The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world economy almost to a standstill as all non-essential industries are closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Though essential industries are allowed to run operations, they must implement social distancing and understaffing to ensure occupational safety.
The agriculture industry is likely the most important industry of all. If it halts operations, the world will starve. However, the coronavirus prevention measures are posing productivity and operational challenges in the agriculture industry. The time has come for companies in the industry to optimize operations to overcome business risks during COVID-19 and crises to come in the future. Though they are already using SAP systems for resource planning and management, agriculture companies highly rely on paper-based processes that result in inefficiencies and lost productivity across business operations.
Maintenance is a key influencer in farm and farm product processing operations, including infrastructure and heavy machinery such as open bulkheads, conveyors, elevators, augers, and stackers. Maintenance operations running on legacy systems and paper-based processes prove to be error-prone and inefficient. For the agriculture industry to survive this crisis, unscheduled downtime is never an option. So, decision makers should take decisive steps to adopt technology to optimize maintenance operations.
Challenges with paper-based maintenance operations
Agricultural tasks, such as plowing, planting, threshing and winnowing, are weather-dependent. Weather runs on its own schedule. Unreliable equipment can delay these tasks, negatively impacting productivity. Too many agricultural operations track equipment maintenance and repair orders via paper forms. The major challenges with paper-based maintenance processes are:
1. Lack of visibility
Maintenance technicians must spend a lot of time traveling to check on far-flung equipment and machinery. Supervisors have no way of knowing the status of work being performed or its outcome until paper reports are turned in or manually uploaded into the back-office system, such as SAP.
2. High administrative costs
Entering this data requires a lot of time and effort into a system that’s not user-friendly or intuitive.
3. Low-value data
Once these reports are uploaded, the data they provide is often of low value and gives little insight into current operating status.4. Reactive maintenance
Without timely information, agricultural companies struggle with implementing an effective preventative maintenance optimization strategy that will enable it to reduce failures and downtime.5. Occupational safety
Several researches have reported that paper acts as a coronavirus carrier as the virus can be alive on paper for several hours. When an infected worker hands over paper to a maintenance technician, he not only transfers the work order but also the virus. Thus, paper-based processes make workers in agricultural companies more susceptible to COVID-19.
A highly agile, responsive and dynamic mobile technology platform to strengthen resilience against COVID-19
Mobile technology in maintenance operations enables better data capture and increases tool time. This technology ought to be easy to use and accessible by maintenance tradespersons in every discipline (electrical, mechanical, diesel, civil).
However, not all mobile technologies are equal. It’s critical your organization invests in a mobile technology platform that’s highly adaptable to your unique workflows. In addition, any platform needs to be responsive to dynamic health and safety regulations instantly, without involving your IT teams.
Innovapptive offers a mobile-first work-order management and work execution solution called mWorkOrder that helps agriculture companies manage operational risks in a time of crisis. The mWorkOrder mobile solution is powered by a patented, “code-free” platform that allows you to immediately respond to business and regulation changes almost. It empowers maintenance workers to work safely, productively and independently. The solution can be integrated with PDA (Personal Digital Assistants) such as smartphones, tablets, wearables, and barcode scanners.
mWorkOrder offers many competitive advantages to agriculture enterprises. Seven of them are:
- Portability – A worker equipped with a PDA like a smartphone, tablet, or scanner can go virtually anywhere within a company, even to far-flung, remote sites, and still be productive at any time. The employee can digitally collect and transfer valuable information without ever having to fill out a paper form or a spreadsheet. A good mobile solution will even enable data collection in offline mode, syncing up when a Wi-Fi connection is restored. Finally, a field technician doesn’t need to return to headquarters or a field-office to receive work instructions or to update supervisors on job progress. Managers can electronically issue work orders, prioritize tasks and review job status via desktop or mobile dashboards.
- Productivity – Tied to portability is productivity. Mobility reduces the time spent on things other than measurable work. For example, it’s estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of a craftsperson’s time is wasted on non-productive effort. Only 25-35 percent is devoted to actual wrench time. That means in an eight-hour day a craftsperson is doing less than two hours and 45 minutes of the work expected. The remaining time is spent preparing, transitioning or waiting for instructions, materials and equipment. Mobility reduces that wasted idle time. Workers can spend more time doing and less time waiting, improving wrench time and productivity while reducing costs and duplicated efforts.
- Ease of use – Manually inputting field data into SAP can be a difficult, time-consuming chore for agricultural companies. Various surveys have discovered that only a quarter of the surveyed frontline employees felt SAP was easy to use in their role. Nearly half responded it was either difficult or exceedingly difficult to use SAP. About 60 percent of the staff took from between one and five hours to input data into SAP each week. One-in-five took longer than five hours per week. A mobile-first solution cuts down on the administrative task of inputting data into SAP. Instead, data is electronically collected in the field using handheld devices and automatically relayed to managers and supervisors via SAP to desktop dashboards.
- Data accuracy – Accessible, reliable information is at the heart of any successful preventative maintenance program. Data inaccuracy is most keenly felt in field inspections. Paper-based, unstructured inspections, disconnected from a system of record like SAP, can create data integrity issues around asset risks, threats and failure. A mobile-first solution increases data accuracy and confidence as information is collected directly in the field by field-staff and relayed in real-time back to decision-makers. There is no need to decipher bad handwriting, no searching for missing sheets or forms, no binders to file or carry.
- Collaboration – Mobility provides greater connectivity at every level of an enterprise. This eliminates troublesome information silos and approval bottlenecks. Data is shared freely and is more accessible. No one is operating in the dark or making uneducated guesses. Instead, data is verified in the field and shared in real-time, providing greater visibility into operations and giving everyone a clear picture of where the company stands at that moment. Now groups can better work together. They can spot trends, identify problems, devise solutions and drive operational efficiencies enterprise wide, not just in their specific area.
- Real-time problems/real-time solutions – With mobile devices and digital checklists, technicians can perform faster, more-thorough operator rounds and inspections. These checklists can be immediately reviewed by key decision makers via dashboards. This gives maintenance managers, planners and directors the real-time data they need to spot minor problems before they turn into serious ones that cause unplanned and expensive shutdowns. Preventative maintenance teams can now extend asset life. No more reactively running the equipment to failure, which could result in costly replacement rather than repair.
- Prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases; - Mobile technology replaces paper, which is a carrier of many viruses. PDAs and digital checklists enable workers to receive work orders even without visiting the administration building or meeting people. This empowers new social distancing norms and ensures occupational safety in the agriculture sector.
To learn more about how Innovapptive and mWorkOrder can help your agriculture company eliminate paper, increase data accuracy, improve wrench time and implement a proactive maintenance strategy, schedule a free demo today by calling 844-464-6668 or by clicking here.