August 29, 2013, 3:50 PM — When you picture a modern factory environment, you probably envision workers in hardhats, brightly colored vests and worn-down boots rushing back and forth between shiny machines. Lots of "Caution" signs, beeps and blinking lights. Piles of pallets being moved on fork loaders. Staffers checking boxes on documents attached to clipboards.
This is scene isn't too far from the reality at many of Advanced Technology Services (ATS) customers' factory floors. Except for all the rushing around. You'll also see at least a few ruggedized iPad tablets.
ATS is an outsourced factory- and machine-maintenance company. It sends technicians to its customers' factories to oversee and organize machine maintenance, enact preventive measures to help reduce the need for future maintenance, and streamline repair processes. In many cases, ATS assigns onsite technicians to work every day in customer factories.
Running from data-entry station to station and logging various repair and maintenance information throughout the day, then tediously entering all that data into a tracking system at the end of the day, used to be a significant part of an ATS technician's job. And that data usually wasn't actionable until the next day. But thanks to eFactory Pro Mobility, powered by SAP, and the Work Manager app, technicians can now enter, modify and track repair and maintenance information on the fly, using iPads. And the decision-making process has vastly improved based on access to real-time data, according to ATS CIO Chris LeBeau.
"You basically have a set number of terminals that are in the maintenance area. But the work itself is being done all over the plant," LeBeau says. "Some of these facilities are several hundred-thousand square feet. They're big, big spaces. So if you get halfway across the plant and realize you need a part, or you need reference information, or you're right next to another machine that needs maintenance but you're not aware of it, you end up spending a tremendous amount of time walking back and forth just to get the information you need or to provide the information you have about the work that's going on that day."
LeBeau, who took on the CIO role at ATS this year and previously worked in the company's IT services division for about three years, says the app can save individual technicians an hour of data-tracking and entry time each day.
"Start multiplying that out over 1,000 technicians, every day, every week, every month, every year. It adds up to quite a bit of what ultimately is just inefficiency," LeBeau says. "It became pretty clear that some type of mobile solution was going to be a good way to address this."
LeBeau says the SAP Work manager app not only empowers its technicians, saves them time and makes them more efficient, but it also makes plant managers' jobs easier.