Software enhancements and advanced technologies are changing the face of work management. From planning and scheduling to execution and analytics, innovative approaches are replacing legacy systems and staid processes. Further augmenting the transformation are tools such as mobility, wearables, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and augmented reality (AR).
This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.
Work planning, scheduling, and dispatch capabilities are undergoing modernization. “We are seeing a keen interest in what we call assisted scheduling and assisted service,” says Amit Jain, senior vice president of products at ServiceMax, a provider of field service management (FSM) software. For example, ServiceMax Service Board can suggest an optimal schedule based on multiple ranked criteria, freeing the dispatcher to tweak the schedule and handle exceptions.
For technicians using the ServiceMax Go mobile app, actions can be triggered based on a geo-fence, such as automatically logging when they arrive on site. This saves time and manual work, allowing them to focus on the task at hand and keeping equipment up and running, adds Jain.
Connected reliability and mobility involves aggregating inputs from multiple sources and making it readily accessible to mobile workers. “It’s the 2020s, and companies should know everything their assets are telling them,” explains Kevin Clark, vice president at Fluke Reliability.
To get the full picture, Clark suggests combining data from SCADA/PLC systems with sensor-driven condition monitoring and machine alignment data to optimize workflows and maximize the return on asset management (EAM/CMMS) software investments. He asserts that Fluke Reliability tools and software “offer the most complete asset data-capture strategy today – providing insights that enable maintenance leaders to make the right decisions and take the right actions at the right time.”
Accruent eliminates maintenance and engineering information silos to improve work management. Its integrated Maintenance Connection CMMS and Meridian engineering document management solution allows technicians to access technical documents about assets directly from the work orders, saving time and improving safety and regulatory compliance.
This capability offers “complete visibility into the full asset lifecycle,” explains Nathan Eichelberger, senior vice president of manufacturing solutions at Accruent. “By being able to access key data points like up-to-date engineering documentation or complete asset maintenance history, organizations can make informed decisions that positively impact uptime while also providing a fully auditable trail of actions, updates, and changes.”
Mobile work processes for existing warehouse management systems (WMS) are improved with new, integrated workflow software and wearables. Pairing Zebra Technologies’ HD4000 head-mounted display and FulfillmentEdge workflow software can reduce training time for operators by 90 percent, allowing for near-instant onboarding, says Mark Wheeler, the company’s director of supply chain solutions. “The technology provides very clean ergonomics, eliminating wasted motion to see work instructions,” he explains.
By combining the HD4000 with the RS5100 wireless single-finger ring scanner, workers can easily scan as often as needed for accuracy and data capture. “The end result is that operators are more productive than ever and highly accurate, with little training required,” Wheeler adds.
Ask Steve, a new AI reporting chatbot from Eagle Technology, is offered as an add-on to Eagle’s CMMS package to enable self-service data analytics. “Organizations focus on reliability and uptime to remain competitive. EAM/CMMS solutions contain significant amounts of data relating to their efforts and incidents over many years,” observes Harry Kohal, vice president of business development at Eagle Technology.
Mining this data with Ask Steve, Eagle’s natural language chatbot developed in conjunction with a team from the University of Wisconsin, provides such insight using AI and ML. The maintenance manager can “Ask Steve” questions and get instant answers and insights from the data. “The results can be reviewed in detail, graphed, charted, and further analyzed,” says Kohal.
AR-based training tools help users learn to conduct their work more consistently and efficiently. For example, AR of floor plans enables technicians and factory workers to visualize where their assets are on the plant floor, says Ryan Chan, CEO of UpKeep Maintenance Management, a provider of mobile-first CMMS software.
“Most of today’s technology on the shop floor is not about automation, per se, but human enablement and empowerment,” suggests Chan. “I’d argue that the world and era of technology we’re in today is still primarily human driven. Over the next decade, I believe technology to empower the shop floor worker will be much more impactful than robotics that aim to completely replace the shop floor worker.”