Why are mobile applications becoming increasingly important for industry? Why invest in them? According to experts, on-the-go apps promise to boost safety, as well as a firm’s productivity.
Hicham Dhouibi contributed to this report.
United Utilities supplies two billion liters of water to 2.9 million UK households, businesses and organizations every day. To do so, it must maintain the integrity of 40,000 kilometers of water mains. Fixing leaks is part of the firm’s strategy for conserving water, complying with legislation and managing operational costs. By 2012, United realized its paper-based leak reporting system was insufficient.
Using software from WorkMobile, company fieldworkers are now able to file real-time reports of leaks and defects using a handheld device. A central team can act quickly on the information, which includes a 12-digit leak site grid reference automatically generated by the integrated GPS technology. The system has delivered quicker and more accurate reporting, saving water by reducing leak run-time, the company says.
Combined with Internet of Things data, mobile apps promise to be a boon to industrial productivity far beyond leak control. Most sectors are seeing the benefits of putting more information in the hands of mobile engineers and maintenance workers. For example, a joint report from Accenture and the World Economic Forum indicates that 57% of oil and gas industry companies are investing in mobile devices, while 31% expect to do so in the next three to five years.
“The growing sophistication of platforms, as well as mobility, surveillance, connectivity and storage technologies, coupled with the ability to process data rapidly, enhance agility and support real-time decision making and execution. The major benefits of this integration include workflow improvements from better group communication, increased worker productivity and better recording of field data.”
Industrial operations requiring workers to enter hazardous environments can be improved by the application of mobile technologies, says Iain Mackay, chief operating officer at Petrotechnics, a consultancy and software provider for oil, gas and other industries.
“When you send people into hazardous environments, you want them to be as effective as possible and in there for the shortest time possible to minimize risk.”
Facilitating Human Intervention
One advantage of mobile apps is that they provide engineers with information from a wide range of sources before they enter these environments. For Mackay,
“If you have a breakdown on a gas compressor that requires human intervention, an engineer cannot just wander into the field and fix it. They need to know the relative state of processes, environment and equipment around them.”
Pulling information together on a mobile app is much more efficient than the onerous process of supplying a paper copy, according to Mackay.
“Engineers have it when they get to a facility. They get the essential safety steps, a history of similar work, a breakdown history of the component and a real-time overview of the asset integrity. This is where what is in the app becomes real practice.”
And it’s not only industries with dangerous or challenging maintenance environments that could benefit. Investing in mobile devices, apps, and the requisite back-end software will offer advantages wherever field access to data from multiple sources, including remote sensors and historical records, can improve operations. In years to come, this will be the norm. But those entering the game now will have a head start.