Thursday, June 28, 2007

HVAC Maintenance and Mobile Handheld PDAs

Access Heating & Air Conditioning came to my house today. Poor them...they did not realize that I work at MobileDataforce and we design, develop and deploy mobile handheld PDA HVAC software applications. They must think I am the most obnoxious customer they have ever had.

"Using a paper form and clipboard I see."
"How do you know what job to do next?"
"They tell me on the radio."
"How many jobs do you do a day?"
"As many as they tell me."
"How do they tell you?"
"I go to the office in the morning and they say - here and hand me a job."
"What about jobs 2-7?"
"I call them on a radio and say I am finished. They say about time now go here or there."
"Do you ever need to review past work orders or maintenance forms?"
"Yep - most of the time the customer has the last one duct taped to the side of the furnace."
"If not?"
"I call the office and ask them to look in the file and read it to me."
"Why three separate forms?"
"One for a service agreement, one is a maintenance checklist and the third is an invoice."
"What happens when you give all that paper work to the office staff?"
"The invoice is put into the computer, the other 2 forms go into a notebook/file folder."
"How long does a service call take?"
"With a customer like you? Too long."

I refrained from explaining how we mobilize HVAC operations regularly. It makes so much sense to combine the 3 forms into one mobile software application on a handheld computer. The service agreement, maintenance inspection and invoice could be integrated easily into one electronic form on the rugged handheld computer and the data could be synchronized wirelessly directly to the office computer system.

The service technician could query past visits with a simple online request. Digital signatures and a mobile handheld computer could be used to capture digital signatures and a mobile printer used for the invoice. The invoice could even be emailed to the customer rather than using more paper.

Service orders could be dispatched electronically to the service technicians handheld computer rather than trying to call and read all the information, which the service technician scribbles on a paper tablet while drinking his coffee and driving through the rain in rush hour traffic.

Oh my...I have a lot of work to do.

Auto & Equipment Auctions and Mobile Handheld PDA Inspection Solutions

MobileDataforce has been working on projects in Europe, North America and in Australia/New Zealand that involve inspecting and appraising automobiles and other equipment for auctions and resale. Think about the environment that these activities take place in - mines, construction sites, storage lots, homes, auto dealerships, etc. These environments require one to collect a great deal of data in the field.

Handheld PDAs and mobile inspection software with wireless synchronization back to an enterprise database application in the office provides a huge amount of value. Let's discuss some of it here:
  1. Standardized inspection forms on handheld computers can ensure inspections are complete, uniform, accurate and readable.
  2. Business rules included in the mobile handheld inspection applications can validate that the information is accurate. For example scanning a VIN number on a vehicle can automatically fill out much of the vehicle information automatically and ensure the inspection data matches the vehicle description.
  3. Real time wireless synchronization means the inspection data can be immediately displayed on a website.
  4. Digital camera integration with your handheld computer can attach photos to your inspection data for immediate display on a website
  5. Wireless dispatch means your inspectors can be sent information on where they need to go for their next inspection
  6. In some cases valuation data can be pre-loaded into the handheld computer and aligned with the data collected from the inspection to provide a near real-time appraisal in the field.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Electric & Water Utilities and Inspection Software for Handheld PDAs

In the past week MobileDataforce has been contacted by over 20 electrical and water utilities seeking mobile handheld PDA solutions for inspections. It seems our mobile inspection software fills a significant need for them. Here are just a few of the common mobile software applications that electrical utilities are searching for:

  • Power Plant Inspections
  • Asset Management - Conditional Assessment
  • Meter Repair & Maintenance
  • Line & Pole Inspections
  • Stray Voltage Inspections
  • Health and Safety Inspections
  • Pole Inspections
  • Weld Tracking
  • Construction Management
  • Health & Safety
  • Facilities Management
  • Substation Inspections
  • GIS and mobile applications

Inspection Software on Handheld PDAs

Across the globe MobileDataforce's mobile inspection software solutions designed for handheld PDAs are used in a wide variety of situations and environments. Let me list a few:
  • Food Processing Plants

  • Bridge construction

  • Residential water usage

  • Vehicle inspections for resale

  • End-of-lease auto inspections

  • Mold inspections

  • Roof inspections

  • Heavy equipment auctions

  • Street sign inspections

  • many more...

Yesterday I was involved in learning all about the following:

  • Eddy Current Inspections
  • Non-destructive Testing
  • Tube Plugging Tests
  • Corrosion Tests
  • Ultrasonic Testing
  • Concrete Testing
  • Soil & Water Testing
  • Leak Testing

Our PointSync Mobility Platform is the foundation for all of these inspection software applications. It is a software platform that supports quickly designing, developing and deploying a wide variety of mobile inspection applications for a large number of different mobile handheld PDAs in a quick and cost effective manner.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mobile Inspection Software and Handheld PDAs in City Government

MobileDataforce has worked with a lot of municipal governments on mobilizing inspections using isnpection software designed for handheld PDAs. Here is a list of the departments in a typical city that conduct regular inspections:
  • City Engineering

  • City Land Use

  • City Forestry

  • City Historic Development

  • City "Right-of-Way"

  • City Traffic Engineers

  • City Building Inspectors

  • City Fire Marshall

  • City Electrical Inspectors

  • City Mechanical Inspectors

  • City Plumbing Inspectors

Many of these departments may have multiple inspections they must perform. In the Fire Marshall department alone they have quite the selection:

  • Fire Alarm

  • Cooking Equipment

  • Wall Rating

  • Wall Penetrations

  • Above Ceiling

  • Exit and Emergency Lights

  • Sprinklers

  • Panic Hardware

  • Standpipe

  • Emergency Extinguishers

  • Many more...

These departments and their associated inspections represent a lot of field data collection activities and internal office data entry. It is easy to see why MobileDataforce provides a lot of mobile inspection software to these agencies and departments.

Business Analytics and Mobile Handheld PDAs

We have many very large customers that are deploying hundreds and even thousands of mobile handheld PDAs to their field services and inspection teams around the world. In addition to all of the efficiencies derived from using mobile software applications that synchronize directly to enterprise database applications back at the office, there is the additional value of being able to analyze services and business metrics in real time. Let me explain:

If your company provides a defined list of services, it is easy to include a feature in your "mobile work order" application that will record the start and stop times on a service. Let's say you have 100 field service technicians all performing the same list of services. It will not take long to understand the average length of time it takes to complete that service. Your job estimates will become increasingly accurate, your planning and scheduling processes better defined and accurate and the individual performances of your field service technicians can be monitored based upon your analysis of the time it takes to complete each service that you offer. You can pay bonuses or give raises to service technicians that have above average service performances and that generate above average profits for the company.

These business analytic features can be included in just about any mobile software application for use on handheld PDAs developed on the PointSync Mobility Platform.

Inspection Software for Mobile Handheld PDAs, Service Requests & Asset Management

Many of our customers that use mobile handheld computers and PDAs for mobile inspections also use them for mobile service requests and asset tracking. Let me provide you with a scenario:

  1. A mobile handheld computer is used to perform an inspection on the condition of a building (company asset)

  2. The information collect from the conditional assessment inspection is synchronized to the enterprise Asset Management system so it can be documented, analyzed and work and budgets assigned to maintain it.

  3. A service request is dispatched to the handheld computer or PDA of the service technician. The service technician completes the work that was dispatched to him/her and the service request is closed and synchronized with the enterprise Asset Management system

Inspections, Asset Management and Service Orders often go hand-in-hand. All three of these functions benefit from the use of mobile handheld computers and PDAs. The data that is collected is in the field, the company's assets are located in many different areas, the work that is performed is also done in many different remote locations.

MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform is designed specifically to support all of the enterprises connectivity between the enterprise's database applications and mobile field workers.

This link goes to a document that can be downloaded called "28 Reasons to Mobilize".

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mobile Handheld PDAs and Inspection Software

It is very important to select the appropriate and relevant handheld PDAs, Smartphones or Tablet PCs/Laptops when preparing for an inspection project. I have collected many of the most important considerations and published them in a document called, "Selecting Appropriate Handheld Computers".
Inspection software developed for handheld PDAs is unique and requires specialized attributes. It must work in disconnected environments, in rugged and remote locations and support the functionality built into your mobile handheld PDA.
I hope you find this helpful!

Mobile Inspections on Handheld PDAs and the Web

Inspections are of little value if the data is not shared, analyzed and provides relevant information necessary for making solid business decisions. We have worked with several customers who have reported that historic data from field inspections simply got placed in paper file folders and stored. The data was not accessed or viewed by any decision makers!!!

Most if not all of the field inspection software applications that MobileDataforce have worked on synchronize data from mobile handheld PDAs to a database back at the office. Often we are asked to create web interfaces to this data so project participants and management can quickly login and review the collected inspection data from anywhere in the world via a web browser. We customize a series of reports that display the data in relevant and helpful formats for quick and efficient viewing and understanding.

Mobile Inspection Software on Handheld PDAs

Mobile inspection software solutions are the topic of the week. Why? Many of MobileDataforce's largest global customers are in the inspection services business. In addition, rarely are inspections done in an office cubicle. They are most often completed somewhere away from the office and often out-of-doors. My engineering team has been developing and enhancing the PointSync Mobility Platform for many years specifically for companies that have a need to use a wide variety of different inspection applications and other mobile applications in the field.

The image in the upper right corner of this blog - is a screen shot of the PointSync Developer. This is the application companies use to develop each customized inspection. Once the mobile application is designed, developed and deployed the work can begin.

Because the inspection services industry covers such a wide variety of inspections, MobileDataforce created a mobile inspection platform to support the requirements for quickly changing them. Here is a list of a few of the common inspection applications:
  • Building Inspections
  • Power Pole Inspections
  • Substation Inspections
  • Stray Voltage Inspections
  • Power Generation Plant Inspections
  • Pipeline Inspections
  • Health & Safety Inspections
  • Scaffold Inspections
  • Mold Inspections
  • Fire Safety Inspections
  • Conditional Assessment Inspections
  • Auto Inspections
  • End of lease vehicle inspections
  • Quality Assurance Inspections
  • etc...

The list is endless. No one would buy a separate mobile application for each of the thousands of different possible inspections. Companies want an mobile inspection platform that can support all of these possible scenarios. That solution is the PointSync Mobility Platform for Inspections.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Off the Shelf Mobile Applications vs Customized for Handheld PDAs

Often my sales team gets asked the following question, "Should I buy an "Off-the-Shelf" mobile software application, or customize a mobile software application to fit my specific business?" The answer depends on if your business is set-up as an "off-the-shelf" business. Do you conduct your business in the exact same manner as many others in your market? Do you use the same business processes and the same accounting package as the others? Is your product or service business managed in the same manner as others in your market. If the answers are yes, then buying an off-the shelf mobile application is a reasonable option. However, if you conduct your business in a unique manner that offers you a competitive advantage over others in your market, then you may want to customize your mobile software applications and automate the business processes that provide you with these advantages. Let me give some examples:
In this recent blog article I write about companies that want to add asset and inventory tracking functionality to the common service request process. Others may want to add time tracking, mileage, GPS, bar code, digital images and other features to their mobile software application. Some companies like to have a mobile job estimation application on their handheld computer. Once the estimate is accepted, it can be dispatched to the service technicians to begin work.
Our customers tend to have a wide variety of business software applications in their offices. These software applications and accounting packages use a wide variety of databases. Our customers like to select their own mobile handheld computers and software applications. Our customers are often implementing changes to their business processes to provide higher levels of customer service that provide greater competitive advantages. These kinds of dynamic business environments demand and require the ability to rapidly edit and customize mobile business applications to support the growing and changing business.
What company wants to restrict their ability to grow their business, implement "best practices" and business process improvements because of the limitation of an off-the-shelf business application? Not MobileDataforce customers!
MobileDataforce provides a rapid application development environment for mobile software solutions. Our mobile software solutions for handheld PDAs enable you to cost effectively customize your mobile applications to support your ever-changing business needs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mobile Inspection Software for Handheld PDAs

MobileDataforce works with many inspection services companies. Our PointSync Mobility Platform enables companies that provide a wide variety of inspection services the ability to rapidly develop new and cost effective mobile inspection applications for use on handheld PDAs and rugged handhelds. The "rapid" part is very important since many inspections are project based, and you can't spend 6 months developing a mobile solution for a handheld.

Some of our customers use the same mobile inspection application routinely, while others do contract work for electrical companies and other large organizations that require customized inspection services based upon the needs of the project. The PointSync Mobility Platform works well for both kinds of project environments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mobile Software Solutions for Handheld PDAs and Integration

Mobile software solutions for handheld PDAs have limited value, unless they are synchronized and integrated with business applications back at the office. To that end, MobileDataforce's mobile software applications are integrated with many of the world's most popular database applications including:

  • Sybase & iAnywhere

  • Quickbooks

  • Microsoft SQL

  • Microsoft Navision

  • Microsoft's Great Plains

  • Microsoft Dynamic

  • Microsoft Access

  • Oracle

  • AS 400/DB2

  • MRO Maximo

  • Many more...

The integration with these database applications enable bi-directional database synchronization between the mobile handheld PDAs and the office business software applications. This empowers the mobile handheld user to have the same kinds of visibility to enterprise data as someone sitting in a cubicle in the office. In addition, the office can receive near real-time data from work being done in the field. The efficiencies that are available through mobilization can be enormous.

Hawaii & Mobile Software for PDAs, Smartphones and Handhelds

Greetings Folks,

I am back from a wonderful and relaxing family vacation/holiday on the Island of Maui, Hawaii. I tried to forget about mobile software, PDAs, handhelds and smartphones for a few days, but alas, there are people carrying mobile handheld computers everywhere I go!

Let me give you an update on some of the mobile software solutions my team has been working on over the last few weeks:
  • Paintless Dent Removal - mobile auto/vehicle inspections, services and repair business solutions
  • Bridge inspections
  • Mobile work order management applications for ATM service technicians
  • Electric Utility - mobile inspection & work order applications
  • Building inspection applications for a county government
  • Clinical trials - mobile applications for healthcare service providers
  • Asset management/conditional assessments and preventative work orders
  • Much more...

The key value propositions for many of these solutions are the following:

  1. Accountability of work and workers in the field
  2. Accountability of company assets and inventory in the field
  3. Efficient use and dispatch of field service technicians
  4. Documentation of work completed in the field
  5. Efficient and timely synchronization of field data to the enterprise database
  6. Fast processing and invoicing of work completed
  7. Inspections and documentation of inspections - for just about everything
  8. Faster and better customer service leading to happier customers and greater profits