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29 March 2018

6 issues you can easily avoid by digitalising your maintenance operations

Imagine you are using a manual process for managing your maintenance. How do you balance the workload? Let’s say you have ten technicians and three of them call in sick. You now need to reshuffle all your work orders, using a pile of paperwork on your desk. If this sounds familiar, I can reassure you that your organisation is definitely not alone. Many organisations are using these manual methods and have settled into routines where they have to pull data from multiple spreadsheets or from separate software systems. This is going to change soon, according to independent research firm Verdantix.

FAQ - 8 frequently asked questions about mobile solutions and automation for improved maintenance operations

In this FAQ, we explore questions many organisations have about improving their maintenance operations, and how Planon’s IWMS and mobile applications can support your organisation in achieving greater maintenance management efficiency and success.

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Maintenance management becoming a main priority

In its ‘Green Quadrant® Integrated Workplace Management Systems’ report, Verdantix explains that for many organisations “maintenance management has the highest purchase consideration” when it comes to facilities management software. As far as I am concerned, your first step should be making your maintenance management process more efficient through digitalisation. If you stick to the traditional methods of pen and paper, Excel sheets, and email communication for handling work orders, you will continue to face many issues. Here I discuss the six most common ones:

1. Unnecessary errors and miscommunication

If your organisation still relies on paperwork, mistakes are easily made. It is human nature to make typos, forget to fill out critical information, or simply lose the paperwork itself. Even if all the information is listed in Excel sheets after a technician has completed a work order, how do you make sure everyone is following the same process, or even more importantly, working in the same document? It goes without saying that miscommunicating the status or next steps on a work order is all too common.

2. Lack of control and monitoring of the task

Again, if you lack a system that captures all the information, how can you make sure your technicians have successfully completed their task? If a client or employee calls to check the status of their request, Excel spreadsheets will not be able to provide a reliable answer. However, if you are using a system that provides more information, you can inform your client which technician is handling the request, if they are still travelling to the location, when the project was started, and what materials were needed. Improved control and monitoring results in increased transparency and customer satisfaction. 

3. It takes a lot of time

How long does it take to assign work orders? How long does it take for a field technician to receive their work orders? How long does it take for the status of a completed work order to be communicated to the back office and the requestor? If any of these is longer than ‘a few minutes,’ automating your maintenance processes could bring huge time saving benefits. Filling out paperwork is a manual task that simply takes a lot of your technician’s time, especially when all the information needs to be entered again in an Excel sheet after a task is completed. If your technicians first need to travel to and from the office to complete paperwork or update the status of their work orders, a lot of time is wasted. Using a system that already contains detailed information about assets makes the process of managing work orders less time-consuming. The ability to receive notifications, work tickets, and complete work orders while in the field helps improve productivity and efficiency, and helps you to better exceed customer expectations. 

4. No planning efficiency

Planning that needs to be done manually is hard, especially when your real estate portfolio consists of more than one building at multiple sites. It is even harder to prioritise tasks. Having a system in place that provides you with up-to-date information about the urgency of the work that needs to be done, helps you to plan efficiently, even on the day itself. 

Besides, there are people with specific skillsets or certifications. There are tasks that are outsourced. There are staff on holiday. There are dozens of factors involved in deciding who should be doing what, and trying to plan efficiently using a manual process is painful. Automating your maintenance processes helps you to achieve efficient resource planning based on all the criteria you set. 

5. No connection with any other processes

When maintenance operations are planned manually, there is no integration with other processes that may be affected by the work. For example, when an asset is replaced, the stock needs to be updated too, and preferably at once and automatically. Plus, if all paperwork needs to be collected first, it is hard to make a proper cost calculation. Having a system in place containing all this information gives you an up-to-date overview of everything you want to know. 

You also want to avoid scenarios like these: imagine an asset needs to be replaced in a conference room according to the Planned Preventative Maintenance plan. If you do not do not have an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS), you might not know that an important client meeting is planned in that room and it should really not be interrupted for maintenance.

It could also be that your real estate department has decided to move offices at the end of the quarter, but maintenance has not been informed. It is such a waste of time and money if your technicians continue to maintain assets that won’t be used in another two months.

6. High risk of non-compliance with regulations

Without standardised processes and corresponding documentation, it is very easy to lose track of legislation on health and safety. Having a system in place that contains all the necessary fields that need to be filled out on location, guarantees your maintenance operations are carried out in a compliant way.

Planon’s Mobile Field Services Solution helps you to avoid these issues by rapidly and securely providing your field service team with solutions they can use on any mobile device. Do you want to know more about Planon Mobile Field Services? Then I would recommend you watch this video or download our brochure.

Jos Knops
Director Product Marketing