Web enabled; mobile computing; browser interfaced. These terms can mean much the same thing and are very inter-related when discussing an enterprise asset management (EAM) system. All provide the opportunity to connect and communicate using the Internet and/or company Intranet.
For example, your department has just been issued a new tool. You've unpacked it, started reading the instructions on how to use it, and cannot figure it out. This tool, of course, has an asset number. Instead of calling the manufacturer or wasting more time trying to figure it out, you simply go to your computer and enter the asset number, going to notes. Good news—your facility in the U.K. also has one of these items. They have put in the notes how they got it working in their plant.
Perhaps, instead, you are interested in transferring parts from one facility to another as they are needed. In a pinch, you can find out who has the item you need and instantly issue a transfer request online. At a click of a mouse, you can quickly determine which machines are your most costly to maintain.
Browser interfaces becoming mandatory
Utilizing the Internet is a logical extension of an EAM/CMMS system and the way most modern systems are being and will be implemented. Web-enabling means all applications, including work orders, inventory, purchasing, shop floor, dispatch, and other modules and functions, can be accessed via the Internet from anywhere, including all plants and any virtual office that has a phone plug. And, if you have a wireless unit, you do not even need the plug. Mobile computing becomes a reality. Handheld units become Web browsers with which to access an EAM/CMMS system.
Instead of having software physically available in each facility, the application resides in one centralized location. From their PCs, laptops, or even personal digital assistants, maintenance managers and technicians can enter and transmit work order requests, determine work order status, e-mail operational reports, and view approved work orders. They can check on inventory status, dispatch parts, create purchase orders, and keep maintenance procedures flowing on the Internet.
When distribution of software is browser-interfaced, users can obtain software upgrades faster. No longer are updates loaded locally. All downloads go to one centralized server, alleviating IT personnel from having to upgrade every computer. At once, everybody is updated. This saves considerable time and assures everyone is working off the same page at all times.
As importantly, the hardware budget will shrink. To make people more efficient, main hardware purchases will be of the mobile computing variety, not infrastructure. That is because the Internet is the backbone of the system, not the innumerable clients, servers, and network interfaces that make up the spinal columns of the client/server systems. Hardware is bought to empower workers, not upgrade networks.
Unencumbered by all that hardware, the speed of the browser-interface system is faster, as fast as Internet delivery. Since the Web is platform independent, nobody cares if you or others on the system are using a Palm, AS/400, PC, or any other platform type or brand name. You can even access your EAM from home on your family's iMac.
Once browser-based, an organization can go from being plant-centric to enterprise-centric. It can optimize inventory, minimize downtime, maximize productivity, and make faster, more intelligent decisions. The company's database can be searched for information about each and every asset. Maintenance engineers can find out what others have done to solve problems they are facing now.
With organizations wanting to optimize every aspect of their operations, maintenance professionals now are being recognized as keys to increased profits. With quick time-to-benefit and payback, browser-based EAM/CMMS provides the tools to become the chief financial officer's best friend. MT