Stuart Davies MD Maintenance and Engineering Bellrock

Stuart Davies, MD Maintenance & Engineering Services, Bellrock

Data, the key to unlocking value? Using technology for improved maintenance outcomes.

The more optimistic among us were expecting the pressure on the economy to lift, but with uncertainty swirling, risks and costs are being managed more tightly than ever. When it comes to maintenance, shrinking budgets create a tension between the plan for whole lifecycle management and the year on year spend. Surely it is time for more lateral thinking to solve the conundrum in a way that doesn’t compromise efficiencies in the longer term. Technology has to be the key to this particular puzzle.


Technology for people

Cultural changes and improvements to infrastructure make the use of technology a more realistic prospect for managing maintenance than it was even a couple of years ago. In the world of PPM, we do not see the ubiquitous adoption of technology, however, there is steady growth in certain aspects, not least for communication.

The fact that the working population is far more pre-disposed to self-service and the wide use of smartphones has meant that reporting maintenance from a customer perspective is far more automated. The introduction of apps has streamlined the helpdesk function, enabling better communication for the status of jobs as well as integrating customer satisfaction mechanisms. Many systems enable pictures to be uploaded as well as text, making a diagnosis of the issue much easier before an engineer reaches site.

Apps have also improved communication with engineers and streamlined processes such as confirmation of job completion. Each engineer can receive instructions and log all work in real-time using their mobile phone. More sophisticated systems store information that has been previously uploaded about the asset, for example, its location and service record. This enables more effective planning before the visit to site.

Many maintenance activities require specialists so supply chain management must be considered. With compliance high agendas, it has never been more important to ensure suppliers are working to the necessary standards. Deploying an accredited supplier with relevant competence and location is another way that technology can streamline processes, improve efficiency and reduce risk.

Technology for machines

Predictive and condition-based maintenance are also areas where technology has a part to play. This is becoming increasingly common as the cost of sensors and interface software has reduced significantly making these tools much more viable in terms of reliability and return on investment.

It is possible, by understanding indicators such as increased vibrations or heat, to identify which assets need attention before there is a breakdown. This does not only reduce the cost of breakdown but also improves energy efficiency and the impact on other assets.

This type of technology is not new;  it is deployed in our cars as a matter of course. The servicing regime is based on the condition of the vehicle, rather than the number of miles on the clock, or its age.


Organisations that consider the bigger picture, rather than cherry-picking the automation of specific processes, stand to gain significantly. Although both technology for people and machines reduce costs and drive efficiencies, neither has the impact that analysis, based on robust data, can deliver. Even predictive and condition-based maintenance has limitations as the parameters mean that the system is assessing whether an asset requires maintenance, more or less, but maintenance all the same.

Used effectively data can help join the dots of the building’s use rather than just focusing on the asset in isolation. The asset has a role to play in the running of the building and it may be critical to the organisations’ function or it may be high risk if it fails. The point is its purpose is not independent of the building or the building users that it serves. With data blended from a number of sources, it is possible to introduce risk centred maintenance. This more enriched picture enables the evaluation of whether maintenance is even necessary for certain assets based on specific criteria.

Consider the property life-cycle; the process starts with the acquisition, which comes with the lease agreement, service charge (if in an applicable environment) and rates exposure, followed by the on-going management and operational considerations for lifecycle management of assets, building user considerations and compliance. Finally, at the disposal phase, there are dilapidations. Even this simplified view demonstrates that there are implications for the property and maintenance team based on decisions taken at every stage of the life-cycle. A single data repository for every piece of information creates more insight to focus on the biggest returns be that for customer experience, risk management or cost reduction.

Tying it all together

The Internet of Things is fast becoming a new way of managing assets in buildings. Sensors directly report any activity that is outside of pre-determined parameters, setting automated workflows and need-based service deployment in motion. The possibility of managing information directly from the sensors through to invoice reconciliation and management reporting without human intervention is tantalisingly close.

Technology Intelligent Workplace

Ultimately, the focus for people shifts to the front end of the process – determining the rules that define how the service is deployed, analysing the outcomes and making changes to the structure of the service based on changing organisational needs. This is where experience and a good understanding of business objectives help deliver more cost effective and efficient maintenance services that deliver to the objectives for the organisation. It is no longer maintenance, for maintenance sake.

Read about how technology revolutionised States of Jersey, Department for Growth Housing and Environment for their operational maintenance team here. 

Stuart Davies, MD Maintenance & Engineering Services, Bellrock

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