Implementing technology: How fast? How much?
It is no secret that people can be incredibly resistant to change. Nor is it a secret that many new technological gadgets facilities have installed are of minimal value. Still, managers cannot ignore the fact that some technology is valuable to the maintenance mission. Technological advances necessitate change and, increasingly, maintenance departments attempt to implement technology that optimizes work and staffing requirements.
This transition hasn’t always been easy, and for many organizations it has proven to be a bumpy ride. Theodore Weidner, principal with Facility Asset Consulting in Amherst, Mass., is familiar with the disruption that technology implementation can cause. Weidner says that because technology has sped up communication, facility occupants have become accustomed to immediate response and expect departments to react with the same speed.
The Pace of Change
“While there has been a fundamental change in how we communicate and perform some tasks, the fundamental change in the physical structures we are charged to maintain hasn’t,” he says. “Therefore, it is difficult for us to keep up with customer demands.”
For managers considering how much technology to implement, Weidner has some advice.
“Knowing what amount of technology the organization can handle is, first, a people issue; not one of staffing but acceptance of the technology,” he says.
Consider personal data assistants (PDAs). Some departments use PDAs to issue work orders to maintenance staff in the field. But PDAs also allow staff to check or update work orders via the Internet from a remote location, communicate via e-mail and much more. For departments with staff that use computerized maintenance management systems and regularly access both e-mail and the Web, the upgrade to wireless PDAs might be smooth. But for departments that rely upon paper-based work orders and on radios as the sole form of field communication, moving to wireless technology is likely to be a waste of time and money and might damage employee morale.
Weidner says preparation for the new technology in the form of an implementation plan and training before and after implementation is essential for success.
The Role of Staff
“Employee involvement with each step is essential to the success of new technology in the workplace,” he says.
To help smooth the transition to new technology cost-effectively, he says managers should implement only as much technology as is practical to get information from the customer to the maintenance employee. Finally, managers should use technology to update customers about maintenance organization activities.
“There’s nothing customers want more, short of getting their request done, than knowing when it will be done,” he says. He cautions managers against working technology into the organization too quickly.
“The continuing demand for technology in the work environment saps the financial resources from traditional maintenance and capital preservation budgets,” Weidner says. “We don’t want facilities that are crumbling down, have leaking roofs and do not meet basic customer needs but are filled with the latest technology.”