers in two separate states, Bigfoot CMMS has made SOX compliance vastly simpler than when the maintenance team relied on spreadsheets.

A case in point: because data security must be maintained with an uninterrupted power supply (UPS), auditors wanted to know exactly what type of preventive maintenance (PMs) had been performed on the company’s power system in previous years and what was planned for the future. Using Bigfoot, the chief facilities engineer was able to call up quarterly reports showing all PMs performed during a certain time period as well as upcoming PMs on the horizon.

WeeklyPM-BigfootCMMSEnterprise

For auditing or general management purposes, PMs may be pulled up by year, quarter, month, day – or like this example, week – in a proper CMMS.

And those PMs could pinpoint work on specific equipment in specific buildings – an important capability because one SOX auditor drilled into the maintenance team’s data all the way down to the generators.

Sometimes, however, auditors may only require a snapshot of the maintenance team’s overall work. For instance, of 600 PM tasks, they may only want to see a sample of 20, or a checklist of PMs performed in a particular month.

Of course, the ability to use an ideal CMMS for tracking PMs and the maintenance history of enterprise assets helps maintenance teams to be more effective in their day-to-day work. And it also makes it easier for them to pass any audits with flying colors.