Your Guide to Software Selection

Integrating Handheld Devices with Mobile CMMS

Considering a new CMMS or EAM is an exciting time in any organization. The right system can open up a world of advanced possibilities. But a transition also presents many potential pitfalls. One of the most frequent missteps is not optimally integrating mobile technology.  It’s critical to recognize how enmeshed technology is in your organization, and what that means for your department.

According to Pew Research Center, more than 95% of Americans carry a cellphone, with more than 75% carrying a smartphone. This means that mobile devices, otherwise known as handheld devices, can no longer be overlooked as simply a nicety. They’re an integral, silent member of the team-a tool with as much value as anything else kept in the toolbox (or on a cart.) Knowing how to use it in conjunction with your CMMS, EAM or as a part of your organization’s workflow is just as important as knowing how to properly use any other resource at your disposal.

Handheld Devices in the Workplace

Much has been written about the benefits of handheld device use in maintenance and facilities departments. They afford your organization the ability to capture data in real time and, with the use of QR, barcode and meter scanning applications, improve the quality of the data collected. They enhance communication within the department, as well as communication between the department and the Service Requester. The use of handheld devices also improves your organization’s ability to provide real-time documentation of maintenance performed on critical assets, whether by allowing you to see where and what a technician is working on at any moment while undergoing an audit, or by creating timestamps within your CMMS or EAM that show the exact times a technician performed each step or task associated with the preventive or reactive maintenance.

With increasing compliance requirements and the burden of proof falling squarely on the shoulders of the organization, the importance of being able to provide such data in a timely manner can’t be overstated. They also provide your staff with access to instant training about a new or less familiar piece of equipment via crowd-sourced information forums, manufacturer websites and video tutorials. While many of these options may seem like a luxury during your CMMS selection process, once that chosen software is in place and successfully being used, the “luxuries” quickly become necessities.

The benefits of handheld devices are clear, but won’t be realized without maximizing the resource. One of the most frequent missteps we see is not involving your IT department in the selection of your handheld devices, particularly when considering a new CMMS or EAM. Different devices, like different CMMS and EAM systems, aren’t the same. As such, choosing and setting up your devices appropriately for your organization can mean the difference between success and failure, not just for your handheld device, but also for your CMMS or EAM as a whole.

The User’s Relationship with Software on Handheld Devices

There’s nothing more detrimental to a successful software implementation than the confidence, or lack thereof, of the users. This is why it’s critical that maintenance and facilities departments work closely with their IT representatives to educate them on the unique needs of the department. For example, due to the nature of the work performed by the department, maintenance and facilities technicians are frequently working in areas of poor WiFi reception, such as rooftops and utility rooms.

This likely hasn’t been considered by the IT department. Knowing how and where the handheld device will be used gives your IT specialists the ability to proactively resolve issues before they arise. Whether the solution to the problem is installing WiFi boosters, obtaining mobile data plans or creating processes addressing the issue, a proactive solution is always preferred to the alternative. Without asking the appropriate questions in advance, and working collaboratively with your IT department, reactive solutions may be the only option, and they may be too little, too late.

Most CMMS and EAM software has evolved to take into account the handheld device user, so many of them have the option for separate licensing of only the corresponding application that works with the desktop CMMS or EAM, typically for technicians. Knowing the requirements of your chosen software on the handheld device is critical; your system won’t work if it isn’t selected and implemented correctly. And you can’t select or implement software without your IT department.

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A stellar CMMS or EAM operating on the cloud is only as effective as your internet WiFi capabilities. If a technician isn’t able to access the system quickly and painlessly, they’re more likely to create workarounds in order to extract the least amount of information required to perform their work orders. Knowing the capabilities of both the software and the handheld device itself are important, and this is, again, where drawing from your IT department comes into play. If your IT department has stringent security in place around the applications available on a company-managed handheld device, proper planning can allow them to work with your team to implement the appropriate application on your technicians’ handheld devices. This also allows them to test it during the implementation testing phase of your chosen software. When it comes to successfully implementing new technology, there’s no such thing as too much planning or too many questions.

Your IT department can also ensure other key benefits of your handheld device are fully leveraged. This includes access to key information from anywhere within the work zone, such as building schematics and the interconnectivity of QR and barcode readers with the CMMS or EAM. In fact, many organizations are moving to a combination of QR and barcodes. As an example, in many maintenance and facilities departments, a quick scan of a QR code provides the building schematics, O&M manuals and corresponding meter information for the assets nearby. All of this can be seamlessly integrated into your CMMS or EAM, but not without proper planning.

Mobile Software Advances Features and Expectations

With increased capabilities come higher expectations. You’ll likely adjust your KPIs in particular, as they relate to response times, outages, simplicity of work order completion and the overall effectiveness of the solution. While these KPIs are critical, don’t forget about the enhanced communication opportunities a handheld device affords your department. When selecting a CMMS or EAM for your organization and a handheld device to access it with, consider how you’d like to positively affect your department’s communication. Is it important that the planner be able to push out a critical work order to the device of a technician closest to the equipment?

This would require investigation into GPS capabilities. Is It important that that the technician be able to immediately access the planner or service requester with any questions, concerns or status changes, potentially requiring text or mobile phone capabilities? Would you like to be able to increase the level of communication that occurs between your planners and technicians in general? If so, the use of a properly selected and configured mobile handheld device can be an invaluable tool.

When considering your next CMMS or EAM, the marriage between your chosen software and handheld device is critical. The handheld device’s value in your toolbox is immense, and asking the right questions along with involving the right people from the beginning is a key step in leveraging your technology as you move towards becoming a world-class maintenance organization.

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Lisa BagadiaIntegrating Handheld Devices with Mobile CMMS

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