GIS Blog Series – Part 5: Inability to Provide Asset Data as well as Spatial Data to a Mobile Workforce

This is number five in a series of blogs designed to address Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in conjunction with SAP. We will do this by addressing the most important customer challenges.

For those who are sufficiently long-in-the-tooth, think back to a time before smart phones…before GPS…before mobile maps. 

In those days a cross-country trek, a trip to a neighboring state, or even a short drive to a new location nearby required careful planning and preparation.  Even with printed maps and notes, it was still very common to become lost and then need to stop and ask a local for directions.  The whole process was difficult, error-prone, and stressful.

Many present-day maintenance technicians and engineers still live in this world.  In the office, they have access to their SAP EAM tools, and they have access to their GIS, but out in the field they may not have either.  This leads to challenges that impact their ability to inspect and repair assets:

CHALLENGE

SCENARIO

“What asset am I looking at?” Worker is next to an asset, but does not know which one it is.  There might be a label or name plate attached to the asset, but those can be destroyed or damaged over time.
“What work needs to be done on the asset in front of me?” Worker is next to an asset, but does not know what work is needed.
“What work has been done here in the past?” Worker does not know what work has been done on the assets at their location.
“What other assets are nearby that I can work on, while I’m here?” Worker does work on one asset and wants to know if there are others nearby that require inspection, maintenance, or repair.
“The asset I’m looking for is missing!” Worker has an assignment to inspect or maintain an asset, but can’t find it in the field.
“There is an asset here I wasn’t expecting!” Worker finds an asset in the field that is not present at that location according to the system.

Through the adoption of a mobile work management platform that pulls data directly from integrated SAP and GIS systems, we can help our maintenance engineers with these challenges. 

A mobile solution that pulls data from SAP and GIS, and lets users enter and update data, modernizes and empowers maintenance workers.  Their challenges are now addressable:

CHALLENGE

SOLUTIONS USING MOBILE SAP & GIS

“What asset am I looking at?” User can look at a mobile map view where assets are identified and labelled.  Reference layers in the map can help the user confirm the asset.  (e.g., “The railway signal at the end of this bridge is the one I want.”)
“What work needs to be done on the asset in front of me?” User can view Work Orders and Notifications for the asset on the mobile device.
“What work has been done here in the past?” User can view work history for the asset / location on the mobile device.
“What other assets are nearby that I can work on, while I’m here?” User can access a list of nearby assets and check for any inspection, maintenance, or repair tasks needed.
“The asset I’m looking for is missing!” User can make an update to the asset record on the mobile device to tell the back office that it is missing.  Back-Office can then investigate and correct the data.
“There is an asset here I wasn’t expecting!” User can create the asset on a map view at the correct location, enter in any available data, and send to the back office to trigger creation of a new asset record.

In addition to enabling and empowering the field engineer to complete work, an integrated SAP-GIS mobile solution, such as SAP Work Manager, can also increase data quality.  Cases where the real world layout of assets differs from the system representation can be identified, documented, and corrected.  For example, if a storm knocks over a utility pole, a new one may be stood up, but possibly in a slightly different location.  A field worker at that location can note the actual assets and positions right on a map view in the mobile app, and push those updates back to SAP and GIS. Then, through a fully-automated or user-controlled process, the corrected data can be updated in the system.

Mobile GIS-SAP applications like SAP Work Manager can assist with the connectivity challenges faced in the field through offline and synching capabilities. These applications have an offline store local to the device and can transmit data back and forth between backend systems. This enables a more robust mobile solution that can handle working underground, extreme weather conditions, device issues, etc. 

Data from the backend system can be sent to the device while the user is online and stored on it.  The user can access that data, even while offline, to see maps, assets, and work required.  While offline, data entered by the user is stored on the device.  When the user is back online he or she can perform a sync to send updates to the back-end system.  The user gains the benefits of having geospatial asset information in the field without requiring a continuous connection to the back-end systems.

So, whether it’s data flowing out to the field, or in from the field, we can see that providing asset and spatial data through mobile solutions fully realizes the power of SAP-GIS integration.  Assets in the real world can be matched with assets in the systems for efficient and effective management.

 

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