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Transforming Field Automation With Rich, Dynamic Data

The adoption of modern asset performance management (APM) and field service management (FSM) solutions, paired with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that track asset health, offers valuable insights into field technician activity, work orders, asset health and predictable asset management schedules. But these technologies do not show the full picture of what exists and is happening in the field.

Mobile forms apps that specialise in rich, contextual data collection complement and extend the capabilities of FSM and APM field solutions. These fully integrated, no-code apps allow technicians to more reliably handle complex tasks by capturing multimedia data that helps predict asset performance in a sophisticated, dynamic way. The apps also provide more detailed, auditable data to support future decision-making. They are a basis for more efficient interpretation of data, and the streamlining of workflows that rely on it. Some examples include:

  • Populating apps with IoT-collected data to guide technicians through complex processes based on field conditions to improve compliance
  • Using contextual data collected by technicians on-site to augment machine data when scheduling preventative maintenance
  • Adapting APM and FSM systems to unique regional compliance regulations though conditional logic and reactive custom data outputs
  • Bolstering verifiable reporting by capturing high-resolution images, satellite tags, audio recordings and other data within maintenance records
  • Managing a data-capture process with smart conditional logic and features that help technicians capture data easily and effectively
  • Pushing data automatically to stakeholders and cloud systems to streamline reporting and accountability

Equipping technicians in the field with advanced tools for mobile data collection allows them to capture richer data in the field, adding nuance to predictive capabilities found in FSM and APM workflows. This nuance, similar to how IoT sensors have transformed asset management, enables consistent safety, productivity and compliance in the field.

One excellent example of this new era of capabilities is PG&E’s adoption of ProntoForms to improve asset management and compliance. After a disaster in 2010 outside of San Francisco that resulted in 12 deaths and 38 homes destroyed, PG&E was looking for an agile, rapid-to-deploy solution that would help technicians handle gas meter inspections throughout the state of California to meet regulatory compliance. PG&E also sought to augment its technicians’ knowledge of each gas meter and the company’s operational environment. Simplicity and speedy deployment, along with the potential for rich and dynamic data collection, were key requirements to ensure the work could be handled reliably and predictably. The use of data from multiple back-office systems to create more powerful, complete workflows was also important, and supported the goal of having verifiable reporting data to support future audits.

After four years exploring and testing different solutions, PG&E deployed ProntoForms to 1,200 users who performed a variety of tasks, including the inspection of 1.2 million gas meters annually for environmental corrosive wear. The data fed automatically into the company’s legacy back-office system. PG&E quickly realized that the images of gas meters could be cross-referenced with other rich data collected during inspections, such as GPS location data, to help identify and predict wear with assets in their APM. This easy data workflow configuration also allowed regulatory and work complete records to be routed to multiple stakeholders, improving the speed and detail of verifiable reports.

PG&E is just one example of how mobile data capture and augmentation can be of value to organizations with existing FSM and APM solutions. Just as organizations have adopted IoT technology to gather more machine data, they are realizing the value of contextual data available from their field teams. Flexible systems that make clearer the picture of what exists in the field and how technicians operate are the next step on journey towards more thorough, more consistent operations.

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