The Future of Maintenance Management, Part 5: Mobile Technology

23rd April 2014
23rd April 2014

Mobile technology usage is growing rapidly across industries and organizations, and those of us in the maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) profession are no exception. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who’s spent time in a public setting that most Americans now own a smartphone. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 91% of American adults have a cell phone of some sort, and 56% of them have smartphones.

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The Future of Maintenance Management

The growing market for smartphones may seem “old hat,” though, compared to the latest and greatest device—the tablet. Pew reports it’s one of the fastest growing new technologies today, with 35% of Americans older than 16 owning at least one. That’s almost twice as many as 2012.

Multiple Functions with One Device

While smartphones and tablets started as consumer products, they’re quickly transforming the business world. The flexibility of these devices has changed the way we work. Both run on the concept of “the app”—a mobile-enabled software program that allows one device to provide multiple functions. With apps, a smartphone is able to replace a host of other technologies:

  • Cell phone
  • Desktop or laptop computer (for many functions)
  • GPS device
  • Camera
  • Gaming console
  • Pager
  • Video camera,
  • And much more.

Tablets can do many of the same things as smartphones. And with their larger screen size, improved portability, and dead-simple ease of use, many people are beginning to use them exclusively instead of laptops.

Intuitive Hardware and Software

Mobile device designers have focused heavily on improving ease of use, so it’s likely your employees will need minimal training. Many will have already used smartphones and tablets in their personal lives, and increasingly standardized application interfaces mean that lessons learned navigating one app are easily transferable to new ones. You gain these benefits of mobile technology only if you choose devices that support the leading mobile operating systems.

According to research firm IDC, the two leaders, as of November 2013, were Google’s Android OS (81% market share)­­ and Apple’s iOS (12.9%). Windows Phone adoption is growing, but far behind at 3.6% market share.

Improved Bandwidth, Better Access

The explosive growth of mobile technology is being matched by growing bandwidth and better access to it. You can now connect to the Internet, and virtually any business application, from almost anywhere, via Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Improved security features also mean you can safely control access to your data, even when you aren’t in the office.

More Usable Mobility

Mobile technology is a natural fit for maintainers. With smartphones and tablets, you can capture information on the spot—instead of jotting it down on paper to be input later. With hardened cases by companies like Otterbox, Griffin, and LifeProof, you can use devices in dirty, hazardous industrial environments. More choices of screen sizes, too, mean there are models that work well for larger hands—and older eyes.

Using mobile technology in business allows you to access critical information easily without calling back to the office or getting “plugged in.” Imagine your staff being able to do these activities from anywhere:

  • Open, access, and complete work orders
  • Send or upload photographs of failed components
  • View available parts inventory
  • Access historical data on assets
  • Get up-to-the minute alerts and reports
  • Update inventory using barcode scanning and online ordering systems
  • Access maintenance and repair manuals
  • Record locations automatically with a GPS-enabled device.

What Can Mobile Technology Do for You?

The potential and benefits of mobile technology are huge for maintenance professionals. Imagine one application that works wherever you need it to, whether it’s on a desktop computer, a laptop, a smartphone, or a tablet. The combination of mobile devices with CMMS make for a powerful tool to help you get the job done where the maintenance actually happens. 

Don't miss the rest of this series:

Part 1: 11 Trends Shaping Your Workplace

Part 2: Technology Adoption

Part 3: Enter the "Digital Native"

Part 4: Data-Driven Management

Part 5: Mobile Technology

Part 6: Better, Cheaper, Faster

Part 7: Maintenance Software in the Cloud

Part 8: Systems Integration

Part 9: Insourcing versus Outsourcing Analysis

Part 10: Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Part 11: Regulatory Compliance

Part 12: The Internet of Things

Part 13: Riding the Wave of Change

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