The use of mobile technology for maintenance, safety and environmental inspections

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

The scenario is well known…on a regular basis, maintenance, environmental and safety people walk the mine areas (facilities, processing, tailings, water streams) for inspections or rounds. Usually these inspections are performed with a paper and clipboard in hand with “boxes” to be checked, filled in, and potential actions items pointed out.  When necessary photos are taken and measurements can be made.

After the rounds…this check list will probably be imputed manually in some system (spreadsheet) and exported to other software tools (environmental reporting, maintenance management…)

In such conditions we can immediately identify some issues that may occur:

  • Lack of efficiency due the task of form filling, inputting data, attaching pictures…triggering manually actions
  • Such a manual process only gets done by a few people (subject experts) impacting the frequency and making some rounds a daunting task (due to large distances and several check points)
  • Major equipment failures, accidents or environmental issues could result from potentially missing check points (or overlooked), lost information and input errors

But how can we bring technology to address such tasks?

The first initial idea is to migrate the spreadsheet (or to create some checking procedure) to a tablet or smart phone, this partially addresses the problem but it still doesn’t solve some critical points:

  • Proper and automatic integration with upper layer software (including ERP)
  • Time stamping
  • Trigger special procedures
  • Integration with measurement devices (IR thermometer..)
  • Integration with barcode and RFID
  • Also it doesn’t bring flexibility to add advanced functionalities

Our suggested approach is a dedicated (industrial grade) mobile system for inspections:

  • Field workers use handheld computer, ruggedized (if necessary) tablet or mobile phone
  • Assets can be properly identified using RFID or barcode label
  • Tasks are performed following the established sequence
  • Tasks are date/time stamped as completed
  • Actual field conditions can trigger “focused advice messaging” which directs the field worker to:
    • Input more information such as notes
    • Perform a special procedure to mitigate the condition
    • Take additional measurements

After the inspection, the handheld will deliver all the information to any software application (maintenance, ERP, environmental…)

Picture: Mobile inspections device (example)

This approach is a combination of hardware (handheld / tablet) and software where all the procedures are created (drag and drop). The procedures can follow the exact requirements of the corporate standards and regulators forms for safety, maintenance and environmental inspections.

Picture: Inspections / procedures being created (drag/drop)
Picture: Inspections / procedures being created (drag/drop)

What are the benefits of such a solution?

Empower people

  • Make the inspector’s life easier and relieving him / her to perform manual procedures
  • Make the rounds less stressful and easier
  • Allow other personnel / operators to perform the rounds, since it follows a standardized approach (with supporting documents, rich information: trends / graphs / historical readings)

Standardization and Traceability

  • The procedure follows a well established sequence respecting the company standards
  • Reports generation (also following company requirements)
  • Procedure sign off
  • Also it allows better control of maintenance tasks costs / time and people allocation

Less Mistakes

  • The inspector can only advance if the previous area was inspected and all the points checked
  • Reduce manual inputs , data losses, less re-typing and spreadsheet dissemination
  • Richer information in a single point (photos, measurements)
  • Corrective actions can be triggered immediately

And you? How are your inspection rounds performed? Do you face similar challenges as described above? Are you using mobile technology? Please, leave your feedback and comments…

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