The Why, How, and What of Digital Transformation in Maintenance

At Mendix FSM, it’s important we keep up to date with the challenges maintenance executives face so that we can continue to design solutions to meet their needs.

Our latest roundtable lunch in Rotterdam attracted leaders from The Netherlands and Belgium. We discussed three hot topics in the world of maintenance and Field Service Management (FSM) digital transformation: Growing despite talent shortages, maintaining competitive differentiation in a digital world, and the progression from data-driven to predictive maintenance.

1. Why Digital: Growth despite talent shortages

Skills shortages and a tight labor market are constraining the growth of many companies. All at the table were engaged in digitally transforming manual maintenance processes, like reporting, both to free technician time for more valuable work and to assimilate the data more efficiently into their FSM digital whole. But that’s not all.

With sufficient data about an asset and information on the maintenance task, work allocation amongst engineers can be optimized, based on say engineers’ locations, level, and nature of expertise. Additionally, engineers can often complete jobs more easily and swiftly if equipped in advance with work order execution insights (such as diagnostics, a history of work on the asset, digital manuals, scripted procedures, and likely tool requirements). It was agreed that strong work order execution insights, combined with good management, can free many organizations to add a lower tier of engineers to the workforce; people able to perform standard hands-on tasks guided by these insights. This widens the talent pool, easing recruitment and supporting growth.

The table agreed that digital transformation of maintenance management is a necessity for most firms. In particular, outsourced field service management firms have much to gain, many struggling to recruit fast enough to meet a significant increase in demand for their services.

2. How Digital: Buy? Or buy and adapt?

It was agreed there are two common routes today to field service and maintenance management digital transformation. Buy a commercial off-the-shelf package (COTS), or buy a solution designed to be adaptable to your specific needs. COTS sounds easy and supports core needs, but customization is limited. It imposes standard ways of working, forcing you to drop your unique value-added approaches. If maintenance management is a core part of your business and your processes are a competitive advantage, then COTS could be a poor choice.

The opinion at the table was that while COTS is difficult to customize, the more recent era of low-code as a rapid application development environment has brought to market very adaptable solutions. These provide basic FSM and maintenance functionality out-of-the-box, combined with the freedom to build custom capabilities on top — and thus retain your uniqueness. All of our guests had experienced low-code and had found it allowed incredible flexibility. Their organization’s developers and/or partners build and add new functionality quickly. What might have taken them months to define and code using traditional development languages, took days to create in low-code. The table found that their use of low-code, adaptive solutions had allowed them to implement and run FSM basics quickly, then incorporate their unique business processes in the coming weeks and months.

One of our guests, an FSM as-a-service provider, explained that each of their customers’ operations is different, necessitating slightly different FSM processes for each one. Only by taking a low-code-based FSM solution and adapting it customer-by-customer could the provider meet clients’ needs.

3. What Digital: Progressing from data-driven to predictive maintenance

We asked participants’ views on moving from scheduled and data-driven asset maintenance to predictive maintenance. It was apparent that while for data-driven maintenance, organizations collect huge volumes of asset data (sensors on everything) few firms actually collect the right data at sufficient granularity or quality or over a sufficient time scale for predictive maintenance to be reliable. Hence, for now, all agreed that predictive maintenance is an aspiration for the future rather than a reality today. We agreed that when the time comes, low-code-based maintenance solutions and analytics would be the way forward, being easy and fast to adapt for whatever uses you might want to put your asset data.

The table concluded that their firms gain (or will soon gain) significant benefits from FSM digital transformation in terms of both operational efficiency and freedom to grow. It was also agreed low-code-based rapid application development solutions beat COTS wherever your FSM and maintenance operation has unique processes contributing to a competitive advantage. Nobody felt that predictive asset maintenance was within their reach short-term, but all imagined exploring it further, a year or two down the line.

Invitation: How to Choose Between Rapid Application Development Platforms

September 8th, 2022, Rotterdam

Join logistics firm Mammoet, IT consultancy Atos and starch manufacturer Royal Avebe to discuss how they use low-code-based applications in field service and maintenance management and in other aspects of their businesses. Be our guest at this exclusive round table for just 20 leaders. Discuss your challenges and needs and learn how to choose and navigate between different rapid application development platforms and low-code-based solutions. Reserve your spot today!