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Mobile Plant Maintenance

Smart Solutions Trend: Plant Maintenance Goes Mobile with Industry 4.0

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Yet this time, things are expected to change. The enormous pace of development and the advantages of connected field devices could make mobile solutions attractive in industries which so far have been reluctant to embrace the technology. Experts claim that tablets will become a standard item in the maintenance crew toolkit, taking their place right next to the wrenches.

However, just because the description and images of handhelds in glossy brochures make a nice impression on potential customers does not mean the technology will automatically turn into a big seller. “The question is whether the introduction of mobile systems is driven by technical possibilities or by organizational changes,” explaines Uwe Sahl, Senior Manager at management consultants T.A. Cook. “To make real progress, you need more than just technology. The value-add only exceeds the roll-out costs if the technology fits logically into the organizational structure."

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Can Mobile Solutions Really Bring Benefits?

Whether mobile applications actually bring benefits depends primarily on the structure and type of company involved. When employees work on their own in a distributed organization, the effects will become more readily apparent than in highly centralized corporation.

Typical applications of mobile solutions include employees downloading work instructions and checklists or accessing the company’s central knowledge base or for feedback, documentation and management. Whatever the case, the basic task in most cases is information transfer. Thus, the question is how can information be provided in an intelligent manner? How do you share employee expertise within the company?

Three Success Criteria

Experts cite three basic prerequisites that are vital to the success of mobile maintenance solutions: technical usability, motivation and reduction to the essentials. Just because the technology is available does not necessarily mean that it is suitable, reports Sahl. “Just think of the standard notebook display. It may work well inside a building, but once you get it outside in the bright sunlight you can hardly read it.” And that incidentally is just one very trivial example, said the T.A.-Cook consultant.

He emphasised that any technology has to be suitable for field use. Otherwise even the best smartphone is useless. Splash protection, readability, the ability to operate the devices wearing gloves and explosion protection certification must be verified before an order is placed.

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