CMMS "on the go"

So often prospects and clients ask me how to “go mobile” with CMMS. Their question typically starts off in the middle of the mobile process: “I want to use barcode scanning. Where do I begin?”


So often prospects and clients ask me how to “go mobile” with CMMS. Their question typically starts off in the middle of the mobile process: “I want to use barcode scanning. Where do I begin?” My response? “Dive in deeper and figure out what you want to achieve as you make rounds on the plant floor with your mobile device in tow.”

Numerous paperless tasks can be achieved through mobile technology. But first, a few myths must be dispelled about mobile CMMS.

First myth: Your handheld device with built-in barcode will cover all CMMS tasks. Not a chance. Imagine using an iPhone or a Motorola unit and your thumbs to enter detailed work order data about belt rollers and bearing replacements on a conveyor belt. While you can capture data on work order status, repair history, replacement parts, or lockout-tagout emergency procedures on the go, you will still need to enter additional details on your desktop. 

Second myth: Barcodes have practically replaced manual data entry. Again, wishful thinking. The primary function of barcode scanning mobile device is to link to detailed assets or parts information already in your CMMS (mobile or otherwise). Once you locate a particular asset you’ll have access to repair instructions, lockout-tagout procedures, check parts inventory, the ability to close work orders (WOs), etc. Barcodes are a big help, but they won’t dramatically change your maintenance processes. You’ll still have to perform some CMMS chores from your desktop even if you locate asset information on the go.

But there are benefits galore! For the technician, mobile CMMS replaces walking around with stacks of paper work orders. You can take meter readings, make/examine/update WOs, inventory spare parts, and look up critical asset information (shutdowns, LOTO, etc.)—all from the palm of your hand. Many mobile CMMS systems have real-time connections to the main CMMS database, so updates and research are the same as your desktop version. From your mobile dashboard you can check the status of a scheduled PM, issue a new WO (or request), review asset repair history, and more. However, reporting and analysis is best performed from your desktop rather than from a handheld, with the exception of basic dashboard information.

What type of hardware should you buy? That debate has been going on for many years. There are basically two ways to go mobile with CMMS. Although you can purchase inexpensive “consumer devices” readily available at big-box electronic stores, they may not survive the industrial environment and won’t have high-quality barcode scanning capabilities. But if budget constraints prevail, consumer devices are a fraction of the cost of true industrial strength units, which are far more durable and come with integrated, feature-rich barcode scanners. For heavier use in less-forgiving environments, invest in rugged industrial units.

Tablet-style devices are also an option. iPads, Droids, and ruggedized Windows-based tablets, which are more durable, are readily available. Windows-based devices work well since they most likely run your other business applications. Before you run out and buy 20 mobile units, check if your CMMS provider has a mobile, browser-based version and try it on your iPhone or smartphone first. As a maintenance manager or technician, figure out how you plan to use it first, then research appropriate hardware. While reducing paper is the ultimate goal, getting data in real time from the palm of your hand will improve operations.

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