In this 3-part series, we have been covering strategies for maintenance operations teams to avoid pilot purgatory based on the PPT framework (People-Process-Technology). Just a reminder, pilot purgatory is about getting stalled in the pilot or testing phase of new technology, and therefore not able to show results and scale the deployment. So far, we have covered People and Processes. This is the last article in our series and the focus is on how to choose and implement the right technology for effective change management to avoid pilot purgatory.
- Select the Right Project
- Centralize and Improve Data Capture
- Consider User Experience (UX) Design
- Evaluate Integration Technologies
The Role of Technology in Effective Change Management
Not all technological solutions are equal. Some digital work management systems offer a great return on investment in a short time. In contrast, others can keep you in a state of limbo, or pilot purgatory, where your digital transformation for your industrial maintenance department is never fully realised. Consider these 4 technology issues that hinder the execution of new digital technologies.
Technology Issues that Result in Pilot Purgatory
1) Bad Data
- Do you have important data sitting in excel spreadsheets and databases on someone’s hard drive?
- Are you able to analyse your past work orders to determine how long to schedule a corrective maintenance task?
- Do you know the root cause of asset failures?
- Is your staff working around your work order system, like SAP EAM because it is tedious to update?
These are just some of the data issues that can hinder progress in your industrial maintenance automation initiative.
A petrochemical plant in South Africa initiated an investigation on why work orders were not being completed on their first attempt. They deeply analysed their data in SAP EAM and found 1100 reason codes for a job to fail. When they went to search on the word “part”, they found over 300 reasons that pointed to the fact that parts were not available to complete the repair. They didn’t realise the extent of their issues because the data was not structured for easy analysis. As a result, they wasted hundreds of hours on dispatching technicians to jobs they could not complete and lost thousands of hours of production capacity due to the resulting downtime.
In this webinar, Rafael Padilha, Director for Reliability and Continuous Improvement at Ingredion, described his challenge when he started at Ingredion. The different factory sites were not following the same approach in data structure in terms of enterprise asset management and the staff were not maintaining SAP EAM. Each group had their own workarounds since SAP was difficult. Also, the staff did not understand the value of updating SAP in order to be able to identify the losses precisely and plan maintenance accordingly.
These examples highlight the challenge of having good data to feed an end-to-end digital workflow.
Yes, bad data is a process issue, but it is also an issue that technology can help solve. The old processes were likely working around limitations of the legacy systems to easily capture, structure and maintain data fidelity. Therefore, one of the first steps in an industrial maintenance automation project is to evaluate the data quality and completeness in the master databases, like SAP EAM, and then where else does the data reside? Then, consider which workflows to digitally transform first such as those that inherently will solve these issues. Plus evaluate which solution choices solve your root causes of bad data.
2) Poor User Experience
Poorly designed technology can hinder adoption and use. If really bad, users will find a workaround which can quickly eat away at the productivity gains expected from the new digital workflow. If doing the work, the old way, is much faster than using the software, then you really know there is a problem.
User experience can be an issue with the way the software works – are the steps intuitive to complete a task? This can be especially an issue with a mobile app. Can key process steps be clearly viewed on the small screen? Does the app work intuitively like other mobile apps? Is the app usable offline? Can the technician use the app when it is syncing when back online? Is the app slow or unresponsive? Mobile Loading Time studies show that 16 percent of mobile users would abandon a page if it didn't load within 1-5 seconds. Thirty percent would do the same after 6-10 seconds.
We live in a world where there is little patience for technology performance issues and even the most promising new digital app won’t gain adoption if the app is hard to learn and use.
According to Eric Schreiner in the article, Why User Experience (UX) is the centrepiece of digital transformation, “Mobile app development is a completely different beast than building web or desktop applications - and that goes double for mobile UX. Many organisations fail to bring in the right talent and subsequently see their projects flounder.”
3) Lack of Performance and Scalability
A new digital technology needs to be integrated with legacy systems like SAP EAM to fully deliver the promise of end-to-end visibility and control. Yet, “common challenges associated with legacy technologies [include] bolt on reporting and analytics tools that are connected via a rats next of custom integrations, inflexible integration structure, and limited data flow visibility between systems and applications,” according to Adam Hughes in this article for Cleo: How to Integrate Legacy Systems and Modern SaaS Applications Without Disruption.
As a result, many digital transformations get stalled with the integration process with the company legacy infrastructure. The problem is exacerbated when there are multiple instances of SAP EAM cloud and on-premise versions that you might find in sites of large, global enterprise companies. This issue could even halt scaling across work teams and company sites resulting in getting stuck in the pilot phase of implementation.
The standard integrations to connect to SAP can also be an issue. Typical SAP integrations, commonly used by software developers, were not designed for managing a high volume of users and data transactions as you would find with a mobile application for maintenance work orders. As a result, a mobile maintenance app can have performance issues that disrupt the user experience and cause data transfer errors. All of this leads to poor solution adoption and technical inability to scale.
To properly undergo digital reinvention in industrial maintenance, you must consider digital solutions that can meet your both your usability requirements and integration performance for scalability.
How to Escape Pilot Purgatory Through Technology
Your team is constantly on the go therefore you need the right solution to help them stay on top of maintenance schedules and inventory. Your goal in this industrial automation initiative is to gain productivity and cost savings. And with real-time information about every asset, you can also increase asset efficiency, maximise uptime, and reduce ownership costs. Here are some effective change management tips to drive success:
1) Select the Right Project
Select the right set of processes to digitally transform – starting with the central, day-to-day workflows. Automating core routines and providing mobile devices establishes an end-to-end digital workflow that delivers big productivity improvements while setting a foundation of data quality, visibility, and progress with staffing on the digital learning curve.
According to a McKinsey report, A smarter way to digitise maintenance and reliability, April 2021,
“The most successful digital maintenance and reliability implementations share three common characteristics:
1) These companies…build digital technologies into a clearly defined vision for the future.
2) They focus on two domains…predictive maintenance and digital work management.
3)They…ensure the necessary enablers are in place, including optimised workflows, a robust data infrastructure, and the capabilities of their personnel.”
These domains represent a wide swath of key processes for maintenance and reliability from initial planning through day-to-day work execution and close-out. As a result, “the implementation of digital and mobile solutions on top of the companies ERP system can lead to cost reductions
of 15 to 30%,” according to McKinsey.
Pursue digital work management processes to lay the foundation for further industrial maintenance automation projects such as asset monitoring. Automated alerts and notifications can then be fed into an established end-to-end digital workflow to take full advantage of these predictive technologies.
2) Centralize and Improve Data Capture
Fix the capture of data, data quality and data storage problems. Close down the siloes of databases and spreadsheets as much as possible to gain the full benefit of organisation-wide central data visibility for insights and effective collaboration from the companies ERP system.
- Best-in-Class manufacturers are 73% more likely to store manufacturing data in a centralised repository. Aberdeen
- Companies were 2.6x more successful in digital transformation implemented digital tools to make information more accessible across the organisation. McKinsey
Central Data Storage
For many companies, SAP ERP is the de facto destination for master data. But SAP is known to have gaps in important information needed to effectively plan and schedule maintenance such as tracking of workforce availability, qualifications, and skills for assignment to tasks and creating schedules. It is also known as not user-friendly therefore limiting access to select, trained individuals to update and maintain the data records.
Don’t try to work around the SAP ERP system, choose digital and mobile technologies that address these limitations while faithfully maintaining SAP EAM with the data needed for organisational visibility such as work order status and OEE tracking.
Look for software solutions that are designed to fully integrate and respect SAP business rules including supporting key processes to maintain data quality in SAP such as resolving data conflicts. Some solutions can overcome the tedious process of updating individual records one-by-one with mass updates resulting in improved data accuracy and completeness while increasing staff productivity.
Utilise the capabilities of digital and mobile solutions to drive consistent structure and capture of information. A mobile solution for example can include drop down menus to select a problem type from a list when a technician is creating a notification. Minimising open text inputs into the systems with structured inputs enables the root cause analysis of reliability issues. Consider mobile solutions that support the creation of forms to add unique company lists and requirements plus support future needs as new digital technologies, like condition monitoring sensors are added for predictive maintenance.
3) Consider User Experience (UX) Design
For successful adoption of new workflows, it is critical that the software or mobile app is created carefully to best practice UX design. The functionality needs to be intuitively navigated and for mobile platforms, this means that it should work like any commonly used app on an Android or Apple iOS platform. As Eric Schreiner noted in the article, Why User Experience (UX) is the centrepiece of digital transformation, “It's a simple fact of life for mobile developers: If your audience can't easily use your software, they won't use it at all.”
Look for a software vendor experienced in mobile application development. In addition, select apps that are natively built within the operating system of the mobile device. Native mobile apps will utilise the conventions of the operating system to work like any other app. They can also:
- store data on the phone to be available for offline use
- provide full access to the mobile device features such as camera, GPS, and QR codes
- leverage the mobile device security which is regularly maintained by the OS provider and your Mobile Device Management solution provider
Consider your workflows and capabilities you may want in support of safety, compliance, or data capture. For example, you may want an app 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. Easily integrating GPS or Beacon data is one feature, customizing workflows without the need to hire developers is another.
Further productivity considerations include app sync performance and whether it can be running in the background allowing continued use by the staff during the process. Plus, whether the app syncs automatically or does the staff need to remember to sync after working offline. Keeping data digital and visible at all times in the master systems is key to overall organisation productivity.
4) Evaluate Integration Technologies
Software integration with legacy systems like SAP ERP is a critical step in successfully executing and scaling a new digital automation or mobile software solution. Integrating with SAP is known to be difficult and requires expertise even if the solution utilises out-of-the-box SAP integrations.
Select a solution vendor who is a certified SAP Partner and evaluate their years of experience in successful integrations with SAP. Consider your scaling and future needs, do you need a vendor experienced in scaling across multiple sites and instances of SAP? Is their software SAP certified?
When it comes to integration performance, look for vendors who actively address the limitations of standard, out-of-the box SAP integrations. Consider software and app speed when dealing with data intensive workflows such as maintenance work order processes in larger maintenance organisations. In addition, consider how the solution can reduce and resolve data conflict issues with SAP such as flagging duplicate entries from distributed work orders.
Sigga – Your EAM Certified SAP Partner
Here at Sigga, we have 20 years of experience in helping asset-intensive industries transform their core industrial maintenance processes with automation and mobile solutions. Our company started as a professional services firm, helping enterprise clients with SAP EAM. We saw the need for specialised digital solutions that would maintain SAP while significantly improving the day-to-day workflows of the maintenance staff.
As a result, we offer a planning and scheduling solution that automates many of the routines required for a proactive preventive maintenance program. The solution fills the gaps in SAP EAM data including tracking workforce availability, qualifications, and skills for assignment to specific maintenance tasks. The solution also captures asset downtime calendars and automatically checks parts availability including vendor turnaround time on parts orders in order to create actionable maintenance schedules. With the SAP EAM mass update feature, Sigga Planning and Scheduling saves hours of tedious data entry each week.
Our Mobile EAM app connects the user directly with SAP EAM with an intuitive interface and has been proven through adoption by thousands of users as exemplified in these success cases. It is a native app to provide the best user experience and security. The app includes a feature to add mobile forms to support the structuring and capturing of data while feeding the data real-time into SAP. Technicians have full access to manuals and work instructions while offline and the app auto-syncs when they have connectivity again.
All of our solutions deliver high performance when in use by thousands of users accessing a high volume of data due to our unique SAP integration engine. Our integration method is proven to overcome the performance challenges of standard SAP integrations.
Learn more about Sigga and our technologies for SAP EAM.