How to choose a paperless work order system
Naaman Shibi, director of Techs4biz Australia, says the benefits of paperless systems are many and varied.
What does a paperless work order system or inspection management system look like? Here is a possible scenario…
A customer (external or internal) calls in to report a broken heating/cooling system. The office staff can immediately view the customer’s information, including pending and previous activities, enter the relevant information into the work order system and create a new work order.
Depending on specific internal approval processes, the work order can be immediately scheduled and assigned to the appropriate technician. If the business deploys a wireless mobile devices system, then the work order is dispatched electronically to the mobile device (smartphone, tablet, PDA or laptop) used by the desired service technician.
The electronic work order includes all the required information, including customer information, address for the task, description of the problem, instructions, required actions and safety requirements etc.
On-site, the technician can view the information on their mobile device, make modifications, and record results, parts, effort (labour), observations, recommendations, and any other information pertaining to the work performed.
Additional features may include using barcodes, RFID (radio frequency identification), capturing automatic date/time/GPS (global positioning system) stamps and electronic signatures, as well as taking pictures (and even ‘doodling’ on the images to highlight problem areas). A speech-to-text function is available on most smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS operating systems.
Once the paperless work order is completed, information is sent back to the database using 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi. The database is updated with all the appropriate information and management can focus on the next steps: review the work, issue an invoice, automatically email a report, etc. Querying data and producing operational and management reports is easy, since the information is homogeneous, timely, accurate, and can be easily accessed.
Distinguishing factors when selecting a vendor
It is important to note that, while every business incorporates specific business processes, the automation and use of paperless work order systems means you can quickly adjust, improve and address your specific processes by:
● applying experience gained from other customers using similar business processes, including proposing and incorporating adjustments to manual processes to accommodate automation and paperless work orders
● providing a healthy balance between technology, human intervention and common sense; many implementations are managed by technical ‘propeller heads’ who want to automate every little detail, while proper implementations combine human decision making with automation, which results in improved efficiency and reduced costs
● tailoring a solution to accommodate unique business processes: systems that offer cost-effective tailoring and configurations to accommodate specific business environments will fit your organisation much better than solutions that promote ‘one size fits all’, and
● considering scalability and flexibility as key features: if a single system can automate a variety of activities including work orders, inspections, PMs, audits, Q&A questionnaires, etc, than you get a much ‘bigger bang for your buck’ – which is the main reason for you reading this article in the first place.
‘Information is power’ is an old adage, but one that rings true in every situation. Information capture and knowledge management is fast becoming the true competitive advantage of any company, especially in these economic circumstances.
Spending money to save money
When hearing the phrase ‘spending money to save money’, one may just assume that people are haphazardly trying to justify their latest big-budget project. However, in my travels to visit many of our customers, it has become very clear that the higher the stature of a person in an organisation, the more attention is paid to how money is being allocated to gain significant return on investment (ROI).
It is important to address the issue of the cost of paperless work orders and inspections, and the ROI. New systems that automate field activities should be able to demonstrate ROI within six to 12 months. Furthermore, some vendors are offering financing or monthly payment plans, which can point to an immediate ROI.
Quick visible paybacks affirm investment in electronic field activity solutions. These decisions also minimise and even eliminate inefficiencies such as insufficient information availability, too much paperwork, over-large administrative costs, missed opportunities, poor scheduling and poor cash management, and therefore generate a competitive advantage and better customer service.
With proper implementation, all of the above attributes create some very appealing means for you to ‘spend money to save money’.