Mobile Apps for Planning and Design to Enhance Asset Management

Blog Mobile Use Case

Mobile apps for Work Orders and Rounds are among the more common used by field technicians to increase employee productivity and asset/plant maintenance.  An equally interesting area where a mobile app can be very useful is in the upfront Planning and Design process.

For complex maintenance and construction tasks, the technicians have to go onsite and survey the site, take measurements, estimate the components needed for repair, and supporting equipment like ladders or scaffolding.  Today, most of this work is done on paper leading to errors, duplicate data entry, time delays, and increased downtime.  These inefficiencies can be eliminated by a mobile application that can help with the following:

The technician can download the Work Order authorizing the Design/Planning activity.  The notification can be attached to the work order.  The worker can take pictures with the mobile device’s camera so that the work execution can be facilitated.  The estimates of time, material, tools, and equipment needed can be captured on the mobile device, and sent to SAP or any other backend system instantly from the field. Workflow can be enabled so that the manager approves the Planning tasks.  User guides and standard operating procedures can be accessed from corporate portals like Microsoft SharePoint that help the worker make accurate estimates leading to increased compliance and safety.

As we have conversations with customers around Mobile Enterprise Asset Management, we find that a Planning/Design mobile app can solve an important pain problem.  Combined with Rounds, Work Orders, Inventory Manager, the Planning app completes the portfolio for keeping plants and equipment running smoothly.

Mobilizing your Manufacturing Plant

Blog Mobile Use Case

Lately, I have been discussing with several manufacturing companies the Roadmap they have for mobilizing their manufacturing plants. It is very common even today, when we find mobility ubiquitous, that manufacturing plants are still using paper and manual processes. There is a tremendous opportunity to build mobile applications that will give worker in the plant or the warehouse access to real time information to increase their productivity. Here are some ideas:

Maintenance: Plants have lots of equipment that needs to be kept running to ensure plant uptime and production. There are also regulations and compliance needs that call for preventive maintenance. And, yes, when a part is broken, it needs to be fixed. One Use Case that is Perfect for mobile apps is Inspections.

Inspections:Workers have to inspect equipment sometimes, daily, weekly, monthly etc. They need to record the measuring points. If measurements are out of range, alerts need to be sent. Trends need to be captured and charts viewed to detect problems before the equipment breaks down. If repairs are needed, notifications need to be created. Data needs to be exchanged with backend systems like SAP Plant Maintenance, Maximo, Oracle, and others.

Repair: When the worker is out there in the plant doing repairs, he or she needs to check the Bill of Material, identify and locate spare parts, look up Operating Procedures, and enter their time and material so that the costs can be captured against the work order or equipment. All this is a perfect scenario to introduce mobile applications to empower the maintenance worker.

In the past, plants have used technology for mobile data entry. They have used scanners with small screens that are very user unfriendly. The presence of tablets that can be ruggedized present another opportunity for manufacturing companies to refresh their mobile initiatives, and benefit from this golden era of mobility.

Mobile Use Cases: Straight From the Field

Blog Mobile Use Case

In this blog, I would like to share some real world scenarios where companies can deploy mobile applications to increase customer engagement and employee productivity:

1. Public Sector: State and Federal agencies can deploy mobile applications to serve their citizens better. For example, state agencies can make the Unemployment Insurance Benefits process much more effective using mobile apps. Unemployed persons can get access to information that will help them claim their benefits. They also need to validate that they are actively seeking work and could enter the information related to their job applications from their mobile device. Status of claims could be checked anytime anywhere from mobile devices. The state agency could use analytics to gain insights on adoption of the mobile app by the citizens, and improve their service. From a technology standpoint, this would require a mobile web based application and be able to cover the multitude of popular smart phones, tablets, and operating systems, and data security would need to be ensured.

2. Utilities: Utilities can deploy mobile apps on both the Retail and the Generation front. On the Retail side, with de-regulation in many states in the US, there is fierce competition for consumers. In Texas alone, there are over 20 retail electricity providers. Many of them have already adopted a mobile-social strategy. Typically, there are sales people going from door to door selling electricity and associated products. Imagine a sales rep going out there with the ability to map out her route using Google or Apple Maps, retrieve all data related to the prospect, check the latest pricing, present the contract and capture the customer signature–all using their mobile phone or tablet. The sales process would be significantly enhanced.

Now, on the generation front, mobile applications are ideal to improve asset management and field service. We have mobilized these processes for a large Oil and Gas company in the Middle East that runs SAP. RFID tags and integration with Plant Maintenance modules gave the field technician real time acces to notifications, work orders, and the ability to enter time and material spent on repairs. No need for paper based proceses.

Let me know if you found these ideas interesting.

5 things to consider for a Mobile Direct Store Delivery Implementation

Blog Lessons Learnt Mobile Use Case Viewpoint

Direct Store Delivery

Direct Store Delivery (DSD) is method of selling or distributing products for variety of industries like Food, Beverage, Personal Care, etc. SAP offers a full-fledged module on DSD part of SAP ECC/ERP. DSD has tight integration to SAP SD, MM, FI & Logistics. This makes it one of the preferred solutions across the world which meets most of the requirements of customers’ out-of-the-box. SAP also offers a mobility offering as an optional module for customers who like to avoid the manual paper based approach. There are a few considerations when implementing Mobile DSD in an enterprise.

1. Is the current business process good enough to implement SAP DSD
SAP DSD has some key considerations to get the best results in implementations. These are things like usage of Bill of Material (BOM), Empties management, Single Sales Area for each route. Without these you may be required to limit yourself to some features SAP DSD provides out-of-the-box or have to do custom development to achieve those.

2. Mobile DSD or Paper based DSD
Over the last 6-8 years, there is a lot of demand for mobilizing the DSD process in enterprises. Mobilization completely takes away the manual effort of entering vital order/delivery, cash collection, stock & money checkout, check-in. Customers can be issued with real-time legal invoices with electronic signature capture, PODs, cash receipts etc. at the customer site itself. Mobilization leads to on-the-fly determination of promotions, seasonal discounts which are powerful features of an ERP like SAP ECC. In a summary – faster sales & logistics execution and eliminate pilferage completely.

3. Which scenarios are meant to be driven via Mobile DSD
SAP DSD supports Delivery Driver, Van Sales, Pre-Sales & Mixed scenarios. In an ideal situation keeping a single Mobile DSD solution for all these scenarios give the best benefits and hence ROI. Many times there is an overlap in-term of functions the workforce can perform. Integrating customer, product surveys and checklists has huge advantages to captures vital information at field via same sales workforce. Integration of some field service functions is also a key.

4. A right technology platform to Mobilize DSD
While mobilization is a key in reaping the benefits of a DSD, it’s very important to choose the right platform to enable mobilization. The key parameters are: scalability, multiple device type with native support, offline capability, high volume data handling in the mobile devices, roles/group management, a platform for instant alerting and notifications, geo capabilities, central device administration & remote trouble shooting, seamless online-offline capability of device software.

5. A right device to mobilize DSD
This is a very important decision in an implementation. Typically the thumb-rule is to leverage existing device hardware to run MDSD on it because there is a big cost factor associated to the hardware. Especially in a MDSD world a ruggedized form of device is considered, which mush more expensive than a non-ruggedized device is. In an enterprise where devices have to be acquired, you will end up with a few choices today. For a delivery driver usage scenario, a ruggedized device needs to be considered. Here the choice is either an enterprise ready Windows Mobile based device or an Android device. Even though Windows Mobile is considered to be outdated, it still has an edge over android in-terms of enterprise readiness and easy available peripheral integrations like barcode scanning and printing. Android on the other hand could be giving the better results in terms of application software usability experience. Even custom ruggedized android tablet hardware is an interesting option. For non-delivery driver scenarios, there is plethora of choices today; from iPhone to Windows Phone and tablets. Here the cost of the device would be a primary criteria and a Blackberry device could a good choice as many enterprises have plenty of blackberries rolled out to these workforces and hence it’s all about reusing the existing hardware.

Note: This blog also appeared as a guest blog on Enterprise Mobile Strategies.

Mobile DSD – A requirement

Blog Lessons Learnt Mobile Use Case Viewpoint

In a world of fast changing tastes and instant gratification, my can of favorite beverage had better be on the shelf. If not, the retailer and supplier will have lost a loyal customer. Direct Store Delivery (DSD) is a vital process that brings foods and beverages to the shelf. Mobilizing the DSD process makes the supply chain much more efficient, and ensures that the shopping experience is a pleasant one. In the world of enterprise mobility, mobile DSD is not a luxury—it is a must have.

While SAP and other companies have solutions for DSD, the Mobile DSD (MDSD) area remains ripe for innovation. During our implementations of DSD and MDSD Solutions, customers have shared with us valuable feedback. The usability of MDSD solutions can be improved to enhance sales and productivity of the delivery drivers. The User Interface can be simplified for data entry and screen navigation. In many cases, there is a need to re-engineer the process flow to meet our clients’ needs.

One area to improve is in Sales Order creation. Immediate Sales Order replication to SAP can trigger the follow up leading to faster order fulfillment. Another area to improve is Customer Surveys. During the store visit, the supplier personnel collect customer data via surveys. This survey data can be integrated with CRM systems like SAP CRM, which can be fed into BW and analytics can be utilized to make better decisions.

Another insight from our customers is that it would be good to integrate the MDSD application with Asset Maintenance/Plant Maintenance systems to create and access Notifications. Many times, the drivers are doing multiple things —taking orders, merchandising as well as conducting maintenance and repairs on a variety of assets the supplier has deployed at the retailers – think refrigerators as an example.

Some customers have unique requirements for mobilizing DSD, and only a custom MDSD solution will work. In these cases, we utilize our domain expertise and deliver a custom MDSD solution. We also give our customers the option of either an on-premise or in the cloud solution.

Mobile DSD in conjunction with DSD has benefits for both the CP (consumer products) manufacturer and the retailer. The supplier can better monitor demand on the shelf, be more responsive, and better control merchandising and promotions. New products can be introduced better and innovations increase. The retailer in turn benefits from lower capital outlays and always having fast moving items in stock.

So the next time you grab that beverage, thank the process that enables you to quench your thirst – Mobile DSD.

Note: This blog also appeared as a guest blog on Enterprise Mobile Strategies.