The Wrong Way and the Right Way to Deploy a Remote Workforce

In an era where more people are working remotely than at literally any point up until now, it’s safe to say that business leaders all over are suddenly forcing themselves to learn a lot about how to manage these new remote workforces that they find themselves in charge of.

While it’s absolutely true that every organization will handle this goal in its own unique way, it’s equally important to understand that there are certain steps you need to be taking right now to ensure the most successful transition possible. There are a right way and a wrong way to deploy a remote workforce and understanding which is your key to successfully navigating the sudden remote work deluge brought on by COVID-19.

The Wrong Way to Embrace Remote Workers

The biggest mistake that you can possibly make in terms of deploying a remote workforce involves throwing disparate pieces of technology at the situation in the hopes that all your problems go away.

Far too many businesses are still making the mistake of only deploying point solutions for their employees. This means that they sign up for Zoom or Teams and assume their video conferencing needs are taken care of. They offer Slack for chat and assume that all their communication and collaboration concerns have been addressed.

The issue here is that there is no overarching strategy at the heart of it all — no unifying component to bring all of these separate elements together to form the cohesive whole you need them to be.

Point solutions do nothing to prevent information sprawl and the siloing of information in different repositories. It still may be just as difficult as it was in the office to find critical data — having to search through your CRM, then your ERP — and now maybe it’s over in your chat box somewhere.

Likewise, this approach does nothing to help secure the information that people are now sharing with one another. For the sake of software that seems more convenient on the surface, you’ve essentially abandoned many of the governance and compliance protocols that are more pivotal than ever during a time when nobody is actually in your office.

The Right Way (Or Getting the Job Done Properly)

Rather than starting with a lot of different pieces of software that were never really designed to work together and hoping you can build a unified system out of them, the right way to deploy a remote workforce involves STARTING with that unified system and then building things outward from there.

This, of course, means that you need to have the right information management system at the heart of your efforts — one that offers anytime, anywhere access to critical business intelligence from not only desktop and laptop computers, but from smartphones, tablets and other types of mobile devices.

From that crucial building block, you can begin to craft the type of remote strategy you need that will stand the test of time — one that allows you to track governance and compliance concerns on an ongoing basis, regardless of how or when those two things happen to change.

If you know where all of your information is housed and who has access to it, you’re also in a far better position to handle information security at the document level. You can use customized access permissions to make sure that the only people who have access to a particular document or directory are those who expressly need it to do their jobs. This won’t just keep everything protected as people work from home; it’ll actually leave you more secure than you likely were when everyone was still in the office, too.

The Time is Now to Start Preparing for the Future of the Workforce

Overall, it’s safe to say that the type of remote workforce that most businesses are currently dealing with represents a significant change from the way they’re used to doing things. With change comes the potential for problems and the disruption they bring with them.

But the most important thing to understand is that remote working isn’t going away just because COVID-19 will soon be behind us. If anything, all of this has proven that more businesses than ever should adopt telecommuting as a way to carve out a genuine competitive advantage for themselves in the marketplace.

With that in mind, know that the challenges of deploying a remote workforce the right way aren’t going to go away anytime soon. If anything, they’re only going to become more pressing over the next few months and years. Therefore, tightening up your information management infrastructure today is the single best opportunity you have to adequately prepare you, your employees AND your business for this future that will be here before you know it.

If you’d like to find out more information about the right way and the wrong way to deploy a remote workforce, or if you just have any additional questions that you’d like to discuss with an expert in a bit more detail, please don’t hesitate to set aside some time and use our team as a resource… it’s why we’re here.


Building Resilience: Adapting to Remote Work, Improving Health & Safety, and More with Your CMMS

Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it is no longer business-as-usual, and most businesses are having to adapt and learn new ways of operating. For some, this means implementing advanced infection control measures in an effort to maintain status-quo production levels. Others are ramping up production or rapidly retooling to meet increased demand. While others still are turning down production or completely shutting down.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, there are ways your CMMS can help support these new ways of working.

Virtual communication is more important than ever before

We’ve all previously operated under the assumption that nothing beats face-to-face communication. However, during this time of social distancing and high rates of absenteeism, in-person communication is no longer feasible for many situations. Therefore, we all have to embrace virtual communication methods and determine which are the most effective for us.

Your CMMS allows critical information to be communicated with:

  • Maintenance coordinators and managers working remotely
  • Contractors and vendors who can no longer access your site
  • Workers from different departments or on staggered shift changes

CMMS features — like adding asset images, identifying equipment with QR or barcodes, adding files and media to work orders, reporting and shared dashboards — can all enhance your ability to virtually communicate important information.

Communicating new or evolving information quickly

Our collective knowledge of the coronavirus is evolving daily, as are the recommended precautions and impacts to our businesses. Therefore, it is important that business leaders have a way of quickly communicating these changes to workers to maintain their safety.

In Fiix, the task groups feature lets you quickly communicate changes to:

  • Highlight updated PPE required for tasks per advanced infection control measures along with instructions on wearing, inspecting, cleaning, and storage.
  • Make changes to sanitation procedures or frequency.
  • Increase ventilation rates and frequency of air filter changes.
  • Ensure detailed procedures and manuals are accessible on each work order in the event of the need to cross-train workers.
  • Install new engineered controls such as physical barriers.

In addition, using the available notifications options, you can configure how active and inactive users are automatically notified of changes and new work orders.

Discouraging the use of shared tools

A good workaround here is getting your team to use their mobile CMMS app on their own personal device, instead of relying on shared terminals. The Fiix app even facilitates access to your CMMS when the internet connection is unstable or unavailable.

Determining what is essential

By searching and tagging open work orders with the highest priority, you can quickly obtain a hit-list of the essential maintenance items for your facility. This critical information can be shared with business leaders to inform staffing adjustments and highlight any anticipated supply chain issues. This sort of itemized and prioritized communication with management demonstrates the critical role maintenance teams play in overall business continuity planning. In Fiix, you can build scheduled reports to automatically send an updated essential work order list to the appropriate people at whatever interval you want.

Taking the time now, to be faster later

Even if you’re working in a facility where production is currently slowing or shutting down, this may be a good opportunity to take time to sharpen the saw, as the old saying goes, to come back with the ability to cut down the tree much faster.

Reviewing backlogged maintenance tasks, brushing up on your own professional development, or implementing those additional CMMS modules you’ve been meaning to get to are all great ways to set yourself up for success down the road. Beyond the features we mentioned above, here is a great checklist to ensure you’re ready for when your plant starts operating again.

Lean on your Fiix community

We know that these are challenging times for many of our customers, partners, and community in production environments, and that adapting to uncertainty can be complicated. That being said, there is tremendous maintenance expertise within our growing Fiix community, so do not hesitate to reach out to explain other situations you are struggling with. We’re here to help you through.


Facts and Figures: Which Nations Were (and Weren’t) Prepared for a Remote Workforce?

The world has been forced into remote work. Each country has instituted its own brand of lockdown in an attempt to flatten the curve and a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article presented data on which nations were and weren’t prepared to deploy a remote workforce.

Researchers scored the social distance and remote operability of 42 countries across the globe. Scoring was based on three factors:

  • Robustness of key platforms — technology-mediated remote work, e-commerce, digital media and the country’s digital foundations — key to business continuity
  • Proliferation and resilience of digital payments options to facilitate transactions
  • Resilience of the internet infrastructure to traffic surges

Check out the results below. Note that higher scores represent better performance along each index.

Remote Workforce Performance Index Data

(Source: Harvard Business Review)

Digital transformation has been the centerpiece of discussions in tech circles for years. But the coronavirus crisis really transformed “digital transformation” from just an overused buzzword. It became a real-life application of remote work tools. In 2018, 70% of companies had a digital transformation strategy in place or were working on one, and this unprecedented situation exposed just how far along companies — and in this case, countries — are in their digital transformation journey.

The author of the HBR article pointed out several key takeaways from the data:

“There is a divide between the resilient and the fragile: Advanced economies, at the top of the graph have more robust digital platforms, making them better prepared for the pivot to online work than developing economies in the bottom.”

“The United States is ready, but not ready enough: Despite some concerns, the United States is well poised for business continuity, with robust digital platforms and digital payment infrastructure. But with businesses asking employees to work from home, surges in digital traffic have stressed the internet infrastructure.”

“Much of Europe, with some exceptions, suffers from middling robustness of the platforms and vulnerable internet infrastructure. Speeds in much of Europe are much lower than in the U.S. overall, and the infrastructure is older.”

“Some Asian countries have proven to be innovative — and forced reconsideration of long-held assumptions: Being proximate to the origins of the outbreak, some have taken a markedly different approach to using digital technology. South Korea presents an interesting benchmark. Its internet resilience is among the best in the world, as is its use of digital payments, and its platforms are robust.”

How did your homeland fare?

Again, it’s interesting to see the data plotted, as it presents a yardstick by which digital transformation and readiness can be visualized. We contend that the cornerstone of digital transformation and remote work for every organization is information management. Intelligent information management platforms like M-Files allow users to access and manage business-critical information…

No matter where that information is stored — CRM, ERP, network folders, share drives, Salesforce

And no matter where on Earth the user is — home, office, hotel, airport, coffee shop

That seamless experience of working with content from any location with an internet connection is powerful. And with information management platforms, remote work and accessing information doesn’t mean companies have to sacrifice compliance or security.

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How Maintenance Teams Can Make the Most of A Manufacturing Slowdown

It can be unsettling if production at your facility is slower than usual. You might even find yourself missing things you never thought you’d miss. The noise. The hustle and bustle. The routine.

But you can also find opportunity. With more time in your schedule, there’s no shortage of projects to start. The question is, where to begin? The tips below can offer some inspiration and guidance.

Tips for reducing maintenance backlog

A bit of maintenance backlog is a healthy thing (most of the time). Regardless, you might be looking forward to whittling down your list of deferred work. Building a plan for tackling backlog will help you dismantle your to-do list with surgical precision while staying safe.

1. Prioritize your maintenance backlog

If you have a long list of maintenance backlog, it’s tempting to choose a task and dive right in. But prioritizing tasks will help you make a bigger impact, and it can be done in just three steps:

  • Identify outstanding work on critical assets. Think about the equipment that’s most likely to be needed first when production starts to increase again.
  • Pick work orders you haven’t done in a while. If a PM was missed two weeks in a row, it’s more likely to need attention than one missed just once.
  • Compare the length of each job and if tasks can be done while the machine is running. Take advantage of extra time to do longer jobs or ones that require a break in production.

2. Assess your resources

Your prioritized list is a great start, but it’s what you’d be doing in an ideal world, which is rarely the reality.

Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s solutions engineering lead, suggests evaluating your team as the next step, which includes asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do you still have your full team? Having fewer technicians might change the work you can do.
  • What kind of training does the staff have? The capabilities of your technicians will change what you do, the order you do it in, and how long it’ll take.
  • Are there any new health and safety measures that could keep technicians from operating like normal?

After you figure out your staff’s capabilities, it’s on to your parts and supplies, says Stuart. Make sure you have all the spares you need, as well as other resources like checklists and PPE.

3. Identify high-risk work orders

Stuart mentions three kinds of high-risk jobs that might be in your maintenance backlog: major rebuilds, time-consuming projects, and work your team hasn’t done in a while (or at all).

Highlight these tasks and make a plan to reduce the risk around them. That can include extra training, putting more technicians and labour hours towards the work, and making sure the right PPE is available.

4. Schedule frequent touchpoints with your team

Jason Afara, a solutions engineer at Fiix and a former maintenance manager, suggests asking a few standard questions in team meetings to bring any problems (and solutions) to the surface:

  • Is your team comfortable with the jobs they’ve been given?
  • Do they have everything they need to get the work done?
  • What’s working and what isn’t?
  • How can new processes be improved?

5. Plan for what happens after you tackle the backlog

What happens when you have enough time to wipe out your entire to-do list? Create a new one. Here are a few suggestions for building out that new list, courtesy of Stuart:

  • Do your annual planned shutdowns of critical assets now. Thoroughly inspect, clean, service, repair, rebuild, and stress-test the equipment.
  • Check and calibrate condition-based sensors, PLCs, SCADA, and other data systems.
  • Review all safety equipment and make sure it’s accessible and working.
Five steps for tackling your maintenance backlog

Updating and upgrading your maintenance operation

When you’re able to step outside the daily grind, it’s easier to see what needs to be updated, where you can upgrade, and what you’re doing really well so you can keep doing it.

1. Add sensors, barcodes, and/or QR codes to your assets

If you’ve been planning on taking steps toward condition-based maintenance and better data collection, now is the time. Test condition-based sensors on equipment to see what can be measured and how to use the information. If you use a CMMS, spend some time putting barcodes or QR codes on assets, and organize them in your software.

2. Audit your maintenance storeroom

Jason recommends focusing on a few key areas that can help improve inventory management:

  • Make sure your cycle counts are accurate
  • Check the condition of tools and spare parts“>parts
  • Streamline your inventory purchasing processes
  • Clean and reorganize your storeroom, and put extra security measures in place
  • Organize emergency parts kits
  • Identify parts you don’t need so you can put a hold on purchases
  • Check that your maintenance records match the records of your finance department

3. Check reports for accuracy

To borrow a quote from Jason from our recent article on building a predictive maintenance program, “If you have bad data…it’s like the weatherperson telling you it’s sunny out when it’s actually raining.” Double-checking your reports allows you to make sure the numbers are telling the truth and that your decision-making is right on target.

4. Fine-tune your preventive maintenance work orders and checklists

Put the frequency of your PMs under the microscope. Look at the mean time between fail rates for equipment to see which assets need more or less attention. You can even take this opportunity to transition from time-based PMs to throughput-based PMs or condition-based maintenance.

If you’re reworking preventive maintenance checklists, talk to technicians to see what they need to be safer, more efficient, and more effective, says Jason. Do checklists need to be more detailed? Are they missing information, like diagrams or a bill of materials? Are they too long?

5. Review and update your documentation

Talk to your team and find out what can be changed or updated to make policies more effective. The documents that Stuart suggests reviewing (and updating where necessary) include:

  • Equipment SOPs
  • Health and safety procedures (like lockout-tagout and PPE guidelines)
  • Emergency operating procedures.
Five ways to update your maintenance operation

Making a contingency plan for a shutdown

While it’s not something that anyone wants to think about, it’s important to have a plan for turning off equipment. This helps you complete a shutdown safely and quickly. A solid plan will also prepare you for a quality restart when production begins again.

We covered some best practices for shutting down and restarting equipment in a recent two-part webinar series. Check out part one on hot stops and part two on cold starts. Some tips covered in the webinars include:

  • Designating someone as a shutdown coordinator who is responsible for managing a shutdown.
  • Creating in-depth shutdown checklists to make sure you’re completing crucial tasks and doing so safely. Track these work orders by tagging them with a special code.
  • Making a note on incomplete PMs and SMs so you know what was missed and why. Use this information to identify assets with a higher risk of failure and prioritize work before a potential restart.
  • Create a list of the changes so tasks and schedules can be adjusted once you’re back in the plant. This also helps you calculate the costs associated with the shutdown.

Focus on yourself

We’ve talked a lot about improving your facility, but it’s also important to take some time to take care of yourself.

“Everyone deals with change and tough times differently,” says Jason. “The most important thing to remember is to step back and take care of yourself first.”

Stress, burnout, and anxiety all increase during times of uncertainty and change. Making sure you are physically and mentally healthy reduces the impact of some of those feelings and keeps you at your best when you’re at work.

Another way to focus on your well-being is to invest in personal development. There are a lot of ways to do that, but here are some of our favourites:

  • Read up on news, trends, and best practices for maintenance professionals
  • Take courses, watch webinars, and pursue certifications that help you develop and brush up on your skills
  • Join or create an online group to discuss issues, solutions, and ideas for improvement
Best practices for managing a facility shutdown

The most important takeaway: You got this

Facility slowdowns can be a big change and not always a good one. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably gone through a big, unexpected shift in your daily routine and that’s difficult. But armed with the right information, processes, and team, you have the tools to help you manage this change and come out on the other side with new skills and experiences.

The Importance of Demonstration Of Safe Operation (DOSO)

Demonstration Of Safe Operation (DOSO) assessment is for non-major hazard installation as stipulated in Occupational Safety and Health (Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards) Regulations 1996 or CIMAH regulations. DOSO is applied to an industry activity where the hazardous substance in the CIMAH regulations is less than the specified threshold quantity and more than 10% of the threshold quantity.

A manufacturer who falls under DOSO shall, at any time, show that he has-

  1. identified the possible major accident hazards; and
  2. taken adequate steps to:
    • prevent any major accident or minimize its consequences to persons and the environment; and
    • provide persons working on the site with the information, training, and equipment necessary to ensure their safety; and
  3. prepared and kept up to date an adequate on-site emergency plan detailing how major accidents will be dealt with.

The content of the DOSO safety report shall be in accordance to the requirements of Schedule 6, CIMAH Regulation 1996. The main elements of the report are as follows:

Information relating to every hazardous substance involved in the industrial activity and its relevant quantity as listed in Schedule 2 of the CIMAH regulations, namely:

  • The name of the hazardous substance as given in Schedule 2 or, for a hazardous substance included under a general designation, the name corresponding to the chemical formula of the hazardous substance;
  • A general description of the analytical method available to the manufacturer in determining the presence of the hazardous substance or references to such method in the scientific literature;
  • A brief description of the hazards which may be created by the hazardous substance; and
  • The degree of purity of the hazardous substance, the names of its main impurities and their percentages;

Information relating to the installation, namely:

  • A map of the site and its surrounding area to a scale large enough to show any feature that may be significant in the assessment of the hazard or risk associated with the site;
  • A scale plan of the site showing the locations and quantities of all significant inventories of the hazardous substance;
  • A description of the processes or storage involving the hazardous substance and an indication of the conditions under which it is normally held;
  • The maximum number of persons likely to be present on the site;
  • Information about the nature of the land use and the size and distribution of the population in the vicinity of the industrial activity to which the report relates; and
  • Information on the nearest emergency services (fire station, hospital, police station, community hall, etc.);

Information relating to the system of management for controlling the industrial activity, namely:

  • The staffing arrangements for controlling the industrial activity with the name of the person responsible for safety on the site and the names of the persons who are authorised to set emergency procedures in motion and to inform outside authorities;
  • The arrangements made to ensure that the means provided for the safe operation of the industrial activity are properly designed, constructed, tested, operated, inspected and maintained; and
  • The arrangements for training persons working on the site; and

Information relating to a potential major accident in the form of consequence assessment which contains the following:

  • A description of the potential sources of a major accident and the conditions or events which could be significant in giving rise to one;
  • A diagram of the plant in which the industrial activity is carried on sufficient to show the features which are significant as regards the potential for a major accident or its prevention or control;
  • A description of the measures taken to prevent, control or minimise the consequences of a major accident;
  • Information about the prevailing meteorological conditions in the vicinity of the site;
  • An estimate of the number of people on-site and off-site who may be exposed to the hazards considered in the report; and
  • The consequences to the surrounding areas in the form of appropriate mitigation measures where possible.

Although DOSO requirement may not be from a major hazard installation but if it is next to a major hazard installation, it could be a potential initiating event of major accidents to its neighbor, hence why care must be taken for DOSO site so as to minimize the impact to the people onsite and offsite.