We have been working with facilities management and responsive repairs companies since 1991. Our experience throughout the 90s with these companies lead us to a radical rethink of how our software could support them.
In 2000, at the same time as we were transitioning to web based applications to enable distributed offices, it became apparent that dramatic savings could be achieved by directly gathering information from engineers as they completed work. This would dramatically speed up information returning to the office, improve the accuracy of date and time information, and empower the mobile work force to correctly record the work they were completing and the parts used.
Following the philosophy of our office software all the components of the PDA solutions are developed in house with no third party modules. This gives us flexibility to change the software to suit your needs, and to develop on new platforms as they become available. Through this way of working we have been able to work on PalmOS, Windows Mobile and more recently Android. At each product iteration we have been able to continue the same methods of working to avoid costly retraining of engineers.
This also means that our technical staff who directly take all support calls are immediately able to answer queries regarding the products as they are also responsible for development.
Ease of Use
We focused on making the mobile devices easy to use by engineers. This gave two main benefits – ease of training and accuracy of data. By concentrating on supporting the engineer through the process of recording work on the device rather than simply forcing a form filling exercise we greatly increased the rapid acceptance of PDAs by the workforce.
Typically engineers pick up a device and are able to very quickly begin accessing information and processing jobs. After 2 hours most engineers are ready to work by themselves.
Performance & Reliability
Since our software was written to solve very specific problems from the start, and because we have controlled the complete development cycle we have been able to carefully control the performance of the devices. Most importantly we have shaped the data traffic between our servers and the PDAs.
Starting development in 2001, long before today's generous data plans, we needed to keep comms traffic to a minimum. This remains a bedrock of our mobile solutions which with today's mobile networks means our average 3MB/month data needs can be satisfied by the smallest of data plans.
By keeping an eye on bandwidth usage we have also retained startlingly fast comms. Our initial bootstrap of the device takes less than 30 seconds on an Android phone, with subsequent dials taking less than 10 seconds. Background dials complete even before engineers have moved on to the next screen!
All the data needed by the device is held on the device. This allows the engineer to carry on working even when they are working in areas of poor, or nil, reception. This is in stark contrast to some mobile working solutions that need permanent data connections to function. When our PDAs finally connect to base all the queued data is transferred and the office system updated.
For details of our pda-based software please visit our product page here.