The COVID-19 pandemic has been the single biggest driver behind the digitalisation of almost every industry. The engineering and maintenance sector has been no different, with digitalisation enabling growth in remote management capabilities. So just how much change did 2020 bring to the engineering profession?
Moving to Remote Work
Early in the pandemic, it was clear that work patterns and operations would have to adapt to a new, socially distant reality. Remote work restrictions meant that businesses swiftly applied a strict ‘essential works only’ rule, meaning the engineering sector had to adapt to severity management protocols and prioritise essential requirements. However, with the various national lockdowns, it soon became evident that in order to address requirements deemed non-essential, the sector had to pursue remote alternatives to asset fault diagnostics and maintenance works.
The sector quickly turned to pre-existing capabilities enabled by Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Through advanced machine connectivity, these technologies enabled enhanced visibility and control over assets, such as refrigerators, HVAC units or lighting systems, and provided engineers with real-time insight into health, performance and efficiency data. With this approach, not only could ongoing problems be identified, diagnosed and remotely fixed, but potential future issues could be exposed. Historic data could also be used to understand root cause and ultimately minimise catastrophic mechanical failures – vital during such an uncertain time.
A New Way of Working
The ability to remotely triage and prioritise issues in real-time provided a new tool in the engineer’s armoury, while also enabling huge reductions in travel and human contact. Not only has this kept engineers safe during the pandemic, but it has also led to the sector establishing a more efficient, way of working.
Inefficient work order management and high volumes of unnecessary site visits inevitably lead to escalating costs and wasted time. However, by leveraging IoT connectivity, the ability to make fixes and take corrective action remotely has freed-up engineers to become more productive.
Using remote analysis across a client’s portfolio of assets, IoT software is able to Identify inefficient systems that may be causing excessive energy use, putting product at risk or proving detrimental to mechanical longevity. With advanced IoT monitoring and control at each site, new control strategies can be implemented remotely, and multiple site or asset changes can be done simultaneously, maximising engineer productivity, reducing travel time, and bringing the system back in line with the rest of the estate – ultimately saving energy, safeguarding product and protecting equipment.
For one food retailer, remote capabilities provided the opportunity to implement a new, estate-wide air conditioning control strategy in order to realign the settings to provide a safer and more comfortable environment for both customers and staff. With engineers now having the ability to remotely enact thousands of site changes at the touch of a button – a new way of working is truly upon the sector.
The role of the maintenance engineer is evolving, just like many others in the post-pandemic world, and the benefits of using software to enable remote engineering is being realised more and more.
In this highly competitive, fast-evolving field, the ability for engineering teams to leverage remote ‘desktop’ engineers will drive new levels of productivity, enhanced control and unrivalled visibility, and will only enrich the workforce further.
Although there will always be a requirement for ‘boot-on-the-ground’ engineers, by providing an experienced engineering with the advanced remote tools and insights enabled by digitalisation, engineers will be able to increase efficiency and productivity while delivering better value for their customers and ensuring enhanced maintenance regimes.
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