Users of enterprise asset management (EAM) and computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software report low levels of access to these systems through handheld mobile devices, according to a new IFS-sponsored survey of executives from industrial companies with $50 million or more in revenue.
Of these executives, 75 percent report little to no mobile access to data kept in enterprise asset management (EAM) software, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) or other applications used to manage maintenance and asset data. Only 34 percent reported using a handheld mobile device to perform work in these systems.
When asked about the ability of EAM data to efficiently be retrieved via smartphone or tablet app, IFS North America Vice President for Energy and Asset Management Patrick Zirnhelt detailed the company’s “two-pronged” approach.
“We do offer limited and purposed built mobile apps for specific tasks, including work order management,” Said Zirnhelt. “But our entire application suite can be used on a touchscreen mobile device running Windows 8. So that maintenance technician completing work orders is interacting with the same enterprise data as the plant manager or controller, all on mobile devices and all accessing the scope of functionality that is appropriate for them.”
According to the IFS research, higher levels of mobile access were reported by respondents using native apps developed by their enterprise software vendor and connecting to the application either through a cloud intermediary or through a direct integration into the application itself.
“Our position has always been that a comprehensive enterprise suite will deliver more of the benefits of EAM than a standalone computerized maintenance management system,” Said Zirnhelt. “Imagine that plant manager trying to handle a week-long plant shutdown or refit. How many techs are away for vacation during that week-long window, and how many have the necessary certifications to do the work? That requires integration with human resources. What about maintenance inventory? That requires integration with purchasing and supply chain management. The list goes on and on of ways that a fully integrated package, including finance, document management and other functionality, is important.”
“And integration is important for mobility,” Zirnhelt continued. “Imagine trying to deploy a mobile interface across a CMMS, a standalone HR system and a supply chain system. For IFS Applications, we can offer extensive mobile options in large part due to our integrated, pure play nature.”
The study highlights the discrepancy between workers using mobile apps, and those using VPN access.
“The study indicates that those who limit remote access to connection solutions like VPN tend to be less likely to report high levels of access and are less likely to be working in the software from a handheld device,” IFS North America Vice President for Energy and Asset Management Patrick Zirnhelt said. “Our own approach includes native Android and iOS apps for any number of different functions and an Android and Microsoft work order management app which is key for the industrial maintenance process. Our full application interface also works on a touchscreen device in Windows 8. By eliminating third-party intermediary tools, companies are in a better position to harness the benefits of mobility.”
Zirnhelt sees a role for VPN, but also its limitations.
“VPN is a valuable tool that will continue to have a role in the market,” said Zirnhelt. “But VPN tends to not tolerate disruption of the internet connection very well. And the resulting screens are often not ideal for a mobile device. More and more, mobility will favor native applications that have an offline capability. If the connection is lost, data is stored until it resumes and then the device syncs with the application on the server.”
The study, “Mobility in the Field Service Management Space,” is based on a survey of 200 North American industrial executives conducted by Advantage Business Media. It is available for free download at: http://download.ifsworld.com/studies.