App Insights

How apps outpace traditional engineering IT systems

Date Published:

Apps for engineering

For engineering teams, finding simple solutions to complex problems is their bread and butter.

All too often this requires long-winded procurement of expensive databases, only accessible using clunky, non-bespoke front-end software. Frustration follows.

Meanwhile, apps are cost-effective, fast-developed technologies with clear, functional user interfaces, offering flexible front-ends to these complex database systems. Used properly, they can work wonders in an engineering workplace. Here’s why.

Cost-effective

Engineering teams are often tasked with finding innovative solutions while cutting costs. Apps tick both boxes. While complex databases eat up budget, custom apps can be developed at a low price to allow engineers to access data according to their specific needs.

In this way, the likes of the recent NHS IT debacle can be avoided. Caused by poor software functionality and usability, an app (or several apps) developed quickly and relatively cheaply could have provided a user-friendly and powerful way of accessing aggregated NHS data for different teams – potentially saving the organisation millions of pounds to replace their system.

Fast

New IT systems take time to be commissioned and installed within a workplace. Given the speed at which apps can be developed, easy-to-use interfaces can be prototyped and tested as the database is put in place – meaning the front-facing software is ready to go almost as soon as the backend goes live.

It’s not only speed of development that is quick. The fact that most workers have their own smart devices means distribution is fast. No longer do teams have to wait for new software to be installed on their machines. Instead, they can download custom front-end software from super simple enterprise deployments or even their app store – both accessible from their phones.

Mitsubishi Electric recently launched an app that allows any installation or service engineer to access up-to-the-minute information on the company’s full range of products. “The app, designed by engineers for engineers, provides access to the latest important service and installation data for our complete range of air conditioning, heating, ventilation and controls”, explains Steve Hayward, Technical Services and Aftersales Manager for the company. The app is also usable offline, giving field engineers exceptional efficiency in any location.

Flexible

Because engineers are full of ideas of how to improve and innovate, working with expensive, non-bespoke, slow-moving systems can be frustrating. The fact that they tend to work in small independent teams complicates the situation further, with each requiring something different from shared back-end databases. Non-bespoke systems struggle to cater for this kind of idiosyncrasy, but the flexibility of an app provides the perfect solution. A UI can be tailored to any one team’s needs for a personalised view of data.

This flexibility extends outside the office, allowing engineers to address issues in the field. Track Locator® from railtrack engineers Omnicom calculates a user’s location while trackside, converting it to an ELR (Engineer’s Line Reference). The UI displays a simple Google Map background with the user’s location, as well as their ELR and mileage. In addition, the app allows the user to take a picture stamped with the ELR, mileage, latitude, longitude, date and time. This data is then fed back to head office, where it can be recorded and managed.

Companies can spend millions on the installation of non-bespoke IT systems, only to find their rigidity and complexity makes them hard – or even impossible – to operate and adapt. Apps, on the other hand, are a cost-effective, time-efficient and flexible front-end to these complex datasets, providing an innovative solution to isolated engineering challenges that need a little more lateral thinking.

Calvium build beautiful, intelligent apps for forward-thinking brands. Working closely with heritage, engineering and agency groups, we provide award-winning app development that drives customer engagement and boosts innovation in business.

Thinking about investing in your own mobile software? Make the right development decisions with our support blogposts.