If you are here, you probably already learned how to manage your own equipment. Actually, it is likely you are dealing with this task regularly, maybe even on a daily basis. It is very likely that you experienced at least three of these five things:
- You couldn’t locate the instrument you needed
- You couldn’t find the user manual
- You’ve missed your instrument calibration or equipment validation due date
- You were not aware that the instrument calibration results were out of tolerance
- You’ve spent a lot of time making and checking your instrument maintenance spreadsheet plan
With digital transformation becoming increasingly ubiquitous, managing your measuring equipment in a cloud has become a necessity, not just the solution to your problems. We live in a time when our efficiency and success depends on using modern technology. If we want to be better, faster and (even more) profitable we do not need just any kind of digital solution, we need the one that is tailored to our needs. Measuring equipment management deserves the same treatment.
But what does it mean to manage your measuring equipment in a cloud? First, let’s talk about cloud computing.
Simply, the use of cloud services over the Internet includes delivery of servers, database storage, software, analytics, applications and much more, which makes it faster, more flexible, easier and cheaper. Everything is accessible through a web-based interface provided by the cloud service provider and you, as a user, simply log in to access the data server. The main advantages to cloud computing is reduced IT costs and cost savings in general. This is really important if you don’t have a good IT service at your disposal so you could build your own servers and tailored-made applications – apps based on your industry or specific organizational needs. Also, there is a cost of your data storage space. When you are on a cloud, providers often offer you packages according to your current needs so you don’t pay for the storage space you won’t use. Second thing to mention, but surely not any less important is the security. Many organizations have concerns regarding managing important data in a cloud but actually, this isn’t any less safe than having your data in just one place, or not to mention – on paper. In any case, it can actually be much safer to keep sensitive information offsite. By using a cloud service provider, you can shift the responsibility for any security issue from your organization on to the host and stop wasting your resources.
Let’s move on to some simple real life examples of managing your measuring equipment and how to benefit from using a cloud computing based app for measuring equipment management in your organization.
1. No more missing documents
Most of us surely had a surprise situation during audits or inspections when you were asked to display documents to your auditors but somehow, you were not able to find that one specific piece of paper. You end up really frustrated, wasting time on something that should have been simple.
Cloud database makes all your documents, plans and information available to you and in fact, to your entire team, at any moment. No more “I forgot to tell you” or “did we speak about this a week ago”. All the information about your measuring equipment is now available 24/7.
2. Traceability of records
If you don’t have a well established system and your records often depend on individual people which are obviously prone to human errors, it is very likely that you’ve spent numerous hours just trying to figure out what happened and when, and who actually did it, a long time after it was already done, so you could make a record in order to have traceability. Wouldn’t it be great if the records needed for traceability of equipment-related events were just creating themselves? That way you don’t waste any of your precious time trying to figure things out on your own.
Smart cloud-based platform will keep all your instrument records on the Instrument Card, organized even better then if you would just stack papers in a binder. Neatly displayed and accessible from anywhere, anytime. Every Instrument Card also has an extensive audit trail of everything that happened regarding this instrument’s records in the past. Whenever team members add, edit or delete a record, the system generates a new History entry, with the complete description of the event, along with the information about who did it and when. In this History audit trail you can easily find all important information – who initiated some activity, who was the particular service provider, who uploaded the certificate or report and who approved it. And of course when each of these events happened. Whenever something is edited, the History entry will contain both the state of that record before and after the change. With this feature, audits and inspections become like a walk in the park. Traceability of your instrument records is something you don’t have to think about ever again.
3. Maintenance as scheduled
Measuring and monitoring equipment has become more refined, precise and of course – more expensive, so planning and managing all the activities to maintain the needed accuracy level of your measurements has certainly become exhausting. Sometimes even the simple initiative and responsibilities regarding the maintenance becomes an issue, especially if you are sharing a piece of equipment with your colleagues. It takes a whole lot of planning and cooperation to do it right.
If your list of equipment contains over 30 or 50 instruments (and often it is much much more of them), you surely have a problem planning your maintenance activities so that it doesn’t affect your everyday job and core duties. All those internal checks, calibrations, validations, repairs etc. and the fact that many of these activities are done externally by organizations other than your own, makes maintenance a full-time job. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Smart cloud-based maintenance plan interacts with you and your team, providing you adequate information which is ON TIME. It will definitely help you manage your equipment efficiently and make sure you don’t forget about your due dates ever again. Once you define your recurring activities with their intervals and responsibilities the plan will set individualized alarms so you can dedicate your time to other obligations, instead of stressing about hundreds of different deadlines. This will also result in the improvement of quality control systems and risk reduction by enabling you to react quickly to any issues. If something about the instrument is suspicious or the maintenance is not going according to the plan, it is always very important to know about it on time. Everyone has to get the information exactly when it is needed. You will get personalized notifications as daily reminders, even via email if you choose so.
4. Comunication platform
Often, when the maintenance of our equipment is outsourced to some external service providers, like repairs or calibration, you find yourself in the dark hall of miscommunication or the complete lack of any. Sometimes you are the one who would like to share important facts about our instrument with the service provider in advance, or give him some how-to advice, but since you are focused on getting the job done before the deadline, sometimes you forget to share it. It also works the same way in the other direction. Your maintenance service providers almost always have useful tips and tricks on how to improve our measurements or our usage of the instrument in the more general sense. They often know much more about our instruments than you do, even if you use those instruments on a daily basis. And because they are experts, they will be the first to detect significant changes in our equipment.
On a cloud-based app, you and your external maintenance service providers finally have a platform to communicate so everyone gets every bit of important information right on time. You will have a shareable digital equipment logbook where both the client and the maintenance service provider can write useful and important notes. But there are also other types of valuable information continuously exchanged between the client and the service provider through a platform like this. For example – when the specific maintenance activity is finished and your instrument is ready for pick up, or if there are any difficulties with the accuracy of the instrument so it is maybe the time to buy another one etc.
5. Easy risk analysis
Sudden malfunction of your equipment, or incorrect measurement results that affect all of your work, are significant additional cost of poor quality for your organization. Sometimes they can cause not only serious financial issues, but also affect your complete business health. Risk analysis enables you to be aware of any potential problem so you have time to improve quality control systems and reduce risk by reacting quickly to any issues. We have all tried to help ourselves with various risk analysis tools, but unfortunately they were not really based on concrete data that we gather about our equipment through maintenance.
With a cloud-based app your service providers can join the platform free of charge, leave you comments, upload new reports and certificates, and even upload your calibration data in a smart format instead of you so you would have your long-term instrument calibration trends updated instantly. After that, risk analysis could be done easily, in a breeze. This way you will be able to see all the bad changes ahead of time, and prepare yourself for upcoming costs or issues. You can react in time and prevent unforeseen costs or much worse things like incorrect measurements. In some cases you could even improve your instruments readings, and make sure that the values you get are corrected by taking into account instruments errors.
Using cloud computing really isn’t an inovation, neither is using LIMS, but using specially tailored app made specially for managing measuring equipment maintenance is something that this market desperately needs. Technology keeps advancing every day, so to keep up – you need to. This giant growth of the IT industry only indicates growing involvement of information technology in ALL industries. No matter where you are or what you do, smart use of technology is the thing that pushes us forward.