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Moving on with Mobility for Asset Maintenance

Most of us have a smart phone / tab nowadays.  Earlier, we found our laptops to be an innovative gadget making our lives easier. Now we have shifted our focus towards our smart devices since it has replaced many of the activities we do in our computers with ease. Mobile technology coupled with internet has opened up a new gateway of communication. I sometimes get perplexed to see how different ends of the world are being connected in fraction of seconds. We do shopping, check our mails, recharge our mobiles, take pictures and videos, chat with friends, read books, track flight status, play games,......a whopping list of endless features. We sometimes don't even reveal our lack of awareness of any such feature in the smart device, to avoid being considered as 'outdated'.

While Smart devices have changed our life style in different ways, it has also influenced the way we do our asset maintenance. As software vendors look out for opportunities to develop mobile apps for different uses, some of them have already placed their footprint into Enterprise Asset Management arena. Many mobile versions of EAM software are made available now a days to capitalize on the potential market in maintenance segment. However, Maintenance Organizations are gradually but carefully changing their processes in this direction since it involves analysis of application fit, investment plan and implementation strategy. This trend is picking up its pace since the benefits are coming out to be evident. However gradual pace of this shift is accountable to few challenges faced by these organizations in implementing a mobile EAM application.

Let us see how few of these challenges are being met in recent times:

 

1. Hardware Investment Cost:
One of the main concern of the organizations to implement a mobile EAM application is the initial investment on handheld devices such tabs, kiosks, consoles, etc. During earlier years, there were specific device vendors producing handheld devices which were rugged enough to be used for maintenance. However, they were equipped to work on with inbuilt software. Now we have a new philosophy of 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD). Assuming employees have a smart device, using their own devices to carry out maintenance process functions / data entry etc. will considerably reduce the capital investment on hardware. Since most of the mobile EAM solutions are available on cloud, interfaces can be easily accessed with a compatible browser. This gives a good reason for moving on with mobility for organizations with cost advantage.

2. Software Cost:
It was true that mobile versions of EAM software needs a considerable investment as they are considered as separate licenses from the desktop versions. However, software vendors have found ways to reduce such cost by providing them as a bundle with desktop versions. The best part of attraction in the recent times is Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept. Many of mobile EAM apps are moving towards Cloud hosting and lending the service on per-device / per-month fee.

3. Connectivity
When it comes to maintaining distributed assets like railway tracks, pipelines, offshore platforms, aircrafts etc., it becomes a constraint that workforce cannot be online every time. Without the connectivity established, mobility is of limited use. These worries are now getting eliminated with the latest telecomm inventions. World is about to witness some wonder called 5G. Yes, the fifth generation mobile network which is expected to be 100 times faster!!! Mobile internet keeps you connected most of the time in distributed environments. Even in instances where there is a connectivity issue, no worries, Mobile EAM applications are designed to work in occasionally connected or disconnected modes. They can sync to servers once connected. This will ensure the ends are connected now.

4. Data Security
Another major challenge or decision factor is data security. Organizations are worried on the security provided by mobile apps when it comes to live maintenance data. As the mobile apps are vulnerable to threats across the network, mobile EAM software vendors have taken the safer cloud based route to ensure data security. Mobile apps are of two type - Native and Cloud based. Native apps are downloaded, residing on our devices and utilize the device resources. On the contrary Cloud based apps are hosted via secure server and data storage is centralized. As users will login to the apps via browser, all the data entered remains secured. Added advantage is its independence from the operating system (Android, iOS, etc.).

5.  IT Infrastructure Management
Conventional Mobile EAM apps needed a platform to design the interfaces, integrate with other systems, connect with servers - all managed by Organizations own IT team. As the direction is towards reduction in IT spend, mobile apps are now being provided as a service with complete hosted infrastructure which eliminates capital investment on the infrastructure.

With host of options available for implementing mobile solutions, organizations can now reap the benefits in terms of increased user experience, process efficiency and improved equipment utilization - both in connected / disconnected modes. Some of the mobility features which are advantageous are:
1.Get alerts on the work assignments and update work orders
2.Record real time readings on measureable parameters
3.Check the availability of spares at the nearest warehouse and raise material requests on the go
4.Take a look at e-manuals to know about the task in hand
5.Report any snags, defects (which sometimes gets out of our mind) then and there while performing any scheduled / unscheduled maintenance. Take a picture of the snag / damage of the equipment and share with others for crowdsourcing ideas to fix it

There are potential benefits for the organizations to move on with the solutions available against the mentioned challenges. It's time for the organizations to fasten the belts and be ready for the major mobility sweep coming their way. Mobility is changing the way we work and live. Let us be part of this change.

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