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By Dan Hounsell, Editor
Maintenance & Operations Article Use Policy
Why, exactly, would a maintenance and engineering department want to invest in smartphones? Many managers no doubt have posed that question in recent years, both to themselves and to their peers, as smartphone technology has become more popular and widespread by the day.
For years, pagers and cell phones have carried the bulk of the communication load for managers, supervisors and front-line technicians looking to stay in touch within facilities and across campuses. These reliable pieces of technology have helped bring about greater efficiency and productivity, and with budgets as tight as they are, many managers probably have decided to stick with them.
That approach is certainly understandable. But as with any other technology, smartphones are evolving in ways that soon might force managers to pay rethink that approach. Specifically, a growing number of smartphone apps are available that address important challenges departments face daily.
For example, since 2010, the Los Angeles Unified School District has used a proprietary smartphone app that enables students and staff to report facility repair and breakdown problems to the maintenance department. The department's computerized maintenance management system turns the report information into a maintenance work order.
Another example is CardSafety, a free Android, Blackberry, and iPhone mobile app designed for use in emergency situations. Developed by the University of Louisville, the app aims to help students, faculty, staff and parents prepare for and respond to emergencies. The app provides: interactive campus maps; procedures for 20 types of emergencies; an automatic dialer for 911, safety escorts and university police; information regarding crimes and crime prevention; and links to university emergency web sites. The app is available at https://louisville.edu/dehs/emergency/cardsafetyapp.
The age of apps has only just begun. Sooner rather than later, it seems, smartphones and apps will be essential tools for maintenance and engineering departments seeking solutions to their most pressing problems. Managers might want to rethink their views of smartphones, apps and the potential benefits for their departments and facilities.
Do you use or know of smartphone apps developed for maintenance and engineering management? Has your organization developed such an app? If so, consider sharing the wealth.
Visit our community site, www.myfacilitiesnet.com, and post information on and, if appropriate, a link to the app in the software section of the Technology Forum.
And if you're looking for smartphone apps your department can use in addressing specific maintenance challenges, check the site regularly for the latest suggestions and updates from your peers.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.