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Process automation: Using smart apps to make processes leaner

Among the daily tasks of employees in an industrial plant is the documentation of all procedures and processes, as well as the scheduling of work –  in plant maintenance, for example. To ensure that no errors occur in the process, it is important that these tasks can be completed easily and without much effort. Smart apps help to ensure that this is the case.

They enable paperless record keeping, fast error reporting and lean processes without the need to do anything twice: mobile apps that can be operated on site at the plant and that can transfer information directly to the SAP system. Bilfinger Engineering & Maintenance GmbH has developed a number of such apps in its Digital Solutions business unit. The range includes apps for efficient documentation and scheduling of maintenance work as well as for improving documentation of occupational safety.

“With the help of the apps, we provide our customers with high-quality documentation of the work performed and of occupational safety measures,” says Oliver Wichmann, Head of the Digital Solutions business unit. “The greatest advantage is that thanks to the digital solutions, all data is available quickly in high quality.” When developing the apps, Bilfinger places particular emphasis on an intuitive design and ease of use. This approach reduces the amount of time employees need for documentation and saves the customer money. The needs of users are also a crucial factor: “The apps are used by our colleagues around the world – and they give us regular feedback,” explains Wichmann. “This allows us to constantly develop and improve them.”

“EXTREMELY SIMPLE AND INTUITIVE”

When Markus Schröder starts typing on his cell phone in the factory hall, it is still an unfamiliar image for many of those around him. “We really had to first convince some of our customers that entering data on a smartphone is not for private purposes, but part of our job,” says the master electrician at Bilfinger Maintenance’s Düren/Hoffsümmer site. “Documenting the work performed using a cell phone is, after all, relatively rare for many of our customers.”

Markus Schröder’s team relies on the BMC@Work app in particular. Here, pending jobs can be displayed and processed. To facilitate use of the app, all team members first received a cell phone where it was preinstalled in addition to training. “Using the app is extremely simple and intuitive”, says Schröder. “As a result, the orientation period was very short. Anyone who can handle a smartphone can also operate this app after some quick instructions.”

It was much more of a challenge to set up the corresponding processes. And since the goal is to work entirely without paper within a few years, not only the BMC@Work and BMC@Check cell phone apps were introduced at the Düren/Hoffsümmer site, but also the BMC@Note and BMC@Schedule web applications at the same time. “Our vision for the future is that the customer enters messages online via BMC@Note, we convert them into orders and then enter them into the scheduling process via BMC@Schedule. From there, the orders are sent to the employees, who process and document them using BMC@Work,” says Jörg Stieglitz, who supported the introduction of the digital solutions at Bilfinger Maintenance as Rollout and Change Manager. “And ideally, we would not only like to transfer the data generated in the process into our own SAP system fully automatically, but also create a direct interface to the customer’s system so that all the required documents can be exchanged digitally.”

Until that happens, some of the processes will still require paper documents to comply with quality management requirements. But the path to paperless collaboration has been clearly mapped out: “The app already enables electronic signatures – and from both the craftsman and the customer, so we’re already moving much faster, more efficiently and more sustainably in that regard,” says Jörg Stieglitz. “And the apps have a very flexible design, so that the reports can be precisely customized to the customer’s requirements.”

Anyone who can handle a smartphone can also operate this app after some quick instructions."

Markus SchröderBilfinger Engineering & Maintenance

Markus Schröder also appreciates the tremendous flexibility of the apps. Walkarounds and components newly-added for maintenance can be created or changed with little effort. Constant updating of the app ensures that all employees have access to the current status and are informed of changes in real time. “This increases transparency dramatically and significantly reduces errors and misunderstandings,” says Markus Schröder.

The many advantages of the apps have played a major role in making the members of Schröder’s team happy about using BMC@Work. Instead of tediously filling out paper forms, they now document their work with a few clicks and can also independently enter new orders into the system. “Most employees immediately recognize how much easier things are with the app,” says Jörg Stieglitz. “And the others sometimes still need a trial-and-error phase for an ‘aha’ effect to occur. Our experience with the introduction of apps, however, has shown time and again that if you explain to employees the broad spectrum of possibilities offered by the use of apps, they soon no longer want to do without the digital solutions.”

 


Contact in case of questions:

Oliver Wichmann
Head of Digital Solutions
Phone +49 178 8568003
oliver.wichmannnospam@bilfinger.com

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