Field data collection is an essential component for many field workers across multiple industries. Industries such as utilities, survey companies, airports, local governments, and others must always monitor and maintain the health of their assets. Many of these industries have assets spread across large areas, even cities, and countries. Naturally, the manual process of collecting data about every asset is challenging.
As the world gets smaller and connectivity increases, the number of assets also continues to increase, leading to even more complexities around maintaining the health of these assets. Thanks to the advent of mobile- based applications, it is now possible to quickly locate faulty assets at any corner of the world, update their repair and maintenance status over the cloud, and share the data with supervisors sitting in offices hundreds of miles away.
Modern technology, however, did not come into existence overnight. The revolution started with GPS devices that used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to keep track of hard-to-reach assets. There were drawbacks to this method though, and the industry players needed an upgraded technology. These are some of the challenges industries face and how new cloud-based field data collection solutions help overcome them.
CHALLENGES WITH EXISTING METHODS
Asset management requires swift action, proper documentation, and commendable taskforces. Even though most companies try to constantly deliver on all three points, there are huge obstructions caused by the existing methods of handling data. Some of these challenges are so overbearing that they have a direct implication on the revenue of the company. For instance, the first task for any maintenance or
For instance, the first task for any maintenance or repair worker is to locate the asset exactly. Random digging to find assets surely is a primitive way of handling it. Enter GPS devices that point to the location of devices so the workers can follow the correct path. However, once the asset is located, there is no way to send the information to colleagues far away or even save the location for the future.
Once the job is carried out, documentation is a whole other story. Existing paper-based documentation methods cause manual errors in collecting data, missing information, and redundancy of work.
Further, there is often no way to find out which worker had worked on which asset and on what date, leading to a lack of customer satisfaction and legal disputes.
Companies have even tried doing away with manual processes in the field and incorporated mapping tools and workforce management software to reduce errors. These solutions may work well individually, but often do not connect well with each other, leading to more mismanagement and loss of information.
CLOUD-BASED FIELD DATA COLLECTION: BENEFITS
The modern era has seen a rapid proliferation of cloud-based applications in almost all spheres of human activities. The Industry 4.0 revolution promises more of this technology to be used in a wide variety of industrial tasks.
Field data collection has also now emerged as an area where cloud applications can be used to their full potential. Cloud-based field data collection software has multiple benefits for the industry and works to address the challenges previously discussed.
One major advantage of using modern field data collection solutions is the “anytime, anywhere” feature. It means that assets can be located using the software’s mapping features and the location can be stored for future use, while also with an option to instantly share with colleagues.
Further, when a field worker at a remote location enters information about the condition of a particular asset, it can be immediately viewed by the management team sitting in an office in the heart of the city. This kind of software typically has an offline mode, too, allowing a fieldworker who has no cellular coverage to save the data and upload later when the network is back.
Documentation of maintenance work carried out on any asset can be easily updated using mobile-based forms, which means, no more erroneous paper work. Most importantly, supervisors always have a clear view of which worker worked on which job, thanks to the documentation; and how long the job took, thanks to timestamps and photographic evidence.
The “all-in-one” nature of this type of software ensures that all data, including asset information, worker names and maintenance updates, are available in one centralized database. For anyone logging into the software, it is as easy as pulling a report at the end of the day to view job details.
The ability of the software to have geographical information, workforce information, and job docket information all in one place eliminates redundancy, reduces labor conflict, provides easier legal negotiations, and significantly cuts down overall operational costs.
INDUSTRY USES: EXAMPLES
The versatility of cloud-based field data collection software solutions makes them easy to implement in several different industries. Although the technology is fairly new, some players have already launched solutions that are ready to be used in many industries.
Because this kind of software is cloud-based, infrastructure requirements are fairly minimal. They support major mobile operating systems and can be flexibly used in all modern mobile devices, although certain industries could benefit more from using such software.
UTILITIES (INCLUDING TELECOMMUNICATIONS)
Utility companies are most prone to handling asset damage complaints and must always be on their toes to locate and repair a faulty electric cable or a malfunctioning optical fiber.
Whether gas pipeline, electric supply, broadband, or water supply, utility companies must have proper means to act swiftly when it comes to maintaining asset health and assigning workforce efficiently to avoid delays.
Using cloud-based field data collection software helps manage assets from centralized locations and maintain operational uptime at all times.
It is a sign of good governance when the people living within the range of a municipality are happy. Local governments understand that residents are satisfied when everything is in working condition, from streetlights, to hydrants, to roads and pavements.
The timely location of faulty assets and proper documentation of the job done are key areas where a mobile-based field data collection solution can help immensely.
AIRPORTS AND RAILWAYS
As essential modes of transportation, airports and railway lines across the world must be consistently available to maintain their strict schedules. Therefore, the timely maintenance of assets in this industry is crucial and has no place for errors.
Even a minor issue in asset maintenance, repair work, or delay can cause accidents and loss of lives. Thus, this industry relies heavily on field data collection software that is foolproof and “always-on”.
Manual processes of asset location and documentation are quickly becoming a thing of the past, owing to the rapid development of cloudbased environments. Across industries, maintaining asset health now needs to move with a fluidity that makes updating field data easy and discernible.
Managing field data, assigning taskforce, and handling job closures can all be carried out simultaneously within a single cloud-based platform. Using the modern-day, cloud-based field data collection solutions, industries can now get asset maintenance jobs done more efficiently and at lower costs..
Marcus Edwards is Chief Product Officer with PelicanCorp. For more information, visit geolantis.com.