How to Choose the Best Mobile Data Collection Software for Your Plant

July 24, 2018

Whether you oversee a power generation plant, chemical facility, or another type of industrial plant, you need reliable mobile data collection software to ensure that it operates efficiently. The software makes it easier for your Operators to perform Rounds and daily equipment checks. In turn, the data they collect gives you more timely information on asset health, and helps make your plant safer. However, choosing the right mobile data collection software for your plant can be a serious challenge. That’s because there are many data collection options available to you–it can be difficult to decide which method will work best for your plant. How do you choose the best mobile data collection method for your plant? By following three steps, you can identify and implement the best software for your unique needs.

Choosing the Best Mobile Data Collection Software: A 3-Step Process

A mobile data collection system is defined as any use of mobile devices (like smartphones, tablets, or wearables) to gather data from your Operators in the field. Every plant will have a slightly different method for collecting, tracking and analyzing this data, as each industry may have different needs. For example, a manufacturing plant may need to track data trends related to equipment start-ups, shutdowns and centerlining, as these operations occur frequently throughout the day. Meanwhile, a water or wastewater plant might need to track GPS coordinate data or have the option to take photos of the equipment in the field. It’s important to identify your plant’s own unique mobile data collection requirements when you choose your ideal software. To do this, follow the three steps below:

  • Identify your current data collection challenges.
  • Ask your Mobile Plant Workers what they need to streamline the data collection process.
  • Determine what type of mobile data you need to collect and track

When you follow each of the steps above, it will become clear what mobile data collection software will work best for your plant, allowing you to create and implement your new system right away.

Step 1: Identify Challenges in Your Current Mobile Data Collection System

You can’t choose reliable mobile data collection software for your plant unless you understand what challenges you face with your current system. Is your data stranded out in the field until your Operator can transcribe then upload it? Are you logging your data using paper forms and outdated filing systems? Do your Operators lack clear instructions on how to gather data from a piece of equipment? How do you know your Operators are actually in the plant taking readings versus “pencil whipping” the round sheet in the control room? If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you’ll need to choose mobile data collection software that solves these specific challenges. Unless you deal with these systemic problems at your plant, you’ll risk losing or delaying access to important data, which in turn could cause downtime and safety risks at your plant. To find mobile data collection software that solves your current data collection problems, consider the following:

  • Eliminate Stranded Data: Look for a software platform that automatically syncs with your plant’s network to ensure that essential data doesn’t get lost in the field. Your Mobile Operators should never have to manually submit their data to a processing center–this should be done for them as soon as their mobile devices connect to your plant’s network.
  • Keep Reliable Historic Records: The best mobile data collection software will export readings directly to your Plant Historian or other plant system of record . A paper collection system is inherently flawed because your Operators have to submit this paperwork manually; this introduces the risk of improper manual data entry, and moreover, your paperwork may get lost in a complex filing system. A mobile data collection platform keeps better track of all of your data over time.
  • Standardize the Data Collection Process: An effective software platform will give you the option to standardize and change your data collection protocols immediately. A custom mobile platform will allow you to add steps to your Operator Rounds and equipment setup checks, ensuring that all of your Operators have the latest information on-hand. It also guarantees that your Operators are tracking the same type of data for every asset.
  • Make Your Data Actionable: The best mobile data collection software for your plant goes beyond just recording data and keeping historical records of asset readings. The software platform will also make your data actionable. A mobile data platform can collect readings from your assets and send notifications or reports based on this data. Your Operators will know immediately what to do if the data falls outside of the normal operating range for an asset, and Operations Managers will be able to take action based on the platform’s exception reports.

By considering all of these common mobile data collection challenges from the start, you can choose the best software for preventing them.

Step 2: Support the Needs of Your Mobile Workers

The next step for choosing the best mobile data collection software for your plant is to speak with your Mobile Workers about their preferences and challenges. After all, they’re responsible for gathering data from the field or taking action when an asset isn’t operating normally, so they need a software platform that will fit their existing workflow—so that they’ll actually use it. A mobile platform that can be customized to fit your Workers’ unique needs will be the best choice for your plant. Whether online or offline, a mobile data collection platform will allow your Outside Operators in an open-roof setting to obtain readings from the field and quickly record them on a mobile device. Meanwhile, that same platform can also be used by Inside Operators to observe equipment operations and take action as needed. Look for customizable systems. The mobile platform should support all of your Operators and Operations Managers, whether your Operator is performing manual equipment setup checks and recording his findings on a mobile device, or the Operations Manager is analyzing asset performance trends over time.

Step 3: Define Your Plant’s Mobile Data Collection Software Requirements

Once you’ve identified the challenges of your current data collection process and you understand your Operators’ needs, your last step is to determine what type of data you need to record and track. This list of requirements will dictate the best mobile data collection software for your plant. Your list of requirements might include:

  • Operator Rounds sheets that are specific to every asset.
  • Software-based asset inspection records.
  • Corrective action and escalation procedure notifications based on gathered data.
  • Standard Operating Procedure checklists.
  • The ability to collect data offline and sync to the network later.
  • Reliable historical records on the mobile device
  • Exception reports and the ability to track other types of historical data trends.
  • The ability to take detailed notes in the field, including photographs and GPS coordinates

You may require all of the features above in your mobile data collection software, or, you may need just a few of them. Regardless, you should choose a platform that is able to support all of them. That will give you greater operational flexibility, and ensure your mobile data collection software evolves alongside your plant when you install new equipment or update your SOPs.

The Best Mobile Data Collection Software for Your Plant

The GoPlant platform is the best mobile data collection software for your plant because it solves many of the common challenges that Plant Operations Managers and Operators face when they gather and analyze data. The platform’s mobile app is designed to streamline the data gathering process, allowing Operators to enter multiple types of data into their mobile devices, take readings offline, observe data trends and take corrective action based on the latest findings. The desktop version of the software also allows Operations Managers to oversee Rounds, assign and oversee Tasks, export data and analyze data trends. These features make the mobile data collection simple for Operators and Managers alike, and can immensely improve the operating efficiency at your plant.

Request a demo of our GoPlant mobile data collection system to find out more about the platform’s features and functionality. The GoPlant software system is able to track the health of thousands of assets, and you can customize the platform to fit your plant’s unique needs. Take the first step by connecting with our team today.