Increasing Insight into Critical Equipment Management with Fugro
Geo-data specialist, Fugro, enlists low-code to rebuild a legacy equipment management system with cloud-native and offline capabilities for greater accessibility
Thousands of businesses break ground on new areas of the earth every year to create critical structures such as railways, airports, skyscrapers, or renewable energy facilities. Every corner of the earth has its own unique makeup, from the chemicals in the soil to the historical natural disasters its seen, which dramatically impacts its readiness for development. In a project’s early stages these organizations will come to Fugro, a leading geo-data specialist with 9,000 employees and €1.5B in annual revenue, who offers expertise in collecting and analyzing information about the Earth’s land and oceans.
Managing projects of this criticality, Fugro is constantly reassessing the software in their arsenal to ensure they’re providing the most efficient service. Any unexpected downtime or inaccuracies in their equipment once in the field is not just risky but could also be incredibly costly. Fugro’s marine characterization line of business was facing challenges with their Equipment Management System (EMS), a legacy application responsible for tracking the status of thousands of pieces of equipment – such as where it is located, whether its certifications are up to date, or if it is in need of repair.
“Before we send out any equipment, our technicians will assemble the individual items and, where necessary, they will plan and perform any maintenance checks and ensure the correct certifications are in place. A systems acceptance test will also be performed before shipping the selected item to a vessel,” explained Leo Plugge, engineer and consultant for Fugro. Responsible for this complex equipment lifecycle, Fugro enlisted EGALiT and Mendix in November 2021 to improve the original EMS, creating a new version of the mission-critical application with low-code.
Modernizing to drive efficiency
Like many enterprises, Fugro relies on global business units such as Innovation, Asset Management, and Fleet Services, to support the operational success of their regional entities.
Director of Asset Management for Marine Site Characterization (MSC), Frank Ruhs, summarized, “In Fugro we have different operating entities around the world, and these entities can rent equipment from us as a central inter-company pool. We build and maintain most of the systems and tools we use within Fugro to acquire vital Geo-data. We then distribute them across the world to support our regional marine projects taking place from various vessels and platforms. Occasionally that equipment gets called back to our workshops for routine maintenance or overhaul, before being shipped back out into the field.”
EMS helps Fugro meet regulatory compliance measures by managing equipment certifications, connecting back-office employees to engineers and maintenance workers out on ships, as well as providing a clean audit trail for external parties such as insurers. As a legacy tool reaching end-of-support with other systems such as Microsoft, Fugro planned to rebuild their EMS system to be:
- Flexible and maintainable in the long-term, working well with the other systems and data sources in the Fugro ecosystem.
- A more intuitive and automated employee experience, reducing dependency on any manual paper processes in the equipment management lifecycle.
- Precise and compliant, better managing data to avoid any discrepancies around equipment status or requirements.
Mark Nauta, Mendix Developer for EGALiT, added, “The Mendix application offers operational efficiency. When you put equipment out on a boat and it sails halfway across the ocean, then you find out that equipment has an issue or isn’t certified, this can set back project timelines and create duplicate work. If you can prevent this from happening even a few times a year, you will significantly reduce downtime and increase operational excellence.”
Prioritizing speed and reliability
Fugro’s adoption of low-code was a proactive solution to bridge the gap between the original EMS end of life and the rollout of a long-term asset management system of record. The chosen platform and partner would be required to:
- Rebuild the existing EMS application to retain the same functionality
- Deploy the application in a cloud-first environment
- Meet stringent enterprise-wide security requirements
“We wanted to make a clone, and that was the reason we chose to use Mendix. It enabled us to recreate what we already had in a cloud-native environment, and provides a solid solution for the next five years,” Ruhs continued. “Our legacy system was running on local servers, and due to the amount of stored data, this resulted in inefficiencies.” Updating to a cloud-based environment offered a new level of speed and productivity which previously would not have been possible.
The team at EGALiT further credited the Mendix security offering as a seamless fit with Fugro’s needs. “Before we started the Fugro project, we had to complete a security assessment which included a huge checklist of certifications. Mendix has almost all the IT security certifications you could imagine. We went through that checklist without any issues even though the list was enormous – 20 pages in Excel – and there wasn’t a single scenario that Mendix didn’t have a solution for,” recounts Nauta.
With their technical requirements met, Fugro and EGALiT began their rebuild of EMS as a low-code application with Mendix.
Improving employee experience
At its core, EMS manages a high level of complexity – 60,000+ rows of equipment with unique data points, 5-6 employee user groups, and hundreds of certification parameters. At Fugro, the user journey through EMS includes:
- Equipment planners, who register new equipment, make sure maintenance is on track, and ensure certification schedules are met
- Mobilization leaders, who create marine projects, assign equipment to them, and make sure requirements are met so that the equipment can be shipped
- Workshop employees, who perform maintenance on an item, confirm when it is complete, and clear it from their queue so it can be brought to a ship
- A logistics team, who prepares the equipment, making sure it is registered on an invoice and then delivered to the vessels
- Operators, people on board the vessels who are managing the equipment once it is at sea
Due to the many groups who work in EMS, a rebuild would ensure that Fugro could make the transition to the new system without extensive user enablement.
“We not only stayed within the required timelines and budget, but we were able to improve on our initial requirements,” said Ruhs. “By rebuilding our EMS, we were able to reflect on our processes and identify key areas that could be refined and enhanced. We now have a system that will bring us even more operational efficiency.”
One experience update to user permissions ensures a double-check in the status change of equipment as a means for better compliance. “You always want to be able to understand the status of your equipment. If the company needs to be audited, it was historically challenging to say where the equipment was or who updated its information. In the new system, there must be two people that sign off on the status of the equipment, so there is a lot more accuracy,” said Nauta of one improvement in the system’s logic.
“Having an offline version on the vessels provides a lot of extra value. Previously, we were sending spreadsheets to vessels, the crew download it, fill it in, and then the spreadsheet is sent back, and the details are manually added to our system. Now, we can remove that manual step,” said Plugge. The new version of EMS on the vessel can operate without connectivity and automatically syncs when the connection is restored. This new ‘offshore module’ provides a tremendous amount of transparency and accuracy to employees, allowing them to view and provide the most up to date equipment information.
Enlisting a partner such as EGALiT allowed Fugro to take advantage of some of the Mendix platform’s latest capabilities around dashboarding. Said Nauta, “I used the new Data Grid 2 functionality, which is still in beta, but the features were too nice not to use. Once I found a way to make it work it became a unique selling point of this project, which I didn’t expect. With the new Data Grid 2, you can hide, sort, and filter on columns, so it gives the user a lot of flexibility. You can also save the view that you made.”
These new dashboards help to collate the thousands of data points a given team may need to stay aware of and make the information actionable by storing the correct documentation in the same place. For instance, the various workshop teams can reference a dashboard displaying equipment, new build, maintenance, and transport dates on a weekly basis. Upon clicking into a piece of equipment, the workshop employee can find a link to the technical specifications in the Technical Documentation Portal. They can also click into a maintenance job and add documents or view historical updates in an audit log within the application.
Making an impact fast
Enhancements of this level were able to be made within the same timelines specified by Fugro. “I’ve typically worked in traditional development platforms, mainly Java. What I’ve seen is that Mendix can be much faster. The application that we built now, could never have been done in any other platform at this speed,” said Nauta.
Fugro’s low-code EMS application was rolled out to their workforce in July 2022. The team is optimistic about the impact for their users and is already reviewing future enhancements to further centralize their equipment management processes.
“The new system is foolproof – team members can jump right in and continue working within the new EMS the same way they have in the past, but with the added benefits of improved speed and offline access. Working with Mendix exceeded our expectations and we look forward to seeing the benefits of the new system,” concluded Ruhs.