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alanbk83
22-11-2013, 03:20 PM
Hi Everybody,

I work for a refrigeration company with a handful of engineers who cover breakdowns/servicing in the field. We've been looking into bringing in a new system instead of using messy docket books and have come across a few different names.

First of all, does anyone on this use mobile phone apps in the field and software in the office instead of docket books? If so, what one and has it been of much benefit?

I've come across companies like 'Advanced Field Solutions' and 'Field Aware' to name a couple, and I'm just wondering if they're worth looking into at all or am I wasting my time bringing in a new system.

Also would love to know from the engineer's point of view is it better using an app or PDA then writing out docket books.

Thanks in advance for your help...

FreezerGeezer
23-11-2013, 02:34 AM
I've seen / used a few. The most important things are to involve ALL your users from the very start of development, and avoid tracking the field staff, unless you have live tracking of EVERY member of staff in the entire organisation.
Every system I've used has been developed according to what the managers & accountants want - which always means the input interface(a) are utter rubbish.
Have much larger free form fields than you think you need.
Use drop down boxes for commonly used entries. Don't double up like my last firm did - as field staff you don't know which "drier" to choose & that will cost the company money. So make sure anything in the drop down is clear. "3/8" flare drier, acid" for eg.
So if you want your staff to adapt to it easily & without all the drama I've seen (EVERY time one if these has been implemented) get them involved in the design. Agree interfaces that everyone can tolerate. Trust me, she'd loads of time spent in development WILL save you multiple she'd loads of hassle & cost post roll out.

And don't track field staff - most do the external job because they are not the personality type to tolerate being micro managed or shoulder hovered. Tracking means you're doing just that & it alienates the field staff. I have even known staff to leave over this - ones that the employer did not want to lose!
I do think as I said above, if everyone can see where everyone else is during work hours (switch the damn system off out if normal hours!) it eases the "My boss doesn't trust me, What a #^+*#! I'm going to stick my heels in at every opportunity" issue.

And make the thing useful to the field staff as we'll - have all your customer info accessible as required, put EVERY supplier with ALL the addresses, numbers & any other relevant info on there.
Plus anything else that you all think would be useful.

alanbk83
25-11-2013, 10:37 AM
Thanks for the input FreezerGeezer, from the software that you have seen/used are there any in particular that I should stay away from or look into?

FreezerGeezer
25-11-2013, 11:54 AM
Not really in my opinion. They all do similar things as far as I can see. All I can suggest is get a few in to try, get the data inputters involved from the start. Assuming you don't issue everyone with the software to test, make sure you keep the non testers in the loop & seek their opinions.
One tip - we all hate filling in endless paperwork when we could be fixing stuff. My opinion is that if the software isn't at least as fast to use as the job pads, you'll be in whinge city.

So basically, pick a package that you can customise to the point where all the users can tolerate it (as a minimum). Hopefully that won't necessarily mean it's the most expensive.

There are a number of apps that are either free trial or limited use - even paid for, most are cheap enough that you can afford to experiment. I'd look at them, try them & talk to the developers about customising costs once you've all decided how you want it to work & what features you need.

Finally: Smartphones are good, but tablets are easier to read with their larger screens. I've noticed quite a lot of companies here (including my employer) are issuing tablets of some sort now as well as phones. I find it especially helpful when using technical manuals - although I still prefer hard copy when possible.