Automation Impacts Facilities/Maintenance Management: Technology, Automation, and Mobility Transform Modern Maintenance Practice

Facilities and maintenance management are critical enterprise functions that have benefited greatly from advances in technology, yet some maintenance departments have remained stagnant for decades.  In other organizations, the introduction of innovative technology has made a tremendous impact on outdated facilities and maintenance management practices, inspiring some key trends likely to shift the industry as a whole in the coming years.
mp cmykHippo CMMS identified three key trends in a November 2015 article that are poised to transform the industry in 2016, including mobility, millennials, and machine learning. These trends are enabling companies to transition functions that were once a cost center (facilities management and maintenance management) to a competitive advantage, with CMMS paving the way for new technology adoption. Here’s our take on how innovative advances will reshape these critical business functions in 2016 and beyond.
Technology
Traditional facilities and maintenance management methods are now unheard of in most organizations. With the availability of software applications that integrate with your existing business systems, paper-and-pencil methods simply pale in comparison in terms of accuracy and the availability of data.
Of course, software is not exactly a new idea. Even CMMS programs have been around the block a few times, although today’s applications are more comprehensive, offer better integration with legacy business applications, and are serving a more important role in modern organizations.
The article points out that as millennials are entering the workforce and older generations are retiring, CMMS programs are even serving as a repository for training materials to streamline onboarding. Valued employees soon to retire can now make a substantial contribution to their companies by sharing the insights they’ve gained through decades of work to better equip the up-and-coming workforce to seamlessly step into challenging roles.
Software is, however, undergoing a shift of its own, as more companies opt to run critical business applications in the cloud for ease of access and better cross-team collaboration. What’s more, with machine learning capabilities, sophisticated software applications are capable of analyzing data, offering data-driven insights on performance, and even recommending remedies for detected problems. Not only do users know when performance or productivity are likely to be impacted, but they’re armed with data on precisely how to prevent negative outcomes thanks to prescriptive analytics.
Mobility
Mobile devices are more connected and portable than ever, with sophisticated capabilities and the ability to perform myriad complex tasks with the help of mobile apps. Any smartphone can now serve double-duty as a barcode scanner, for instance, with a simple application download. And with 74% of companies using or adopting BYOD policies, more employees are accessing company networks from their personal mobile devices than ever before.
BYOD or company-issued devices, mobility has changed the way field service technicians perform their jobs. From filling out customer work orders from the field, requesting special-order parts with a few clicks, and streamlined communication with head office staff and critical business applications, the technician’s role has been dramatically improved thanks to mobility.
Finding out if a part is in stock, for example, once required a phone call (or even a trip back to the home office, before mobile devices were widely used). With difficulty getting through at times while office staff were busy assisting other technicians, field services representatives could easily waste hours of valuable time in the field. Now, mobile devices make it possible to achieve almost every desired outcome without ever speaking directly to another human being.
Automation
IMG_4341-lineComputing devices aren’t the only thing going mobile; employees are, too. No longer required to be tethered to a desk for documentation or data entry tasks, employees can freely move about departments, campuses, and entire territories without ever skipping a beat. That means facilities and maintenance technicians can be more productive without the need to manually document changes, repairs, or routine maintenance, nor must they return to a desk equipped with a bulky desktop computer to enter data, a welcome advancement for millennials who grew up with technology and are comfortable relying on data to perform their jobs.
Today, a quick scan of a barcode label, LDAR tag, or other asset tag and a few clicks from a smartphone or tablet is all it takes to enter accurate data. What once took several minutes to several hours, depending on the complexity of the task, now takes mere seconds.
“Mechanical assets are being outfitted with sensors to better ‘communicate’ their condition. It’s important that as a facility’s equipment is upgraded, maintenance staff is able to understand the machines,” the article points out. They cite HVAC units as one such example, which until recently relied on decades-old data to determine the ideal office temperature. It turns out, though, that the ideal office temperature for productivity and comfort is a few degrees higher than the former gold standard. Today’s sophisticated HVAC units offer more comprehensive monitoring for better temperature and humidity tracking, which not only keeps office users more comfortable but also reduces energy costs.
Facilities and maintenance management are functions that, until now, were largely left behind in many advancements in technology and automation. Companies can’t function without their most valuable equipment assets, so placing trust in unproven methodologies isn’t considered wise. But with the advancements that have already begun to proliferate across industries, it’s becoming clear that the way to gain a competitive edge in facilities and maintenance management is to embrace technology and all that it has to offer.
CMMS bar code labels are the foundation of technology and automation in modern maintenance and facilities management departments. Used for automatic data capture, Camcode’s CMMS bar code labels reduce (or even eliminate) manual data entry, dramatically improve the accuracy of documentation and data, and increase productivity while reducing overhead costs. If your department is implementing technology solutions, such as a CMMS solution, choosing the right bar code labels to facilitate the data that drives automation is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for the future of your company.

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