A Smarter Heavy Equipment Industry Through Mobile Connectivity
Author: Jim Menton
The use of mobile and smart devices has steadily become a key part of remote field service—and an increasing number of companies and their technicians are using mobile devices that enable equipment monitoring, scheduling, and collaborations, to name a few. This is an increasingly important factor to consider in industries that rely on heavy equipment, such as mining, agriculture and new construction.
Mobilization enables companies to monitor heavy equipment and avoid breakdowns of critical machinery that lead to service interruptions. Such proactive interventions avoid cost overruns due to unplanned downtime or equipment failures. It also extends the life of heavy equipment through monitoring, preventative and/or conditioned based maintenance.
This is just one example of how the use of mobile devices is changing the way field service companies do business. With the increasing prevalence of a mobile workforce—laptop, smartphone, and tablet users (BYOD)—becomes commonplace, it sets up the basis for a paradigm shift away from the office-bound PC toward enhanced value propositions, such as the Internet of Things, Web 2.0, and social networks for Mobile Workforce Management, i.e. “smart systems.”
Workforce Management itself is evolving into a solution labeled Workforce Optimization. In terms of the heavy equipment industry, it enables companies to evaluate and extend the life of capital equipment without incurring unplanned downtime or interruptions essential to equipment in critical environments.
Using Mobile Workforce Management and Smart Systems, companies can determine equipment status, gather data and schedule maintenance for machinery when the right service crews with the right capabilities are available, in real time. Such capabilities offer key data, information, and insights to both how a workforce is performing as well as the condition of heavy equipment.
It also entails the convergence of machines talking to service personnel, technicians talking to machines and machines providing data to each other. For example, with such a constant flow of information, companies can prevent equipment failures, get real-time status updates and/or schedule maintenance in critical environments using condition-based service and management structure.
Mobile Workforce Management solutions can be easily adopted by small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) or deployed in larger enterprise-wide organizations and scale to meet specific organizational needs. As an alternative, these solutions can be delivered via the cloud thereby reducing upfront costs and implementation cost. By investing in high quality, cloud-based managed services, IT support organizations can lower their cost base while improving service levels.
In fact, the ROI on mobile management services via the cloud offers almost immediate returns—the upfront cost for organizations that adopt these services is minimal. They’re both fast to implement and offer an agile environment that produces immediate results.
For example, in the machine-to-machine area, equipment is designed to send out notifications when maintenance needs to be updated. This scenario is especially critical in heavy equipment industries where a machine that is “down” means lost work and can have a negative domino effect on meeting daily production goals and long-term project deadlines.
Using the Internet of Things and cloud-based services, remote machines and equipment can send status updates, location information, and other condition-based, servicing data. This enables companies to locate machinery and figure out how to get to it with the correct replacement parts and the right technicians to resolve issues before failures occur.
For companies where federal, state, and local agencies mandate strict service standards, having an agile workforce management system in place that’s mobile and cloud-based represents the perfect environment. It means field service organizations can respond to fast-changing legislation and quickly optimize services to meet new Service Level Agreement (SLA’s) requirements.
Finally, when it comes to security, it’s not unusual for smaller companies to have less than optimal IT security in place via ad-hoc IT support, such as a long-term employee or contractor who maintains the infrastructure based on computing experience and familiarity with the system. While all industries are concerned about data theft and incursions, it’s clear that private and public clouds continue to meet the challenges of strong infrastructure security.
The demands of a range of industries, especially those that rely on field service personnel and remote equipment, require cloud-based access to data with high levels of security in place. It also means fast and user-friendly applications and devices for technicians in the field. Ultimately, Smart Systems that enable Condition Based Service Management (CBSM) and predictive equipment maintenance will reduce labor costs and extend valuable equipment lifetime. As increasing numbers of companies move toward mobile environments, they’re searching for service optimization solutions that effectively meet those needs.