Posted under Blog by Bob Stallard, Senior Consultant
Mobility has been a hotly discussed topic in almost every industry. While the impact of mobility varies greatly, a common theme lies in: mobility has changed expectations about what is possible from work. This theme is especially true for those in the maintenance industry. Problems that were previously considered a fact of life, are now issues easily corrected by utilizing the correct software or hardware.
Smartphones and tablets have been some of the most influential advents in the 21st century. Now, more than ever, maintenance industries are equipping their staff with mobility instruments in the hopes of bringing work up to today’s expectations and ultimately improving work performance. Important note: Poorly planned/scheduled work will not be improved by “Going Mobile”. Whether paper or digital, the work assigned must be carefully planned for the Mechanic or crew to have a high likelihood of successful work order completion.
Mobile supports the goal of constantly improving the quality of work. This means having all the required information including:
Not only is this a large amount of information to gather, organize, and distribute to the maintenance team, it is a lot of information to carry to a job site and attempt to view when space is at a premium. When you consider that a Tech/Mechanic may need to take that same quantity of information with them for several jobs in one day, it becomes unmanageable and messy. A Mobile solution conveniently packages this information and organizes it so that it is fully separated by work order, and can be easily viewed on a tablet or laptop.
Mobile won’t make someone a better maintenance tech, but it will help guide them through the work plan and ensure that they take responsibility for reviewing and following work & safety plans. However, documenting completed work steps can yield some important information, regardless of if it captured on paper or Mobile. Any work requiring a change of shift means conducting an orderly handoff from “tech to tech”. Knowing what step has been completed and what step is next, is crucial to high-quality and efficient work execution. When a tech is ‘deep in the weeds’ and doesn’t have time to fill out or update the status of a work order, the following tech may waste valuable time determining the current state of that work order. Adopting a policy of immediately documenting the time of completion for each job step, at the time of step completion, can help prevent this. Mobile solutions can provide advantages such as hiding next step details until the previous step is checked off as completed, as well as automatically time and date stamping each checkoff. Similarly, for field work auditing purposes, turn on GPS and validate that the activity was indeed accomplished and recorded at the work site, at a precise time.
When the physical work is completed, the asset tested and restored to service, job site cleaned up, then the paperwork begins. It’s the dreaded accounting of labor, parts, supplies, tools, etc. With paper, you can record labour and indicate what parts & supply items were used, however, “the ship” for capturing accurate work activity has sailed. In the mobile scenario, work was recorded step by step, and at the end, you have a fairly accurate picture of work order start, work step completion, downtime (lunch, break, material gathering, asset testing etc.), and the time that the asset was restored to service. In our experience, with a paper-based environment, rarely is that level of detail recorded. Additionally, the work order status is not yet available to the EMS/CMMS, since data entry has to be undertaken. In some organizations, the work order entry activity may not be completed until days after physical work completion. This “blind spot” usually results in interim phone calls, emails, text messages, and meetings to inform dispatchers/schedulers, maintenance management, and the asset owner, that the asset has been restored to service.
Now the Tech returns any unused or warranty parts to stores, replenishes his/her toolbox supplies, reports their status to a Supervisor, and turns in the completed work packet. The Work Order data entry task may fall on either the Tech themselves or another person to interpret the contents of the work packet, enter the results into the EAM/CMMS system and file all the associated physical work product results. The time from start to finish for paper and Mobile may be about the same, as the Mobile Tech is performing the data entry task as the job progresses, not once work has been completed. However that data entry is streamlined down to yes/no, check boxes, drop-down lists, etc.. all of which drive QUALITY OF WORK DATA.