Why Automating Your PPM Strategy is Essential for Your Fire and Security Business

Rhys Pattimore
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The installation of customer assets is just one of the services you provide; keeping up with their fire and security maintenance, is another. Here’s why automation is essential to enhance your planned preventive maintenance strategy.

Arranging Planned Preventive Maintenance (PPM) will already be a huge part of your day-to-day workload. After all, you know that downtime from equipment failure can be detrimental to a customer's business, or simply unacceptable in an individual's home. Just as it would be for yourself, no one wants to experience a faulty alarm, or have defunct digital locks denying access to their building! 

You’re already doing a good job with your current strategy of maintaining a customer's assets with regular check-ups, but as a company that’s now home to a large team of engineers, with hundreds (if not thousands) of assets scattered across a vast area, it’s likely becoming more difficult to manage your appointments and schedule them with as  efficiently as you'd like. 

While it's great to expand, keeping organised will only become more challenging as you take on additional customers and grow your team of engineers. There’ll be appointments you simply cannot miss, but scheduling issues increase the odds of things going wrong, even leading you to lose business to a competitor if your productivity breaks down. After all, if you can’t get the job done, what’s to stop them from calling someone else? As such, whether it’s scheduling appointments, sending reminders for a booking, or simply giving your engineers a better idea of what work needs to be done, you need a solution to lighten the load. 

Fortunately, that’s where using automation software comes in. As a result, you could see a reduction in the number of missed appointments thanks to automatic messaging reminding engineers of their tasks, or experience an increase in productivity because of real-time, auto-synchronised data giving them useful insights. You may even see a boost in revenue thanks to intelligent scheduling cutting labour and resource costs, too. 

Here, then, let’s take a look at why automation is essential as you aim to elevate your PPM strategy: 

  1. A vast improvement over Reactive Maintenance
  2. Enhance your productivity, yielding frequent work
  3. Automated PPM is the future

1. A vast improvement over Reactive Maintenance

Before we dive in to automated PPM, it’ll be useful to consider why PPM is such a boon over the Reactive Maintenance approach. After all, it’s certainly true that some businesses aren’t making the most of Preventive Maintenance where they should be, instead adopting an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. 

Granted, there is some logic to holding back from tinkering with a product, especially if it appears to be working perfectly. It’s cheaper not to have someone need to physically go and inspect the asset, and it saves time from having to book and organise the appointment...but this approach is often short-sighted and ignores the bigger picture. 

After all, we’ve all experienced equipment failure at one point or another, and when something does inevitably break, problems can be severe. From the minor to the catastrophic, whether it’s an interruption to people’s time, or a bigger, physical disaster, such as theft or damage; the latter could incur costly repairs, or risk an individual’s safety. 

Even with PPM, you’ll still “react” when there is an emergency (PPM is preventive, but not a miracle cure), but making an effort to prevent an asset from becoming a problem through routinely assessing, fixing, or replacing parts is far better than only reacting when the whole thing fails. Customers would certainly agree that it’s better to have the “minor inconvenience” of a scheduled test of their alarm equipment, for instance, as opposed to the alternative of witnessing equipment failing during an actual emergency.

It can be all-too-easy to dismiss maintenance or consider assets as “unlikely to break”, but that kind of negligent attitude has no place in the fire and security industry. Having a PPM strategy is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to quality, safety, and an acknowledgement of you keeping up to current industry standards. As a result, your work is more likely to yield satisfied customers, attract new business, and prevent problems that could otherwise damage your business’ reputation, or worse, endanger someone’s life.

2. Enhance your productivity, yielding frequent work

So, you’re committed to Planned Preventive Maintenance, but you may be curious as to the specific benefits automation will bring.

Well, it all ties to how you organise your workload. You know that, depending on the individual asset and contracted requirements with your customer, maintenance can be carried out at different dates. After all, for detection sensors linked to a fire alarm system, they’d need to be tested at various times over the course of 12 months to ensure they’re functioning as needed. However, fire extinguishers may only need to be serviced once every five years (though agreements may have you check them more frequently). This means that for a variety of items, you could have schedules varying from monthly, quarterly, biannually, annually, or otherwise.

Without some form of digital diary to keep track, it is possible that these schedules can get muddled or even forgotten and appointments missed. On top of simply scheduling an appointment, you also need to keep track of an asset’s location and history, and, when booking, make sure an appropriately skilled engineer is assigned too. To add to the workload, notifications, reminders, and confirmations that a service is due: the process of PPM requires a lot of administrative work, and that’s all without even getting to the appointment itself. 

Automation plays a significant role in lightening this workload and taking the pressure off. Let’s say you have a 5 year maintenance contract with one of your customers. You know the system you installed needs to be checked every 6 months. By setting up appointments to repeat on specific dates in your diary (10 over 5 years) you can have your system automatically set up notifications so that, every 6 months, reminders are sent prior to the appointment to confirm a schedule that works for them, whilst also assisting you in booking the appointment.

If you’re doing this for every asset that you know needs servicing (grouping some, or even dividing between asset ages), you can streamline the entire process through intelligent scheduling. Ultimately, automating your PPM scheduling process will allow you to benefit from:

  • Managing your job orders more efficiently 
  • Reducing the amount of reactive maintenance needed
  • Eliminating excessive amounts of admin and paperwork, saving time
  • Optimising your productivity (if scheduled far in advance, you need not worry about organising until the reminder pops up)
  • Keeping up with the competition, and compete in tender
  • Avoid the consequences of unplanned maintenance i.e. increases safety
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory bodies, contracted agreements, and
  • Avoid SLA breaches

3. Automated PPM is the future

We’ve spoken before about the Internet of Things and it’s place within fire and security, especially when thinking about smart devices. This, of course, comes in to play when we think about Planned Preventive Maintenance as well.

If you’re unsure about IoT, Google defines it as: “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.” 

So, whether it’s using an app to manage how you heat your home, or monitoring personal security via a remote device, it should be immediately apparent how smart tech can benefit PPM.

Smart, IoT linked devices have the potential to elevate your PPM to another level, running diagnostics 24/7, 365 days a year, they can report malfunctions, or other errors with precision, and that removes the need for guesswork and makes it far, far easier for engineers to see when an issue has occurred and be alerted much faster when an issue does occur, also increasing the odds a problem can be prevented faster.

This also connects, again, to automated scheduling. If there is a problem, your system can be notified, create a job, and process it with the customer, all with the click of a few buttons and notifications to confirm. 

At the moment, you’ll likely be working with information about an asset that has been collected from previous appointments and logged into a report, or workbook, by an engineer. This solution may work well, but of course it’s not as efficient as a smart device reporting itself. It runs faster and—as is increasingly likely—can provide more accurate, detailed information than the human counterpart. After all, effective PPM relies on good data, but if you can increase the speed and accuracy of how you get this data, then your strategy and overall execution of maintenance will only improve. 

The real benefit comes from a smart device running its own diagnostics and sending real-time data reports to an integrated database. From there, engineers can connect to check the status of a device and see ,clearly, if there’s an issue and what it may be. In some cases, they may even be able to fix a problem remotely, without the need for a physical appointment, which would save time and money and prevent the customer from experiencing any interruption.  

It is quite clear that integrations with IoT will help businesses to grow and scale quickly, improving the way you manage your maintenance processes, boosting the efficiency of maintenance and the likelihood of first-time fix rates too.

The Takeaway

By utilising automation technology and integrating it into the way you manage your PPM strategy, you’re far more likely to increase the efficiency of your business and reap the benefits of its implementation. It is becoming the expectation that services are able to deliver quality, well-informed, and disruption free maintenance as part of their service, so you should be doing everything you can to scale it within your business.

Whether it’s linked to intelligent scheduling, understanding an asset’s issue, or optimising the way in which you prioritise your workload for the long term, particularly as you scale to cope with an increased workload that focuses on smarter technology, it’s a necessity.

Customers, of course, are far more likely to respond to a business whose reputation of excellent installation and consistent, quality maintenance is known, so it’s important to note how significant an excellent PPM strategy bodes for your business when it comes to tender as well.

Be sure to download our Checklist detailing what you can do to make sure you are optimised for tender, by clicking below.

Tender writing checklist for field service businesses

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