For construction, manufacturing and distribution firms, the past several weeks have created unprecedented challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic. Employee health and safety certainly remain the central focus. However, firms also want to keep their business operations on solid ground.
In the U.S., state regulations have varied widely and have changed on an almost daily basis. As a result, there is confusion in determining which businesses are considered essential and should continue their operations, and which should remain temporarily shut to comply with stay-at-home orders.
The majority of the country designated construction as an essential service that must continue to support communities even during the pandemic. Additionally, many manufacturing firms have remained in full production to meet demand, and distributors and trucking firms are busier than ever, fulfilling orders for everything from toilet paper and cereal to fuel and medical supplies.
Being flexible is critically important. But how can businesses get organized with so many variables to consider?
This is an excellent time to leverage the power of an enterprise asset management (EAM) platform. From maintenance planning to asset tracking to inventory resolution, EAM software can produce the efficiencies and the data that will help firms re-engineer their operations during these challenging times.
Challenges solved by your EAM platform
1. Ensure worker safety
There’s no doubt that the health and safety of your employees are your top priority. Health experts caution that to halt the spread of coronavirus infection, individuals should allow at least six feet of physical distance. Even though the risk of transmission of the virus varies by industry, according to OSHA, employers must do everything they can to ensure worker safety.
According to a survey by Construction Dive, 70% of construction firms say that their top worry is how coronavirus has caused anxiety among workers. Consider creating new safety protocols that increase physical distancing on jobsites. It will reassure your workers and help them stay safe.
If your EAM software has mobile capability, now is the time to take advantage of it. With mobile features, the platform can allow your maintenance teams to stay in constant communication across the enterprise and record their tasks without gathering in a central place, such as an office or supply trailer.
EAM mobile features also eliminate the need for paperwork, which reduces the risk of exposure when clipboards, hardcopy forms and pens or pencils are passed from hand to hand. The National Institutes of Health found that the COVID-19 virus can remain active on plastic or steel for up to three days. By requiring each worker to use an EAM app on their own smartphone or tablet, you can reduce close interactions and lessen the risk of exposure.
2. Remain up and running as an essential business
Infrastructure projects such roads and public services are critical resources at any time, but they are especially valuable now when communities need access to food, shelter and health care. The same is true for many manufacturing entities: Your teams are instrumental in keeping the supply chain moving.
That’s why an EAM platform is your best tool to gain efficiencies and ensure you’ll get the most out of every minute of uptime. By consistently monitoring your assets with your EAM’s data collection and analysis function, you can optimize productivity and avoid potential time wasted when assets aren’t in the right place at the right time.
Portable assets and handheld devices would be especially challenging to track without an EAM platform because of simple human nature. For example, workers might hoard the assets they use most if they’re not confident they can readily access them when they’re needed. This could then slow productivity, and right now, productivity is more critical than ever.
In addition, when certain assets are inaccessible, it leads to more purchase requests and an excess of equipment with low utilization rates and lower lifetime value. When your business is considered an essential part of your community, you absolutely need to maximize productivity and make smart purchasing decisions.
3. Closely monitor your inventory of personal protective equipment
Construction and manufacturing firms often keep personal protective equipment (PPE)—such as latex gloves and N95 face masks—on hand to protect their workers who might encounter potentially harmful materials. However, in light of the severe shortage of PPE, many business are donating as much of their stock as they can to health care providers. At the request of U.S. federal officials, firms are also holding off on placing new orders for PPE.
In the meantime, firms must closely monitor their remaining inventory of PPE and use it judiciously. Worldwide, gloves and N95 masks are on backorder, so stock on hand will likely need to last a long time. There’s no way to predict when supplies will be replenished, so tracking PPE will likely be an ongoing challenge.
Your EAM software is built to manage inventory with precision. The best platforms will provide updates in real time and forecast how and when certain items will be used. Do your teams need two N95 masks each time they clean the debris out of a machine on the shop floor as part of weekly scheduled preventive maintenance? Your EAM should be able to surface that data.
With such high-level capability, you might find opportunities reorganize or defer tasks that require PPE in order to conserve your available inventory.
4. Adapt quickly when the supply chain is uncertain
Quarantines have slowed or shut down factories across the globe, leading to a sudden reduction in production of everything from electronics to plastics to plumbing fixtures. In the Construction Dive survey, 23% of firms noted that material shortages were their top concern related to coronavirus.
Now that supply chains are encumbered by delays, you need the flexibility to source across a wider selection of vendors than ever before. And as the global economy recovers, you’ll want to replenish your inventory of parts and materials as quickly as possible without spending beyond your budget.
You probably have multiple vendors that contribute the inventory that you need to keep your assets maintained. Modern EAM platforms should be built with the custom options you need to accommodate hundreds of vendors within your inventory management software. And the inventory data should also be accessible anywhere, anytime.
5. Adjust tasks based on staffing levels
Because worker safety is always your main concern, you’ve probably updated your sick time policy to encourage employees who have virus symptoms to stay home, possibly for 14 days or more. That added caution is warranted, but also can leave teams short-handed.
Additionally, when considering physical distancing guidelines, you might be staggering arrival times, breaks and lunch periods for your employees. Many construction, manufacturing and distribution firms have added extra shifts to reduce the number of employees on the job at the same time. Such scheduling changes can create challenges in coordinating workloads.
Your EAM should have the ability to reassign tasks immediately—often in batches—when specific employees are not available. By pivoting quickly, work orders and scheduled maintenance tasks can still be completed in a timely manner, mitigating added productivity concerns.
For most firms, the only way to communicate sudden changes in maintenance needs is with the computerized work order management capabilities contained in your EAM. When tasks are reassigned, your EAM will also capture completion data in real time to verify which team member completed which task and when.
6. Reorganize your preventive maintenance
Your preventive maintenance (PM) strategy was likely designed around your typical course of business, with some actions triggered by a certain period of elapsed time and others triggered by the net utilization of an asset. With the “new normal” emerging from the aftereffects of coronavirus, your existing PM schedule deserves a second look.
Powerful scheduling in your EAM platform will help you discover opportunities for PM that might not have been realized otherwise. For example, if an asset is now sitting idle because a project is on hold, that’s a perfect time to fit in maintenance work—even if it comes a little ahead of schedule.
The opposite is also true. If certain assets are suddenly getting more use than normal, you could discover the PM tasks aren’t distributed evenly over time. This disruption could be causing bottlenecks in work orders and making assets unavailable as they await attention.
Your EAM platform can predict and organize the PM schedule in order to distribute the work in a way that makes sense and minimizes disruption. The key is having data—preferably real-time data—at your fingertips, as well as the power to simply drag-and-drop PM work orders to adjust your schedules sensibly.
7. Plan ahead for the return to full operations
As communities return to work, school, shopping and entertainment events, the construction and manufacturing firms that were on reduced schedules will be eager to ramp up to full operations. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as just flipping on the lights.
Most firms need to make up for lost time, so getting equipment, machines and vehicles in place will be an urgent priority that can’t tolerate inefficiencies. With a powerful EAM software tool, maintenance managers can quickly access documented start-up procedures and owner’s manuals in one place and share them with the technicians who will be responsible for getting the dormant assets back online.
How ManagerPlus EAM Software Can Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic
ManagerPlus EAM software can help your business gain efficiencies and manage the new normal created by the coronavirus pandemic.
From fleet management and work order management to a full complement of asset management tools, ManagerPlus Lightning keeps your business up and running during the coronavirus pandemic or as you prepare for your team's safe return to work. See what Lightning can do for you. Schedule your personalized demo here.