"When you install advanced software like ours, the first hurdle that you have to get over is the paradigm that you've created over the years," says Dave Walters, technical sales manager for maintenance software company TMW Systems.
Walters tries to paint as complete a picture for the client of how they can take advantage of the capabilities of mobile computing, but a company in transition often needs time to get over those old paradigms. "It's not uncommon to see transitions that fleet shops will go through, where they'll start using the software one way and then they begin to understand the capabilities and they install a workstation and find out that the mechanic could have entered the data just as well as the data entry people. They begin to change and their business begins to evolve, and they begin to use more capabilities of the software," he explains.
According to Walters, his company's software can operate in or out of "real-time." In a real-time environment, a technician logs into the system and the workstation keeps track of the technician's time and builds his or her time card for the day.
Hand-held devices can also function outside of the real-time environment. A case in point is Canada Cartage Diversified LLC, a Toronto, ON-based fleet that arms all its mobile repair men with hand-held devices that use TMW's Transman software. "You'll actually download the repair order for the work you have scheduled for a service truck into the hand-held unit," Walters explains. "Then you'd go out and perform the work, come back and place the hand-held unit in a device that would sync up and exchange data and update the repair order."
The end result for Canada Cartage is that the company's mobile repair technicians have reduced their indirect labor time from 40 percent to five percent. What's more, because the mobile techs are now so effective addressing issues in the field, the fleet has seen an 80 percent reduction in small maintenance jobs coming into the shop.
"If you're willing to make the investment in the laptop computers and the small amount of training, it's really the way to go," Walters says. "In a shop environment we would install a kiosk with a computer terminal, and that would serve eight to 12 technicians. We license our software by number of assets, which is the most common way in the fleet world."
CHANGE OF HABIT
Charles Arsenault finds that technicians' work habits change quickly once they go mobile. As soon as they learn how easy it is to incorporate mobile computing into their work flow, they begin to use work order history more, they begin to look up parts inventories more, and they begin to report potential warranties more.
"More than likely, you'll get better quality services, because of being able to look up past performance," he says. "They'll also start to look up whether the unit has a PM due or a work pending issue. And if they have a few extra minutes they'll take care of those issues or problems while they're standing in front of it. So, the habit change goes from reactive to proactive."
Can it really be that easy to step into the 21st Century? Arsenault thinks so. "There is no rocket science in our world," he says. "It's simply information flow and who has access to it."
Go to www.fleetmag.com to learn more about how mobile computing is changing the way Canada Cartage maintains its vehicles.