AKWIRE for Maximo User Group

What Maintenance Planners and Schedulers Need: A Senior Systems Engineer’s Approach to Problem Solving

by Mariah Patterson on January 10, 2019

When configuring AKWIRE to work with Maximo and a client’s requirements and business processes, you’re bound to come across a few obstacles. And when that happens, the best way to find solutions to those problems that have arisen is to break them down into the smallest variables. Reducing a problem to its simplest scenario, removing irrelevant factors and changing the inputs to determine what does and does not affect it is a good place to start.

That’s what Omar Rivera, Solufy’s Senior Systems Engineer, does every day.

He is no stranger in trying to determine the best way to make things fit. A problem-solver by nature, while he’s implementing AKWIRE, Omar is often found heading off problems by ensuring AKWIRE fits with other systems. Or, he’s solving problems by trying to duplicate the scenario a customer is encountering and debugging it or resolving it on his own system. However, each client is different, so each problem-solving approach has to be individually tailored.

Omar-Rivera-SolufyIn fact, from his education at The Johns Hopkins University onward, this has been a common theme for Omar. “I went to school for computer engineering,” he says. “Essentially, the degree is half electrical engineering and half computer science.” This means, as he elaborates, “that I had to put those two together: the hardware and the software.”

By the time he graduated in 2002, though, jobs in the field were hard to come by. “All of the computer science jobs had gone offshore,” he says, “and I didn’t have enough experience to get an entry level position in the electrical engineering side.”

That problem was solved when he landed a job with Lockheed Martin as a Systems Engineer, gathering and documenting software requirements. “It was a technology-based service role,” he notes. “School prepares you for the technology aspects, but not as much for the service elements. I loved getting things to work for the customer, making their life easier, and getting the software to work faster – if possible.

“As a simple example, the customer required that some fields be easier to identify or address, and to solve that requirement, I could make them stand out with bold, color, or other configurations. These improvements save the user a second here and there to find every configured field, but all this time adds up. Another example that makes a bigger difference is splitting the schedules up per group. If you only load the Work Orders for a particular group in that scheduler’s schedule, the tool will load much quicker and they won’t have to sift through data that is someone else’s responsibility. Things like this, I really love doing.”

Getting to know IBM Maximo and Solufy’s AKWIRE

His first experience with IBM Maximo was in 2008 when he worked as a Senior Implementation Specialist for TRM. Over the next several years, he continued to hone his expertise in Maximo and its surrounding products at companies such as Capgemini and Cognizant, taking on primarily consulting roles. This allowed Omar to work in different industries from utilities to pharmaceuticals to government.

“Maximo lets a developer be a developer,” he explains. “It is the same as when I work with AKWIRE—it’s all about configuration and functionality.”

It was this realization that set the stage for Omar’s career: “I like tools that are flexible, customizable, configurable… tools that allow you to move things around. Tools that are too rigid, you can’t do much with them. So, in these years of my career, I learned what kind of tools I wanted to work with.”

While working at PAE, a government contractor in the defense industry, Omar discovered AKWIRE. Within PAE, there were several contracts that used AKWIRE for their Planning and Scheduling processes. “Something that I noticed with PAE was that Solufy has strong lines of communication and a working feedback loop. The Solufy team is always quick to answer questions or help clients with configuration. That's what I liked about AKWIRE and that's why I wanted to work for them.”

“The thing that I really like about us is that we’re a product company,” Omar says. “We own all the code for our solutions, so the end users can actually make a difference. If you want to change the behavior of AKWIRE and it can’t be done with configuration, you can open a support ticket and explain what you need. This information gets back to the developers and that’s how new features get added into the product. Most importantly, we understand the user’s perspective. We’re agile enough that we can move quickly. I saw it at PAE and now I’m a part of it.”

From utilities to pharmaceuticals: knowing what Maintenance Planners and Schedulers need

When he transitioned to working at Solufy, Omar found the different industries he had worked in previously provided useful insights for working with clients. For example, he worked in the utilities industry with EFH, the pharmaceutical industry and government contracting – all industries that look to purpose-built maintenance Planning and Scheduling tools to help them increase wrench time, decrease unscheduled downtime and make Planners and Schedulers more effective.

“It helps to know where they’re coming from,” says Omar. “I’ve worked in those industries, so when I connect with clients, it’s easier for me to understand their needs and their goals. I like how each customer has their own challenges. Trying to adapt to each one keeps me sharp. Sometimes I luck out and I can use utilize the same configuration across clients, which makes it easier to implement a solution.”

In his current position as Solufy’s Senior Systems Engineer, Omar works remotely from his home base. “I’m creating and updating the install package that contains all the scripts, DLLs, executables, and configuration XMLs from the Development team.” He also creates and maintains documentation, such as administrative guides and installation guides to help clients hit the ground running.

Making a difference at the ground level

Regardless of what he is working on, Omar said he enjoys the sense that he is helping customers solve problems, ensuring they can get the most from their Planning and Scheduling initiatives. “Like I was saying before, we are a tight-knit team,” he says. “And that means everyone can make a difference here.”

He’s found that the focused, direct, and efficient structure of the team means that solutions are often found much more quickly. When he works with customers on support, the time from creating a support ticket to resolution is exceptional.

Once he is in contact with a customer, his first step is to try to replicate the issue remotely within the customer’s environment. “If the customer can turn on their log file,” Omar says, “I can get a lot of information that way. That usually gives me enough information to get started with the troubleshooting.”

Depending on the level of access the person he is working with, access to the log file might not be possible. “If I’m working with someone in systems engineering,” he clarifies, “there is generally access to all the systems. However, with larger customers, there are often different team members that I work with. One company could have a PeopleSoft team, an AKWIRE team, an infrastructure team and/or a database team. They sometimes don’t talk with one another; therefore, we are always mindful of our clients’ processes and protocols and always try to work with them, while also identifying potential trouble spots early on and making suggestions to facilitate communication and collaboration between teams.”

Once he’s liaised with the right people, Omar strives to get right to the heart of the problem with a methodology he’s honed over the years. “I’ll try to simplify the problem as much as possible. For example, if there is a schedule with 5,000 records, I might ask the client to create a test schedule with just one record.

“Sometimes, recreating it fixes the problem, but if not, this is one method to see if it is a data-related issue or specific to a certain scenario. I want to see if the problem is with the software, the configuration or with the data, and then we’ll go from there. I build a working theory and try to predict what will happen until I can validate if it’s right. Let’s say it’s a data issue; my theory might be that it’s because the date field is null. I’ll test it with a non-null value to confirm that that’s the root of the issue, and then it’s easy to find the solution.”

And no matter how much of a problem-solver Omar is at heart, there are times when he needs to call on his colleagues.

“The teamwork here is astounding,” he says.

Often, he’ll reach out to Richard Almendarez, Solufy’s Director of Client Services, or Elliot Bonilla, the Director of Technical Support for Solufy.

And, as a tight-knit team, he also collaborates with members of the Testing and Development teams. “Everyone is accessible and ready to help. We enjoy working together and ultimately, that collaboration leads to better products, services and support for our clients.”

In the end, for Omar, it’s all comes back to understanding the client’s requirements and getting AKWIRE and their enterprise asset management system (EAM), such as Maximo, to work well for them.   

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Mariah Patterson

Mariah Patterson began writing as a child as a way to fill her time when her family moved to an isolated region in Maine. With no close friendships, developing cabin fever from intense snowstorms and only one fuzzy Canadian channel on TV, she created her own world through writing.

She began her

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