Mobile Applications For Inventory Management, Data Collection And Workflow

Mobile Asset Tracking, Equipment Maintenance Using Smartphones And QR Codes

How QR codes, smartphones and mobile forms help keep your asset and equipment maintenance records in order, increase assets useful life.

CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Software) and Barcode Scanning

CMMS is a type of software that helps businesses keep track of their assets and manage assets service and maintenance. Assets in this case can be anything from equipment to facilities to vehicles. As other business productivity software, CMMS is evolving from locally hosted to web based and to CMMS mobile apps. In fact, maintenance management is an area that benefits most from the mobile software: after all, maintenance work is always done outside of the office, away from the office computers. Ability to look up information quickly, as well as record service or maintenance work on your mobile device is far superior to filling out paper forms and then retyping information into the computer.

In order to look up or record relevant information an employee who conducts maintenance work in the field needs to have a mobile device which is capable of:

  1. Displaying information

  2. Accepting user input and transmitting it to the computer where CMMS is installed

  3. Scanning barcodes to identify the asset

Until recently, the only devices that could be used were mobile computers with proprietary software - something that only large companies could afford. QR codes and mobile technology are changing this, allowing companies of any size to increase productivity of their maintenance operations by using mobile devices in the field. Instead of mobile computers, employees can use smartphones that they already have in their pockets while performing more of the useful operations than before, such as recording location and taking photos.


What Exactly Can Be Done With QR Codes And A Smartphone For Asset Maintenance

By tagging your assets and employing connected web based software and mobile application, you can completely eliminate all paperwork in the field, make sure that your records are in order and that field employees always have real-time access to information they need. Specifically, field employees can scan QR code on the asset tag and:

  1. Review recent service and maintenance history of the asset, including description of problems and performed repairs

  2. Review asset information, such as instructions, emergency procedures, documentation, location map, etc.

  3. Record performed services

  4. Conduct inspection

  5. Record maintenance event

  6. Use forms for recording events. Forms can be created using GUI web interface

  7. Record GPS location of inspection / maintenance

  8. Take photos and attach them to the record

  9. Submit inspection / service / maintenance record to the server

  10. If no data connection is availale, save data on the phone and submit to the server when connection becomes available

  11. Record asset relocation

Here is a preview of how it can look like in real life.

What About Parts Inventory And Supplies

Parts and supplies inventory can be managed with QR codes and a smartphone as well - after all barcode scanning was used in inventory management for a while. Now smartphones can be used as scanners to perform inventory transactions, and can do more than regular barcode scanners. Using a smartphone, technician in the field can track what parts and supplies are used to service / repair an asset, and check current inventory and locations of the needed items. Administrator can review a statistics of what was used for a specific asset or specific work order.

QR Codes Vs UPC Barcodes

Often when people think about using smartphones and scanning, they automatically link this process to QR codes. This is not entirely correct - UPC barcodes can also be scanned with the smartphones, so you can use either type of code. The word of warning though: there are many different formats for 2D barcodes, not all of them can be read by a smartphone. If in doubt - scan your barcode with any free barcode scanning application. If you can scan it - no need to produce additional QR code tag.

What Is Involved In The Initial Setup

Initial setup is the most time consuming operation, but it is not as bad as you might think. Consider how much time you will save by automating your asset managing tasks, and do not let it turn you off! Here is what you will need to do to start tracking your assets and managing asset maintenance using QR codes / barcodes and a smartphone:

  1. A smartphone client application that can scan barcode or QR code and send recorded information back to the server. Notice, this is not a generic barcode scanning application! Generic app will simply show you what is encoded in a QR code. These applications can also recognize encoded url and redirect you to a website, or recognize a contact information and add it to your list of contacts. However, to handle asset tracking and maintenance, you need an application specifically designed for this purpose. This application should have web-based backend, and/or be integrated directly into your current CMMS.

  2. Enter or import your current assets into the application. If you have list of your assets in any form, this part is fast and painless. If you had never managed your assets before, you will need to manually enter them into the application. Luckily, you can do it using your smartphone as well, instead of writing data on the paper and then re-typing them in the office.

  3. Tag your assets. If your assets do not have UPC barcode, you will need to put on QR code labels or tags. Usually web part of the application will allow you to generate and print QR codes by yourself, or you can order pre-printed QR codes. As a rule, you should be able to use pre-printed QR code labels or tags with sequential numbers, and be able to associate asset with a QR code by scanning it.

After these three steps are completed, you are ready to start using smartphones for asset management, and always have accurate asset location, records and maintenance history.


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