Mobilizing CMMS/EAM

What if your department no longer had to fill out work orders at the end of a shift? What if you could have an extra hour a day to work on equipment? What if you were able to move your maintenance department from reactive to proactive and predictive? Using mobile CMMS/EAM can answer all these questions in one fell swoop.
By Jack Smith, Senior Editor, Plant Engineering magazine August 8, 2002
Increased productivity
Data accuracy
Data in, data out
Parental supervision

What if your department no longer had to fill out work orders at the end of a shift? What if you could have an extra hour a day to work on equipment? What if you were able to move your maintenance department from reactive to proactive and predictive? Using mobile CMMS/EAM can answer all these questions in one fell swoop. Mobile computing is not necessarily playing tic-tac-toe on a handheld computer. Nor is it necessarily keeping track of telephone numbers and appointments. Mobile computing, within the context of CMMS/EAM is:

  • Workflow management—provides maintenance technicians with access to work orders, job plans, inventory, safety plans, and other key data at the point of performance.

  • Time and attendance tracking—eliminates paperwork while tracking repair time per asset.

  • Condition monitoring rounds—enables technicians and inspectors to capture readings of equipment measurement points. Data can be extracted to provide equipment health status.

  • Inventory—captures accurate cycle counts.

  • Procurement and receiving—manages purchase order receiving of MRO items.

  • Asset data collection—allows plants to build equipment and location hierarchies into the CMMS/EAM system; allows regular and efficient audits and condition assessments in the field.

  • Corrective maintenance—automates processing of break/fix work order information.

  • Preventive maintenance—provides PM procedures, prompts entry of task completion, and allows entry of abnormal situations requiring further maintenance.

  • Compliance reporting—allows collection of data required by regulatory agencies.

    • Although there has been a reluctance to jump on the mobile computing bandwagon, the technology is gaining wider acceptance as plants realize the productivity gains and rapid return on investment (ROI).

      Increased productivity

      A major motivation to mobilize maintenance is more time to do work on the plant floor. Paperwork reduction or elimination is part of this equation. Maintenance technicians gain wrench time because they don’t have to knock off working on equipment just to ensure the paperwork is done by the end of the shift.

      Maintenance departments manage workflow by keeping track of job-related functions on a handheld computer. Because the software is an extension of the CMMS/EAM system, the data a technician would have entered into the computer in the maintenance office is now entered into the handheld computer at the work location by simply selecting items from a pull-down menu on the appropriate screens. Because the handheld software has the functionality of the parent CMMS/EAM system, it also has its look, feel, and flow. This maximizes efficiency, work order completion rate, and accuracy (Fig. 1).

      Data accuracy

      A CMMS/EAM work database is only as good as the data entered into it. Completing paper-based work orders is time consuming, error prone, and just a royal pain in the asset. Work order problems include:

    • Improper creation because of the urgency of the repair

    • Late

    • Incomplete

    • Inaccurate

    • Skilled workers being paid for data entry while the CMMS waits

    • Waste of time and resources.

      • According to some estimates, out of every four work orders, only one gets properly closed. Using mobile CMMS/EAM allows maintenance technicians to capture accurate data in a timely manner. Data are routed to the CMMS/EAM system quicker than waiting for end-of-shift data entry. This allows maintenance departments to deploy labor better, generate quick, accurate reports for regulatory and quality control standards, and improve tracking of spare parts, tools, and equipment.

        Data in, data out

        Each plant and each worker has different needs. A maintenance technician servicing heavy equipment on the plant floor might use a rugged handheld computer. Some technicians may use a clamshell-type computer if their work requires frequent keyboard entry. Handhelds with integrated barcode scanners are handy for MRO inventory and taking readings during rounds. Others may prefer the palm-sized computer for all-around flexibility.

        There are two ways to transfer data from the mobile computer to the main CMMS/EAM system. Some plants prefer wireless data transmission. Wireless allows real-time interaction between handheld computers and the CMMS/EAM software. Benefits include immediate updates to the maintenance database, MRO inventory adjustments, asset record updates, equipment repair status, and anything else that real-time communication offers.

        But despite the inroads wireless technology has made during recent years, there are still many dead spots. Anyone who has attempted to maintain a lengthy cell phone conversation in the car or make a wireless modem connection with a handheld computer from the interior of a large building knows how difficult it can be to find good coverage.

        Another option is to use docking cradles for handheld computers. The mobile device stores maintenance data until it is placed in the cradle. It then transfers its information to the CMMS/EAM program, which processes and archives the data appropriately. The sacrifice is that data are not transferred to the main program in real time. However, the problem of poor coverage is alleviated. Also, docking cradles are less expensive to procure and maintain than a wireless system.

        Some plants have found it beneficial to use multiple communication options. A combination of docking cradles, wireless connections, and dial up modems provides the greatest flexibility and effectiveness.

        Parental supervision

        Mobile computing by itself can save time and money. But the real value is using this technology with a CMMS/EAM system. For that reason, many top tier CMMS/EAM providers, such as AssetPoint/Tabware, Avantis, Datastream, Indus, and MRO Software, offer mobile modules to enhance their maintenance and asset solutions.

        CMMS/EAM technology has been around for a while. Now that mobile technology is becoming available, CMMS/EAM systems can operate with an added dimension and increased efficiency. The CMMS/EAM parent program requires data accuracy in order to be effective. Minimizing or eliminating paperwork facilitates improved data accuracy. Ease of use ensures worker compliance. Seamless integration with the CMMS/EAM parent guarantees that workflow rules are followed. Drop-down menus and pop-up screens prompt for specific data and in most cases allow technicians to choose entries from a list on the handheld’s touch screen. By simply touching the appropriate area of the screen, technicians can enter most information.

        With extra time to work on more equipment, elimination of paperwork to create the extra time, improved data collection, and improved maintenance data accuracy, mobile CMMS/EAM is another way to squeeze a little more “oink” out of the “pig.”

        PLANT ENGINEERING magazine extends its appreciation to Akula Software, AssetPoint/Tabware, Datastream, and Syclo for the use of their materials in the preparation of this article.