Top 5 Mobile App Features for Maintenance
Whether you are looking to replace paper-based work orders or upgrade your current Mobile EAM app, you need to consider these 5 features that can make a big difference in app adoption and on-going use by your busy maintenance technicians.
1. Optimized for Small Screens
Using a mobile device or tablet is a very different experience than working with a computer. Information needs to be organized for quick access with the right information displayed to complete a given task. With the complexity of actions related to maintenance work orders, the mobile solution needs to be designed by experts in maintenance processes to ensure users are presented the most relevant data for the task at hand without endless scrolling or opening several windows.
Optimizing for mobile requires that the apps be created specifically for each operating system (Apple iOS or Android). This is called a “native” app. By doing this, the apps work as the user expects therefore shortening the learning curve and increasing user interaction with the app.
In addition, native apps can take full advantage of the device software and features such as accessing the camera or GPS function. A technician can easily snap a picture of an issue to include as part of a new notification without ever leaving the maintenance app.
2. Provides Real-time Data
Real-time data is critical for maintenance efficiency. Some of the largest wastes of time for technicians is travel time, coordination delays, and obtaining tools and materials. You can reduce this with a mobile app that maintains parts inventory and allows for your technicians to provide real-time status for coordination of an emergency repair.
You can also find apps that can “unlock” a work order only when the technician is in proximity of the asset to be inspected to ensure the work is actually completed. There are many use cases to consider where real-time data visibility across the organization can improve coordination and responsiveness. Make sure your mobile app vendor can handle your unique real-time data needs.
Another consideration is data protection. Native apps leverage the mobile device security which is regularly maintained by the OS provider and your Mobile Device Management solution.
3. App Performance
As a mobile user, you have probably experienced apps that crash or freeze, take forever to load, drain your battery or sync at the most inopportune time disrupting your use of the device. Again, look for native apps as they will leverage the device’s processing speed. Plus, as users navigate through a native mobile app, the contents and visual elements are already stored on their phone which means load times are quick.
Your maintenance team needs information fast, whether they are online or offline. In areas of low connectivity, your tech still needs to be able to access manuals and check inventories. A native app can store this information on the mobile device. Look for apps that not only stores the data for the day offline, but stores information like manuals for technician access should they find a new issue while working offline.
4. Seamless Data Sync
Maintenance transactions require the passing of a lot of data. For real-time data visibility to the organization, you need an app that can sync data without disrupting the technician. It takes specific development for maintenance workflows to design an app that can parse the data that is sync’d real-time to handle the volume of data exchange requirements and maintain device responsiveness to the user.
Also consider apps that don’t require the user to remember to sync data after they have been working offline. An app that automatically syncs when connectivity is restored will help keep data current in the master systems.
5. Agile Approach
Your needs are not static, they are constantly changing. You want to take advantage of new digitization opportunities and quickly respond to a new challenge. The pandemic is an example where maintenance routines needed to be modified to address staff safety. New procedures, such as disinfecting tools and equipment, were added to the workload which could be reinforced through the mobile app experiences.
Look for mobile apps that provide the ability to be easily modified without the time and expense for customizations.
What’s the Right Approach to Mobilize Maintenance?
A leading Analyst conducted a survey of EAM functionality satisfaction of Enterprise companies using ERPs such as SAP and IBM Maximo. According to the survey, mobility is one of the top functionalities related to maintenance management that scores low in customer satisfaction.
They go on to explain that mobility is especially challenging for the ERP vendor due to the constantly evolving technology and user expectations based on consumer experiences. Due to these same issues, mobile apps are also difficult for in-house development teams. The Analyst commented that for these reasons, many customers seek third-party solutions from vendors specialized in these technologies.
Not All Mobile Apps are the Same
Don’t assume a provider of Mobile EAM solutions is providing a native mobile app. Most mobile solutions are built from a web application that automatically reformats the screen views to whatever device is used, regardless of operating system. This process makes them inherently less friendly on a small mobile screen, less responsive, and less intuitive for users. In addition, they do not benefit from the device security and easy access to the device features like a native app can.
App Evaluation Checklist:
- How easy is it for a technician to navigate within the app?
- Are all the data fields they need to complete a specific task in one screen?
- Does your work process require the app to include access to device-specific features such as camera, GPS, barcode reader?
- How easy is it to snap a picture and attach to a notification? Can you complete the task from within the app?
- How often is data synced from the mobile to the master database?
- Can the app provide real-time data visibility to the organization for my specific use cases?
- Can the user continue to use the device while the app is syncing?
- What data is available to the technician while offline?
- How is data synced after the technician has been offline? Does it require the technician to initiate the sync process?
- How does the vendor maintain data protection features in the app?
- What is the process to make modifications to the app?
- What is the degree of modifications that can be made without adding costs?
Read the whitepaper, Doing Mobile the Right Way for Plant Maintenance by Bob Dieterle, for more details
on selecting the right mobile features and app development approach for your maintenance organization.
For 20 years, Sigga has honed customers’ SAP asset management and industrial maintenance processes with mobile solutions. Sigga provides mobile solutions for maintenance and warehouse workflows to deliver the full range of benefits of a native app. See Sigga Mobile EAM and Sigga Warehouse and Inventory for more details.