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February 2013 Contractor Success

Tips For Going Mobile With CMMS

Smoothly and painlessly transitioning into the new age of tracking with computerized maintenance management software.

February 11, 2013
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In this still-recovering economy, in which productivity drives the bottom line more than ever, every minute of downtime for key equipment represents dollars lost.

For building services professionals, it means that any delay in filing or responding to work orders will attract management’s attention — the kind you don’t want. 

Implementation of a computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) system is now considered a given for many operations, but it’s sometimes still not enough.

With operations-critical equipment scattered throughout plants or across several different buildings and locations, it’s time for effective managers to go mobile.

Training is a necessary component of implementing any new system.A recent survey found that only about 22 percent of CMMS users are utilizing mobile technology.

However, with these practical tips, the transition can be smooth and painless and, in return, you will discover that you have the power to greatly ramp up your workers’ productivity and streamline workflows right at your fingertips.

CMMS applications for netbooks, tablets and smartphones are increasingly essential for maintenance management professionals, allowing users to monitor equipment status, as well as file and update work orders, wherever and whenever.

With a mobile CMMS application, maintenance managers and engineers can:

  • Communicate work orders immediately to the appropriate individuals
  • Eliminate the need for time-consuming manual entry and paper-based location notes
  • Create, read, edit and upload work orders from any location
  • Check inventory in real time, instantaneously monitoring the availability of spare parts and updating records as supply changes
  • Access an asset’s maintenance and performance history on the spot by scanning a barcode with the mobile device.

Reed Ell, director of operations for GSH Group, has become a fan of mobile CMMS applications, recalling, “Before my team converted, tracking text-based messages and faxes was a nightmare. My mechanics and engineers spent an incredible amount of time away from their real work because they were constantly dropping by the office to input data.”

GSH provides facilities management and energy control services to a variety of clients, and Ell reports seeing a 25 percent productivity improvement in just over a year and a half that he says is a direct result of his team’s transition to being fully mobile.

“Now that you can have a computer in your pocket, we can monitor and update data on equipment anywhere, anytime,” notes Ell. “Our engineers and mechanics have access to the entire computerized maintenance system, even while they’re on-the-go. That’s a lot of power at their fingertips.”

Ell’s team, like many others in similar situations, ultimately chose to work with tablets rather than smartphones because of the additional screen size and user-friendly functionality, which translates into greater ease of use, especially with data input.

Coaching Your People Through ItTraining is a necessary component of implementing any new system.

“You typically have two generations of employees,” explains Ell. “Younger employees grew up using smartphones and similar technologies, so it’s a natural fit for them. But, it’s a new learning experience for Baby Boomers, and they often resist changing old habits that got the job done in the past — especially when it requires an initial time investment.”

However, any resistance often melts away once employees see for themselves how adopting new tools, technologies and processes will make their jobs easier and improve the performance they can deliver for their companies and clients.

“It’s like a light bulb comes on, and then they become converts themselves,” proclaims Ell. “It just takes a more personal approach to get some of them there.”

From management decision making through implementation, Ell reports that their conversion to a fully mobile CMMS system at GSH required six months.

The following five tips will help assure a successful conversion to a fully mobile CMMS system:

1.  Secure management commitment

If resistant employees sense any “wiggle room” in the timeline or choice of technologies, they won’t make the transition a priority.

2.  Prepare for and allow a temporary dip in productivity

Training requires employees to be in the classroom instead of out in the field; plan for it and let employees know you’ve incorporated that into your planning.

3.  Begin your training with internal leaders

There are always some employees who like to be early adopters, who will eagerly research new technologies, learn new processes and then help get others on board; take advantage of them because, when employees are urged to get on board by their peers, the message has a lot more credence.

4.  Train in stages

Many organizations divide their training sessions into shorter lessons that are higher in frequency to account for attention span and information retention limits.

After the introductory four-hour session at GSH, employees were sent into the field to experiment before coming back into the classroom one to two weeks later for a second and final four-hour session on lessons learned.

5.  Keep your old system running while you implement the new one

Make sure the mobile technology is working smoothly before making the switchover permanent; check to see that your employees are comfortable with the interface and input process and that all hardware and software is functioning as intended.

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