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Organizations with distributed fixed assets face tough maintenance challenges, and it's easy to understand why: the farther things are apart, the harder it is to hold everything together. But unlike older paper- and spreadsheet-based methods, modern work order software backed by cloud computing and mobile apps can move organizations closer to their asset reliability and availability goals. 

Before looking at industries with a lot of distributed assets, it's important to remember that every maintenance team can benefit from modern equipment maintenance software, including ones at facilities where assets are packed tightly together. 

Work order software helps when assets are close together 

Quick example: a technician needs to work on three identical pumps, no more than a few feet apart. The first one has a calendar-based lubrication preventive maintenance task. The second, a visual inspection triggered by a meter-based PM. One of the other technicians on the team noticed the third pump making a strange whine, so they submitted a maintenance request, which then got approved, generating a new on-demand work order. In some ways, it's easier to work on them just because they're close together. Less walking between the work orders is one of the obvious advantages. 

There are less obvious advantages, too. Remember, all three pumps are identical and close together, and that means the technician needs a fast, accurate way of figuring out which is which. The last thing they want to do is perform the wrong tasks on the wrong pumps. With barcode scanning, they can use the camera built into their mobile device to quickly access comprehensive information on each of the pumps, including serial numbers and digital images of ID tags. 

Work order software helps when assets are far apart 

When the distances between assets grow, new problems appear in the spaces between them, according to this recent report.  And this is true across industries, for organizations of all sizes. Everything from state-run, country-wide power transmission grids to a local ice cream shop franchisee with three locations across the city. Wind farms turbines and telecommunications towers. Elevators and white goods.

Let's look at the challenges space creates and the ways modern work order software fills in the gaps left by older paper- and spreadsheet-based maintenance management methods. 

Keep an ear to the ground with work order software request portals 

When assets are distributed, there's often few or even no one there to watch over them. Think of the average wind turbine out in a field or pump deep in an offshore oil rig. With the maintenance team spread out over a large area, many assets can go for long stretches without anyone from maintenance even looking at them in passing. So, when something go wrong with an asset, you need a way for operators to reach out and tell you about it right away. 

Think about it this way: Unlike in a smaller facility with a maintenance department office that everyone knows about, people can't just head over and try to catch you at your desk. When assets are spread out, so is the maintenance crew, so people need an efficient way of contacting you no matter how far away.

The open request portal makes it easy for anyone in the organization to reach out to the maintenance team. Accessible online, it comes with predetermined data fields to ensure you get the information you need to evaluate and prioritize work properly. When an asset is down, the last thing you need is for people to waste time trying to track down your phone number or email address. And even if they can find it, you know the emails they send and the voice messages they leave are often incomplete, leaving you unsure about even the most basic facts about the problem. 

Stay ahead of the maintenance curve with work order software PM scheduling 

Preventive maintenance software is critical when assets are spread out. For every unscheduled breakdown, you now have to add the time it takes for it to be noticed and the time it takes someone from the maintenance crew to arrive. They could be anywhere from across down to the other side of the county. When unscheduled downtime suddenly has long travel time added on, you need to avoid it at all costs. 

A program of regular inspections and preventive maintenance tasks ensures you find small issues before they have a chance to develop into big problems. It's just like the old saying about health: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Adding lubricant and switching out the belts on a regular schedule is a lot cheaper than replacing entire assets.

And it's not just the money you save by extending asset life cycles and avoiding costly unscheduled downtime. When you know the schedule in advance, you can have the right people, parts, and materials where you need them, when you need them. It always costs less money to pay regular wages than overtime and to pay regular shipping rates than express.

Move in straight lines with work order software associated parts and materials 

You know that feeling when you're just about to get in the car to go somewhere, and you realize you forgot your phone? Even though it's the exact same distance you just covered, somehow it feels like it takes you a lot longer to walk back to the house.

With distributed fixed assets, arriving without the right parts and materials really does create long delays. Industries with distributed assets tend to be highly regulated and have large penalties for downtime, which means maintenance teams can't waste time showing up unprepared. Techs need to plan ahead, and inventory control software ensures they can.

It starts with how much information you can easily include in work orders. Unlike with older systems, where you're limited by how much you can scribble on a sheet of paper or cram into a spreadsheet cell, modern work orders have everyone technicians need to arrive prepared and close out efficiently, including: 

  • Comprehensive asset data 
  • Step-by-step instructions 
  • Customizable checklists 
  • Interactive site maps and floor plans 
  • Digital images, schematics, O&M manuals, and warranties 
  • Associated parts and materials 

That last one means techs know what they need before heading out to the asset. They arrive prepared, ready to work. 

Reposition resources with work order software mobile app push notifications

No matter how well you prepare, there are going to be times when assets breakdown unexpectedly, and you need to change your plans while on the go. With older methods, you're left scrambling to find a way to reach out and let your team know they need to move to a new location. With a modern mobile maintenance app, it's much easier to get a tech's attention and get them moving where you need them. 

Maintenance apps live right on mobile devices, allowing them to tie in directly with built-in features and existing software. For example, a good maintenance app can access the camera, allowing techs to upload images to work orders directly.

When you need to contact a tech, you can use the software to send a push notification. Just like when you get a text message, the mobile device chirps or vibrates and displays a message across the screen. When the tech taps on the screen, the app quickly brings them to the new on-demand work order. There's no more waiting for techs to check in. 

Next steps 

When maintaining distributed fixed assets, you need work order software that makes it easy to start with the right information all the way to finishing with consistent work. If you're looking for a CMMS or you have one already but it's failing to live up to what you were promised, your next step is to reach out and start talking with solution providers. There's no other way to get from where you are now to where you want to be. 

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About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis started out writing for textbooks before branching out to video games and marketing collateral. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in technical writing.