May 17, 2018

How advanced are organizations with the automation of their maintenance processes?

Optimizing maintenance processes through automation is a hot topic, according to a webinar recently presented 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 - Improve maintenance operations with automation and mobile solutions

Facility, Maintenance or Real Estate Managers from everywhere can agree: reducing the costs of maintenance and operationsis one of the biggest challenges in the field of asset and maintenance management.

Watch webinar!

Automation 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% had to do with the automation of maintenance processes, including the trend of improving data connectivity and availability for building elements.

The main drivers for automation according to research include mainly improving workforce management and reducing execution costs, but also saving time on collecting data and reporting were identified.

Let's embrace automation

In my daily contact with maintenance and facility managers, it is still common practice to use manual processes for the coordination of work orders. Printed work orders, e-mail messages, Excel files and telephones are frequently used, with predictable consequences including unnecessary errors, miscommunication and a lack of standardized 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 monitor and report progress. Therefore, it is the time to say goodbye to these practices of the past and embrace automation 

The current maturity level of automation

Fortunately, more and more organizations are recognizing that the integration 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 automated their maintenance processes. Participants could choose from the following levels for where they would place their own organization’s automation practices:

  • 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 automation of their maintenance processes as “average”, in second place is “low”, and then third would be “basic”. The majority of organizations 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 optimized. However, a large group of participants indicated that they still have a low level of automation. For example, they still use Excel and other separate systems which produces many drawbacks. These organizations that have low or nonexistent automation have much to be gained by integrating modern mobile solutions.

When we look at differences between countries, we see that Central Europe seems to be the least advanced in automating maintenance processes. About 38% of the webinar participants in Central Europe indicate that they still use separate solutions and manual processes. People that attended the North American webinar scored highest in this area, with a ”moderate” usage of automation.

Where to improve

With many organizations there is room for improvement, as is evident not only from my experience, but also from the results of this webinar. However, questions remain: what is the most immediate challenge for the participants? Also, which aspect of maintenance management do they particularly want to improve? We asked the participants where their priorities stood and they could choose from the following:

  • 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, getting data in place the biggest challenge with about 36% of the participants worldwide choosing this answer. This is the basic step before we can get started with the other aspects, such as increasing the productivity of technicians. For example, only when all data on the maintenance history, work orders, lead times, costs and available technicians are bundled into one system and easy to consult (to summarize, when the data is in order) can we start with the other areas for improvement

An IWMS offers a solution

I am pleased to see that more and more organizations recognize the importance of automation and are investing in an IWMS system as a result. 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 of 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 always, from any location and on every device. Your solution is Planon Mobile Field Services, 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 is the time to say goodbye to manual processes and take steps forward in automation. Would you like to learn more about Planon Mobile Field Services? Download our brochure.