Mobility is a hot topic these days. Clearly, we have entered “the mobile age” and a lot of companies are offering mobility solutions that can generate significant benefits for asset lifecycle management (ALM) programs. ARC has prepared various reports on mobility opportunities in ALM and we recommend that every organization consider how they can exploit the many exciting developments in this area.
Mobility is the ability to move around. In today’s parlance, mobility generally refers to the ability for people to accomplish certain tasks while they are moving about. Likewise, mobile technology generally refers to enablers of this kind of mobility and it comes in many forms, like cell phones, laptop computers, and smartphones which support different mobile needs (verbal communication, email, text messaging, full application support, etc.).
Mobile technologies can improve the productivity of a lot of people involved with ALM. Whether they are building or operating facilities, supervisors and craftsmen are constantly on the move, so the ability to communicate, access information and initiate actions from the field can save significant time and money. These benefits are well known and many asset-intensive organizations already use some mobile technologies. But the need for ruggedized equipment and safe, secure networks has made this costly. Benefits have also been constrained by limited mobile application software. The new explosion in mobility solutions is broadening the landscape of mobile devices and mobile software and we are hopeful that this will remove some of these barriers and expand the benefits asset-intensive organizations receive from their ALM mobility investments.
Immobility is not a term that you normally hear. If you do, it is probably the villain in some mobility story. But the fact is that ALM is primarily about immobile things, like facilities, systems and fixed equipment. Since they don’t move, people have to go to them to install, inspect, operate and resolve problems, which is the primary reason why mobility of people is such an important ALM issue and why improving the productivity of mobile workers generates strong benefits. But reducing the need for workers to be mobile is an equally valid strategy, and this may have even more impact as it addresses the root cause of productivity problems.
The benefits of directly addressing asset immobility are at least as good as those for mobility. If people don’t have to go to the assets they can save even more time and make even faster decisions. And, the technologies needed for this are already available and proven. Condition monitoring equipment is available for sensing many kinds of variables, in most environments, and this information can be brought to central locations through wired or wireless networks. This can significantly reduce the need for inspection rounds and unnecessary PMs. The use of more automation and video surveillance equipment to enable remote operation and adjustments has analogous benefits.
Obviously, these kinds of investments can’t completely eliminate the need for workers to travel to physical assets. On-premise activities, like repairs and installation of new equipment, will always be needed and when they are, productivity will be enhanced if the organization has invested in good human mobility solutions. But, smart organizations will balance their investments in these two areas to minimize the need for mobility and maximize productivity when it is required.