Mobile CMMS Software
UserView | 2014
The jobs of maintenance managers and technicians require them to be out in the field, interacting with machinery, vehicles and clients. A mobile computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help facilitate this by allowing employees to track assets and manage work orders easily from any location.
We surveyed mobile CMMS users to learn about the benefits and pain points they experience when using this technology in order to inform potential buyers’ purchasing decisions. This report will also explore the most important functions of these systems, and which device(s) may lead to the greatest increase in efficiency for maintenance professionals.
We first surveyed respondents to learn which devices they use to access mobile CMMS solutions, and found that 44 percent use a tablet, while 35 percent use a smartphone. Another 21 percent reported using their CMMS on both of these devices.
Marc Castel, CEO of Fiix (a provider of Web-based enterprise asset management and CMMS solutions), says the type of interface and the “form factor”—meaning the size and shape of a device—helps explain these results. While many apps are optimized for certain types of devices, if a mobile CMMS interface has the same functionality as the desktop version, a tablet generally allows for easier use because it has a larger screen.
“A smartphone can be hard to operate all the time,” he notes.
Some companies even provide maintenance technicians with ruggedized tablets for work, which could lead to the greater prevalence of tablet use. In fact, Gartner predicts that tablet enterprise sales will continue to increase, and account for 35 percent of total tablet sales worldwide by 2015.
Another important factor in interpreting this data, Castel says, is the work role of the CMMS user: Those in management positions are more likely to use a desktop CMMS along with (occasionally) a smartphone, whereas field technicians most likely use a tablet because they require full functionality regardless of their location.
Since companies almost always have more lower-level workers—such as technicians—than managers, and technicians are more likely to use tablets, our results likely reflect an average company’s tablet usage.
We next looked at what users expected a mobile CMMS to offer. Forty percent said the most important requirement is to provide real-time data across all devices used to access the system, while 32 percent cited the necessity of a simple user interface. Another 28 percent said they want a mobile system with the same functionality as the full-fledged desktop version.
A major benefit of Web-based CMMS software and mobile capabilities is access to real-time data. For maintenance workers, this can save time and boost efficiency, as data entered on a mobile device out in the field is immediately reflected in the system back at company headquarters.
Previous Software Advice research found that many CMMS systems on the market today offer similar functionality to one another. Given this, says John Rimer, a facility management consultant with FM360 Consulting, the systems that are easiest to understand tend to be chosen most often. Thus, a simple interface (whether on a desktop or mobile device) that makes navigation clear and easy is paramount to many software users.
When asked how the ability to access a mobile CMMS has impacted their efficiency, a significant portion of respondents (43 percent) said it has improved significantly. Another 28 percent said they’ve seen a “moderate increase” in efficiency as a result of using this software.
Conversely, 16 percent experienced only a “minimal increase” in efficiency, while 13 percent reported “no impact” on their efficiency at all.
According to Castel, these results are best explained by breaking down the age groups of users, as different age groups both prefer and excel at using different work methods.
“Maintenance personnel are not data-entry people,” he says, adding that the median age of maintenance technicians and managers in the U.S. is 50 years. He notes that, in many traditional work order management processes, paperwork orders are created in the field and taken back to the office—where a different employee enters data manually in a desktop CMMS.
As we see in the age breakdown above, older maintenance personnel accustomed to traditional work order management processes could account for those who report little or no increase in efficiency when using a mobile CMMS. The younger age groups, however, have largely grown up with this kind of technology, and are thus more likely to use it efficiently and recognize its benefits, Castel says.
“Mobile is very new in this industry, and is not the de facto way to do things,” he notes. In fact, according to data Castel pulled from a random sample of 5,000 Fiix users, 97 percent of the software’s CMMS activity is performed on desktop computers.
Breaking down the impact on efficiency by the type of device used, the greatest increase in efficiency was reported by users who accessed their CMMS on a tablet: 65 percent noted a “significant increase.”
Many of those using a smartphone saw a “moderate increase” in efficiency (41 percent), while those using both devices reported the greatest percentages of “minimal” and “no increase” responses (24 and 33 percent, respectively).
Since, as mentioned above, field technicians prefer to access their CMMS on tablets, they are likely the ones reporting the greatest increases in efficiency.
When asked to choose the most common benefit of mobile CMMS, the greatest percentage of respondents (42 percent) cited improved work order tracking. Another 21 percent cited the ability to make more informed decisions, while 20 percent pointed to an increase in overall productivity.
Lastly, 17 percent said the top benefit was reduced asset downtime—meaning the software helps maximize the amount of time that critical machinery or vehicles spend in use.
Castel also found that work order management was one of the most-used functions among his sample. The increase in the availability of Web-based software and mobile solutions has given technicians much simpler, quicker ways to manage work orders from the field, and many maintenance professionals are experiencing these benefits today.
Of the main CMMS functions, one-quarter of respondents said they use inventory tracking most often. This was followed closely by the 24 percent who reported most commonly using preventative maintenance functions, which help companies track scheduled maintenance to avoid issues.
Castel says that mobile CMMSs still aren’t as commonly used as desktop versions, and that many of the first maintenance-oriented mobile applications were not designed with a full set of CMMS features.
“The first forays into mobile maintenance were concerned with reconciliation of inventory, so some of the earlier apps have mostly inventory-based functions,” he explains.
Today, however, more native apps replicating a full CMMS experience are available, if not yet widely used. And according to our data, the demand is growing: Many of those who mentioned the importance of full mobile functionality are likely to have recently upgraded (or be looking to upgrade) from a single-featured mobile CMMS.
Given that most respondents in our sample cited inventory tracking as the top mobile CMMS function, however, it’s likely that a significant portion of our sample may be using older, inventory-based mobile maintenance applications. It may well be that full-functioned mobile CMMSs simply aren’t in widespread use among most companies at this time.
Our research indicates that few maintenance management employees are currently taking advantage of mobile CMMSs. However, these systems can bring increased efficiency through inventory and asset tracking capabilities—so as younger, more tech-savvy professionals increasingly fill maintenance management roles, we can likely expect an increase in mobile CMMS adoption rates.
When evaluating mobile CMMS systems, buyers should consider exactly how mobile use could benefit their business, and which employees will be using this technology: managers or technicians. Tablets have the best form function for technicians in the field, but managers, who don’t need mobile access quite as often, may be able to get by with only their smartphones.
To find the data in this report, we conducted a four-day online survey of six questions, and gathered 170 responses from randomly selected mobile CMMS users within the United States. All survey questionnaires undergo an internal peer review process to ensure clarity in wording.
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