Mobile Apps Bolster Maintenance

Dec. 8, 2023
Tools for access on site or in the shop give technicians an advantage

As far back as 5,000 years ago, construction managers knew a lightweight, portable platform to track materials, share data, and schedule tasks was a job site necessity. The construction tablet was born.

Ease of use for the display depended on bright sunlight, and software would follow, but clay-based tablets were certainly a proof-of-concept for on-site jobs that required a way to save and share data in a mobile format. Clay also provided long-term archiving.

Tablets and smartphones carry just enough computing technology to unlock robust applications that reside elsewhere—on the cloud, web, and vendor servers

Today’s tablets offer powerful computing options that provide access to resources and each other that wasn’t available in those ancient tablets. Tablets and smartphones, conveniently sized devices that expand to fit the entire world, have become standard equipment in shops and in the field.

Compared to desktop or laptop computers, tablets and phones have less data storage capacity and computing power/speed, but that doesn’t mean mobiles lack functionality. Developers have created a balance: Instead of installing memory and energy-hogging software on smaller devices, mobile users can simply tap into SaaS (software as a service) and web-based applications to access full-blown functionality.

Tablets and smartphones carry just enough computing technology to unlock robust applications that reside elsewhere—on the cloud, web, and vendor servers—providing just enough memory to capture and work with those remote programs. When networked via cell or Wi-Fi, tablets and smartphones send and receive voice, documents, images, and videos. Depending on their configuration, mobile devices can perform some tasks with onboard tools with and without a wireless connection. Tablets and smartphones provide the sweet spot for mobile computing.

Read also: Construction's Right to Repair Movement Intensifies

Traditional software is installed locally on computers and managed by the user: buy it, keep it, maintain it. SaaS applications are hosted. The vendor owns, maintains, and houses the software on its own servers—cloud, web, or on-premises.

Via the internet, SaaS technology provides access to use applications and data, not the actual software program. Examples include web-based software such as Google Docs and hosted/vertical services offered by independent companies who prefer to manage their brand’s applications, including access, availability, security, and performance.

If the user’s tablet or smartphone connects with their organization’s on-premises computer system, the devices that work with those programs have already been determined. In some cases, large companies partner with device vendors to ensure data performs correctly for that firm’s business. This means software from other vendors may not be accepted by that mobile device. The company’s choice of operating system—usually Android or iOS—determines what software and devices are compatible. A good computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) suite with task modules will be compatible with both Android tablets and iOS iPads.

Mobile technician tools 

The most robust applications for use on tablets are frequently bundled in CMMS software suites installed at the company or accessed from an off-site vendor. CMMS modules can operate independently, share data compatibility with other suite applications, and offer limited memory for saving work. Smaller software with a sharper focus on specific jobs can be integrated into an existing computer scheme.

Some commonly requested equipment maintenance tools include:

  • Work order management
  • Scheduling
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Asset tracking
  • Inventory management
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Service history
  • Real time data
  • Inspection management 

Finding mobile-compatible software can be a time-consuming slog., a software review site, lists more than 3,612 construction software products ranging from full on-premises systems to compact smartphone accessible apps.

Read also: Move to Certification Based Compensation to Keep Technicians

Capterra, a subsidiary of Gartner Digital Markets, offers a free interactive B2B software directory that combines vetted peer reviews with live phone consultations to help buyers narrow down their choices.

Capterra and Gartner’s other independent product referral sites publish traditional passive web-based directory-type listings of vendors offering construction software. However, in addition to standard vendor specs and contact/website links, Capterra posts only vetted individual product reviews from users guaranteed to have experience with the vendor’s product. Unlike other message boards and vendor-sponsored sites that can be flooded with paid or bot opinions, Capterra reviews that do not meet strenuous verification standards are never published.

Michelle Bryant, team senior manager at Capterra, says that each published product review submitted by users is contacted by Capterra’s out-bound team. The authentication process includes establishing and verifying the reviewer’s identity, check for conflicts of interest, requests for detailed proof of product use, and evaluates the review according to the site’s posted guidelines. Reviews must contain only original content and be submitted by the actual user.  Fraudulent, anonymous, and spam reviews are rigorously weeded out of the system and are not posted.

Capterra adheres to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Endorsement Guidelines requiring online companies to provide clear notice when a review has been submitted. Vendors cannot attempt to influence reviewers and cannot alter or delete reviews.

Capterra also offers real-person consultation with construction equipment expertise to talk about a product’s abilities and functions. Shannon Timmons, partnerships manager, says that if the phone consultant does not have the information, they will locate it and respond.