Tired of data-logging lags, this engineer built his own mobile-first CMMS

Nov. 13, 2019
In this Big Picture Interview, UpKeep’s Ryan Chan explains how going mobile can reduce input error and win team buy-in.

Ryan Chan is the founder of and CEO at UpKeep Technologies, a mobile-first CMMS software solution with more than 11,000 customers. Chan trained as a chemical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, and took a job in manufacturing. After finding the process for entering repair orders lengthy, slow-moving, and prone to error, he decided to design and code a better solution himself. Plant Services Editor-in-Chief Thomas Wilk had a chance to talk with Chan recently about how plant teams can overcome the challenge of gaining buy-in on a CMMS solution.

PS: You’ve mentioned encountering people in the field who had trouble getting buy-in from the wider maintenance team with the CMMS. Could you share your experience with this problem?

RC: When I was a chemical engineer, I worked in a manufacturing plant where we used one of our competitors’ products, and a huge focus for our manufacturing plant was reducing downtime within our manufacturing lines. So we purchased a CMMS and we said, “OK, this is gonna help reduce downtime.” We then realized that all of the solutions out there were primarily desktop-based, yet the technicians out in the field never sat at their desks.
And so what happened was we had forced a solution onto the entire team. You would see people go out into the field with a piece of paper, clipboard and pencil, taking all their notes. At the tail end of their day, they’d have to come back to the office and retype everything back in, so instead of making their days, lives, and jobs easier, we were actually adding more process, more work to the end of their days. And that ultimately was, I think, one of the core reasons why that implementation failed.

When we talk about getting end-user buy-in, to me, it’s really about, who’s the end user, who’s going to supply the data that goes inside of a CMMS? If we actually make their days, lives, and jobs easier, they’re going to provide the important data and insights that we need to drive business-level decisions.

Big Picture Interview

This article is part of our monthly Big Picture Interview column. Read more interviews from our monthly Big Picture series.

What happened at our plant was that the technicians would go out into the field, they’d take their notes, they’d come back to the office, and then they would fill out their work orders, often literally writing one-liners that said, “Done.” When we went back at the end of that month to analyze the data that went into our CMMS, it was really difficult to draw trends and figure out what’s causing downtime within the plant by analyzing a single line that says, “Done.”
That was the light-bulb moment to me, and we’ve taken a hard stance in this industry that we want be the mobile-first leaders that enable teams to capture the highest-quality data that will give you the insights to drive your business.

PS: Do you find that people are seeking out specifically mobile solutions to get greater buy-in? Or is mobile simply  a natural extension of work, now that so many tools are linked to phones and tablets?

RC: I think the answer is it’s twofold. One is better buy-in, right? Like, we want to push the end users (toward mobile) and make their days, lives, and jobs easier.

The second piece of it comes back to data quality. When there is a double- or triple-entry process, when you have to transcribe things from paper and pencil, and you have to put it into a desktop-based system, you lose information, you lose clarity of data, you lose quality of data as well. When you require and put additional work on the end users, you lose the quality of the data that could be captured.

PS: What comes next once you’ve got the CMMS in place?

RC: What I see of the future is basically low-cost wireless sensors being attached to assets that you typically wouldn’t purchase a full-on SCADA PLC for. The next thing that I see happening is to connect the physical world with the digital world. We’re getting all of this passive data from sensors attached to our equipment and the manufacturing production line. We can match that with what’s actually happening at the people level.

And so when we start to see this fluctuation of vibration and temperature and humidity, we can map that to who actually went out there last. And we can start to overlay the two on top of each other to start drawing trends and ultimately predict failure before it happens. It’s a crawl-walk-run approach, but it’s where I see this industry going. We really see it today.

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