Mobility for Asset Owners & Operators: Buzzword, Trend, or Essential?

Mobility for Asset Owners & Operators: Buzzword, Trend, or Essential?

The critical infrastructure industry appears to have a common problem: mobility. Whether I’m sifting through my inbox, chatting at a conference, or catching up on industry news, everyone wants to know what it means, why they should care, and what they can do about it.

Mobility has a range of possible meanings and applications to asset owners and their field service teams. It can be a game-changer when utilised correctly. If you’re unsure how to implement mobility or you’re currently putting the mobilisation of your workforce on hold, you’re missing out. Workforce mobility drives key improvements across productivity, operational costs, and business processes.


What is Workforce Mobility?

So, what exactly is “mobility” in the context of asset owners and operators?

Let’s start with the basic definition.

Mobility: /məʊˈbɪləti/


the ability to move or be moved freely and easily.

While assets themselves cannot be moved freely and easily, their field services team can be. The ability to move about freely to perform field maintenance or repair tasks has become an imperative cog in the machinery of asset management.

This means empowering your team to access what they need when they need it; online, offline, or underground. Strengthening the connection and collaboration between field and office teams to support this mobility then increases the accuracy, safety, and speed of works. By accessing and updating asset information in real-time, you gain a more comprehensive understanding of an asset’s condition and can optimise the asset lifecycle.


The Consequences of an Immobile Workforce:

We’ve had the ability to monitor aspects of asset usage through SCADA and other operational software for years. This has allowed asset maintenance planners to capture details on the usage of part, or all, of an asset in order to develop effective maintenance programs. Today, IoT sensors are delivering all kinds of big data to asset owners and operators. Great stuff, isn’t it?

However, while we’ve embraced digital transformation across a range of business processes, field service teams and third-party contractors have been left behind.

The field teams who support asset O&M have, predominantly, been paper-driven. They get their jobs and tasks on a clipboard or in pigeonholes. They get in their trucks and head out to site with a tray full bits and pieces – grease, oil, a range of tools – and complete the jobs they’re given. When they get back, the documents are handed back in. Maybe they’re covered in muck, or missing information, or never returned at all.

Now, let’s add in those third party specialist providers that also deliver services to you. They get copies of your information, or maybe a copy of a copy. They complete their work, and maybe never return the original document. Or, they return you a copy of a copy, only for it to get lost in a pile of papers on an overflowing desk.

These outdated, inefficient processes, and unreliable paper trails, are slowing your entire operation.


The Secret to Mobility Success:

If a Maintenance Planner can’t get the correct details from the field when they need it, they can’t match their plan to keep the asset operating for as long as possible. So, how can they keep ahead of the curve?

To reduce asset operation costs, regain control of unused data, and boost productivity, you need to truly connect the office to the field through digital solutions.

The great news is you’ve got options. A range of solutions have been purpose-built for workforce mobility, and continue to be optimised. So, it’s a matter pinpointing the right solution for your unique organisation and team.


Device Options:

Some solutions have form-driven or screen-driven menus for the field service teams to follow and complete, and others have fancy proprietary tablet devices with the software hardcoded on them.

While hardcoded devices may seem like an all-in-one quick fix, they also include a standardised pre-defined scope/model. This means you’ll need to change your workflows and processes to fit their mold; a change-management red flag. Overhauling too many systems and processes at once, across all levels of your business, is a recipe for low adoption, resistance from your workforce, and the death of your tech project. You’re creating more disconnection and inefficiencies than before.


Software Options:

Mobility for field service teams – or any team, as a matter of fact – should provide the users the ability to use their own, familiar device.


Or, if the company is providing it, a mainstream iOS or Android. Using new software on a familiar device minimises costs and reduces the barrier to adoption, making it easier and faster to learn the new system.


What to Look For:

It’s also important that the software itself can be configured to match your own processes, workflows, and HSE requirements. It needs to be equally user-friendly for all stakeholders. To quickly validate if you’re on the right track with your solution, check the forms function. Are the forms quick and simple to complete? Not just for someone sitting down at a desktop, but for a worker using a stylus or wearing a glove on-site?

What kind of data or media can the platform capture? You should be able to capture and store all formats in one location.

It’s essential that you can invite team members to access the correct drawings and documents in real-time, so they have the latest information needed to complete work quickly, safely, and correctly. This means accessible online, offline, or even underground.

If you are looking into mobility for your field teams, drop me a line at I’ll be more than happy to help you work through your needs so you can truly enable your field service staff to add value to your asset management chain.


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