Mobile maintenance – “Keep that newfangled garbage away from me!”

You can’t do anything without a smartphone

This – or something like it – was what some Facilities Services personnel probably mumbled under their breath when we introduced the first system to support mobile maintenance in 2004.

Today, most of the technicians sing a very different tune: “I would have gotten a desk job if I loved paperwork.” The mobile software solution is now fully established and universally appreciated by everyone in the department.

That does not mean that the SAP-based solution has not evolved in its 18 years of operation. On the contrary, employees could initially only use their mobile devices to receive order data, issue notifications and enter time logs; today, the entire order fulfillment process takes place online. Paper is only used in cases where a smartphone or tablet cannot render everything adequately, as with complex circuit diagrams that are needed for maintenance work.

However, our mobile solution offers more benefits for service personnel than just eliminating the need to lug around a physical clipboard. It enables seamless data handling, minimizes manual corrections, avoids cancellations of incorrect bookings, improves data quality and helps invoices get issued faster.

Mobile maintenance entered its second phase in 2017 when the original software was replaced. The new solution offers a host of advantages over its predecessor:

  • The aging old solution supported a limited range of mobile devices. All these limitations are gone with the new operating system-independent application. It supports everything – smartphones, tablets, PCs. Users thus enjoy the kind of user-friendly experience that they have come to expect, including speech recognition and user-guided operation.
  • Facilities Services was thus able to replace all its old mobile devices with industrial-grade smartphones and tablets – which were all thoroughly tested for functionality and practical usability with the technicians’ involvement before they were procured.
  • To implement the backend, an application was developed and deployed that enables users to quickly generate all required forms for test results, logs and other purposes. The technicians can use the forms to process orders, reports and functional locations, enter data on their smartphone using the generated forms and then share the data in the SAP system and a customer portal.

Users assigned a service order by their dispatcher or a direct order by the facility service desk will receive a push message reminder and a data package that contains all the documents that the work requires – and nothing more. Technicians no longer have to laboriously hunt for the maintenance history of equipment that needs service. And the electronic folder only contains the forms that are specifically needed for this equipment and for billing this specific customer – with no risk of confusion.

All these devices obviously possess the same communication functions as a smartphone, including calling, email and a calendar.

They are now used for the following activities in the mobile fulfillment of service and maintenance orders:

  • Status notification based on stage of completion
  • Direct communication with order processing agent by sending status emails
  • Order/notification information provided right on the device
  • Reloading of more detailed technical information/documents on the functional location, etc. as needed
  • Direct time logging in SAP
  • Direct damage/change reports to SAP
  • Indication and reporting of system states
  • Emailing of service reports and maintenance records
  • Logs and checklists
All these actions are done paperlessly regardless of time or place. Users can access the application even when in locations that have no signal such as a basement, elevator shaft or customer building that lacks Wi-Fi. All the data that technicians need to do the work is locally stored on the device along with the order. All the reports and forms are also locally stored and automatically uploaded to the server as soon as the technician exits the “reception black hole”.

Stage of completion

One key aspect of mobile order execution is logging repair times and changes in status. Technicians’ work hours have to be precisely assigned to customers or orders to enable accurate billing. Status changes are incorporated into response and restoration time reports that are prepared to the customer’s specifications. Response times end as soon as a technician changes the status to “in progress”. Then, once the work is done and the technician clicks “completed”, the system calculates the total duration (restoration time), which is also included in the order report. This not only simplifies service level tracking but also makes it easier for technicians to respond quickly to unplanned incidents.

Online customer acknowledgment

All service reports and maintenance documents are then converted to email and/or PDF form for the customer. The customer can acknowledge the work by signing the display or presenting a smart card provided by Infraserv. The signed report and any logs/information are digitally stored on the documentation platform for Facilities Services maintenance and service work or emailed to the customer for its records.

Forms and checklists

The process has been radically simplified by a new application that generates mobile forms as Word documents. The Word forms are loaded into the form software, which lets users enter data in the form input fields on the mobile devices. These 100% audit-proof forms can be populated with SAP master data (functional location name, site, etc.), can write data to SAP (fill amounts, inspection date, technical information, equipment data, etc.) and initiate follow-up actions (create damage and malfunction report in SAP, attach documentation to order/reports).

Once the data has been entered, it is transferred to and stored in backend systems in the form of unstructured documents and files (e.g. PDFs) and structured data records (e.g. measured values). Customers can then directly access the documents in the portals without any need to re-enter the data.

More efficient service processes

There’s no need to make follow-up phone calls or drive back to the office if you have mobile access to the customer history, property details and inventory data. Seamlessly integrating the digital order execution with work scheduling and backend systems optimizes the entire service process across multiple departments. If technicians are then equipped with smart glasses that provide augmented and virtual reality capabilities, service quality can climb to a whole new level.

Maximum satisfaction for all stakeholders

After 18 years of use, it’s clear that mobile maintenance is a success story. At present, 160 skilled workers equipped with mobile devices attend to nearly 2,000 properties with more than 65,000 functional locations. 17,000 maintenance and 19,000 service orders generate 1,200 master data changes per year – all done paperlessly.

Streamlined fault resolution, better service level compliance and virtually error-free documentation reliability are well received: Mobile maintenance benefits all Facilities Services customers with improved security, compliance and equipment availability. The streamlined order administration processes have won over most of the users. And backend staff appreciate the fact that their lives have gotten easier.

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