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Mobile technology tools enhance work in the field

July 7, 2021
Sheila Kennedy says new mobility tools are designed to be highly configurable, reducing the number of devices users have to carry.

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Streamlining movement, whether in the plant or in the field, offers various operational and business advantages. Contemporary software and technology tools facilitate mobile work, enhance communication, improve safety, and leverage Industry 4.0 capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI). New capabilities are continuously being developed and refined.

Strategic software

Providing mobile technicians with AI’s advanced insights, AI-guided repair instructions, and the ability to collaborate with more experienced technicians can make their jobs easier. Maximo Mobile from IBM puts enterprise asset management (EAM) and the rest of the Maximo Application Suite’s capabilities into the technicians’ hands.

“Imagine the mobile technician having access to a digital twin, which is a digital representation of the physical asset. Also imagine a technician who can view operational data from equipment such as the temperature and how it has fluctuated over the past couple of weeks,” suggests Joe Berti, IBM VP of AI applications. “Technicians who can access more information wherever they need it can get things right the first time more often, which means they can spend far less time on paperwork, traveling to and from sites, and researching problems and likely fixes.”

The Infor EAM Field Work mobile app and Infor EAM Digital Work mobile app are recent additions to the Infor EAM mobile ecosystem. Having had mobile solutions, of some kind, in its applications since the late 1980s, the company has learned that its solutions must have a natural mobile extension that does not require developer-grade resources to implement, says Kevin Price, director of Infor EAM Global Industry & Solution Strategy.

Price believes that solutions must meet users where they work: in the field. Users also must have solutions with the appropriate job element, form, process, and supporting data at their disposal to do their jobs. “They don’t want to carry multiple devices, use dozens of apps, and repeat data entry. And the trick? Solutions must do all of this with high usability and configuration,” he observes.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy

Connected Worker from Parsable is a mobile app and software technology platform that gives industrial frontline workers immediate access to updated standard operating procedures, in-the-moment training materials, and collaboration with experts in real time.

By having this critical information in the palm of their hands, workers no longer have to depend on potentially outdated paper-based work documents and can trust that the information, processes, and policies in the mobile app follow current standards, says Jaime Urquidi, regional VP and CPG lead at Parsable. The work execution data captured by the Parsable mobile app also gives plant managers and directors a more holistic view of their operations to make better decisions that improve productivity, safety, quality, and sustainability.

Productivity technology

Distance and noise are common challenges to good communication for mobile workers and two-way radios are of limited use. The Tufftalk M from Sena Industrial is a wireless headset using Mesh Intercom technology designed with built-in hearing protection and advanced noise control. The over-ear design reduces noise by 24 to 26 decibels.

“Using digital technology, the headsets feature high-definition sound, noise cancellation, and hands-free operation,” says Chris Clarke, industrial communications consultant for Sena Industrial. “They are a modern alternative to radio technology that has been used since the 1970s.”

Spot Enterprise from Boston Dynamics is an agile mobile robot that provides a safe, efficient alternative to humans for performing remote, hazardous, or tedious inspections and data collection. Spot can autonomously navigate most environments that humans can and is particularly useful in places where hazards exist, such as radioactive environments and confined spaces, says Zack Jackowski, VP and general manager of Spot for Boston Dynamics.

“Rather than relying on operator rounds or fixed sensors, Spot can bring the right sensors to the right place at the right time—performing remote data capture, routine inspection, and anomaly detection,” Jackowski explains.

Emergent options

The report titled IDC Innovators: Field Service Management Applications in Manufacturing, 2021 (IDC #US45617620), published by International Data Corporation (IDC) in March 2021, profiles five emerging companies offering solutions to “support remote, contact-less, autonomous, and integrated field service that can be integrated into an enterprise digital structure.”

Aly Pinder, program director for IDC’s Service Innovation and Connected Products research, asserts that “Innovative technology vendors will be needed to take manufacturers from largely home-grown solutions to more advanced scalable tools.”

This story originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or www.linkedin.com/in/kennedysheila.

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