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17 May 2018

How advanced are organisations with the digitalisation of their maintenance processes?

Optimising maintenance processes through digitalisation is a hot topic, according to a webinar recently organised by Planon. More than 800 people registered worldwide, with the attendees including a large number of maintenance managers and facility managers. In this blog I will share some of the interesting results.

Webinar - Digitalisation in Maintenance Operations, is this your priority too?

Probably every Facility, Maintenance or Real Estate Manager would agree: reducing operations and maintenance costs is one of the biggest challenges in the field of asset and maintenance management.

Watch webinar

Digitalisation is high on the agenda

Before looking at the results of the webinar, I would like to highlight the findings of a study conducted by research agency Verdantix last year within the IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management System) market.

Verdantix investigated to what extent certain market trends play a role in shaping the real estate strategy for the next three years. Of the trends that were mentioned, 80% were to do with digitalisation. Looking at two of the three most important trends, we see that both are related to the digitalisation of maintenance processes:

  • Optimisation of digitalisation in maintenance processes
  • Improving data connectivity and availability for building elements

What are the main drivers for digitising according to the research? These are mainly improving workforce management and reducing execution costs. But also saving time on collecting data and reporting were identified.

Let's embrace digitalisation

In my daily contact with maintenance and facility managers it seems that manual processes for the coordination of work orders are still commonplace. Printed work orders, e-mail messages, Excel files and the phone are frequently used, with predictable consequences: unnecessary errors, miscommunication and a lack of standardised documentation. It also wastes time and makes it difficult to plan and manage the distribution of work orders, make the right information available in the right place, and also to monitor and report progress. So, it is high time to say goodbye to all this and embrace digitalisation.

The current maturity level of digitalisation

Fortunately, more and more organisations are recognising that the use of automation and mobile solutions makes the coordination of maintenance processes much more efficient. We were curious as to what extent the participants of our webinar have already digitised their maintenance processes. At what maturity level would they place their own organisation? Participants could choose from:

  • Low, we use Excel sheets and point solutions
  • Basic, we have basic data in place
  • Moderate, we have our data and processes for reactive maintenance in place
  • Good, we are in full control of all our maintenance data and processes
  • Don’t know, we have outsourced all our maintenance

The results of our survey show that globally, most people describe the level of digitalisation of their maintenance processes as 'average'. In second place is 'low', followed by 'basic'. The majority of organisations already have their data and processes for reactive maintenance in place. This is a good step in the right direction since reactive maintenance has a major impact on the continuity of the core business and often involves high and unexpected costs. This means that the basics are in place and can be further optimised. However, a large group of participants indicated that they still have a low maturity level of digitalisation. For example, they still use Excel and other separate systems. Decentralised data and manual processes have many drawbacks, as explained earlier. So for this group there is still a lot to be gained.

When we look at differences between countries, we see that Central Europe seems to be the least advanced in digitising maintenance processes. No less than 38% of the webinar participants in Central Europe indicate that they still use separate solutions and manual processes. People that attended the UK English webinar scored highest in this area, with ‘moderate’.

Where to improve

With many organisations there is room for improvement, as is evident not only from my experience but also from the results of this webinar. But what is the most immediate challenge for the participants? Which aspect of maintenance management do they particularly want to improve? We asked the participants where their priorities were. They could choose from:

  • Get my data in place
  • Drive productivity of field technicians
  • Improve planning and control
  • Meet customer expectations
  • Comply with legislation and regulation

The results show that on average, putting data in order is the biggest challenge; no less than 36% of the participants worldwide chose this answer. This is the basic step before we can get started with the other aspects, such as increasing the productivity of technicians. Only when all data on, for example, the maintenance history, work orders, lead times, costs and available technicians are bundled into one system and easy to consult - in short, when the data is in order - can we start with the other areas for improvement. Always start with that before you start working on other improvement initiatives.

An IWMS offers a solution

I am pleased to see that more and more organisations recognise the importance of digitalisation and are investing in an IWMS system for this. With an IWMS you can put data from different administration and software tools into a single database. Not only maintenance-related data, but also data about real estate, assets, space, contracts and costs are made visible to various stakeholders.

The business case for the solution is immediately clear: by eliminating all these spreadsheets and separate software tools, you significantly reduce the time spent on maintaining data and reporting on it. You can then make decisions based on reliable information.

Your technicians in the field must be able to access this information at all times, from any location and on every device. Planon Mobile Field Services offers this solution. Planon Mobile Field Services is a mobile application that seamlessly integrates with the back office of Planon’s IWMS, where work is recorded, planned, assigned and monitored. This allows managers of buildings, maintenance and facility managers, as well as technicians to carry out their work in a mobile manner. The ability for technicians to receive notifications, orders and complete work orders while in the field, helps improve productivity and efficiency and exceed customer expectations. 

Time to change

I could talk about this subject and the advantages of an IWMS and mobile solutions, such as Planon Mobile Field Services, for hours. It really is time to say goodbye to manual processes and take steps forward in digitalisation. Would you like to know more about Planon Mobile Field Services? Then download our brochure.

Bas Janssen
Account Manager Planon Netherlands