Using Mobile Forms For Field Equipment Maintenance Tracking
All work of the field equipment maintenance technicians is accompanied by filling out forms. Preventive maintenance forms, equipment inspection checklists, equipment damage report forms, service and repair forms - the list goes on and on. While large companies started to use mobile computers for the field equipment management tasks a while ago, smaller businesses could not afford the expense. Paper forms for recording equipment service, maintenance and inspections remained their only alternative. Now, when businesses of any size can afford mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) and mobile forms this situation is starting to change. Digital data collection becomes an affordable alternative to the traditional field data collection methods.
Are mobile forms any better?
Are time and money invested in a new field equipment management system worth it? We think that for most businesses the answer is "yes", and here is why:
Printing equipment management paper forms seems to be easy and inexpensive. But in the long run, using paper forms is inflexible, wasteful and expensive. Small changes require re-printing of the entire batch of paper forms. Mobile equipment management forms can be created and changed using a web interface at any time.
Loss of maintenance / inspection data for the field equipment can be disastrous for the business, and paper forms can be easily misplaced or lost. Data collected using mobile forms are stored in a cloud, and with a proper backup procedures are safe from the loss or damage.
Mobile forms are much faster and easier to fill out in the field than the paper forms.
Equipment management mobile forms are filled out once in the field and submitted to the cloud in real time - no duplicate entries are required. Paper forms must be entered into the computer in the office, consuming employees' time.
Equipment maintenance records completed in the field using mobile forms re accessible on demand at any time by the authorized personnel, and are easily searchable. With the paper forms it is hard to find required information - an office employee to manually go through the thousands of records.
Automatic fields completion checking built into the mobile forms help to eliminate costly human errors.
Smartphones or tablets can be used to capture equipment conditions images and attach them to the form. This option is not available with the paper forms.
GPS location of the mobile form submission can be automatically determined, providing an easy to review map of the field equipment location.
QR Code / Barcode Scanning For The Field Equipment Tracking
Additional benefit of using mobile devices for managing field equipment is an ability to scan a QR code / barcode label on the asset and precisely identify it. This eliminates errors in entering equipment serial number manually, and allows a field technician access to the equipment specifications, documentation and recent maintenance / repair history.
Smartphones vs Mobile Computers For Filling Out Equipment Maintenance Mobile Forms In The Field
Before smartphones and tablets became widespread the only equipment to use for the digital equipment tracking and maintenance were mobile computers. A mobile computer is a handheld device that has the barcode scanning capabilities, a screen to display and enter information, its own operating system (OS) and the internal data storage. Mobile computers are usually connected to a network via Wi-Fi or WAN, therefore they can be used in the field away from the office, but only where wireless network is available. The whole system for the digital field equipment management using mobile computers, including hardware and software, could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and therefore is cost prohibitive for the small businesses.
Smartphones and tablets (which, in fact, could be considered a type of mobile computers) are much more affordable in terms of both hardware and software. Majority of company employees already own a smartphone that they can use for filling out equipment maintenance mobile forms in the field. The cost of the equipment management software based on the smartphones and a cloud backend starts from $1,500.00 - $2,000.00 per year - a tiny fraction of the software systems based on the traditional mobile computers.
Of course the traditional mobile computers have their advantages: they are more rugged, can better read barcodes in low light conditions,
can read some barcode types
that smartphones cannot. On the other hand, smartphones have wider area of connection (they can use both Wi-Fi and cellular connection), can be used to take photos,
videos or voice recording, and can automatically determine
and record equipment location using GPS.
All in all, smartphones and tablets offer more useful options for the field equipment management, and at a much lower cost.
How To Start Using Mobile Forms For The Field Equipment Management: Practical Steps
What will it take to implement digital field equipment management system if you are starting from zero? Once you found a suitable software,
you will need to take the following steps:
Enter or import all field equipment into the software.
Label field equipment with the QR codes. As a rule QR code / barcode labels for the equipment will need to have equipment serial number encoded, although some eqipment management software systems may have different requirements. It might be a good idea to review the software requirements before labeling field equipment, not the other way around. Most types of equipment management software will provide an option to generate and print QR code labels for the equipment. If you do not want to print QR code labels yourself, you can order pre-made weather-proof labels and / or tags. There are now quite a few printers who will do it for you.
Create or import relevant equipment management forms into the software, or use ready to use ready to use digital forms provided by the equipment management software vendor.
QR Mobile Data Mobile Forms Software
QR Mobile Data software allows you to reap all the benefits of the digital field equipment management at an affordable price. It works hand-in-hand with the QR Inventory - an inventory management software that uses smartphones and QR code scanning for the field assets tracking. Naturally, the possibility of tracking field equipment with the mobile devices, which is very convenient when you are in the field far away from the office computers, attracted many field service companies. A number of these companies, in addition to the asset tracking, needed a tool that would help them optimize maintenance and service of the field equipment. This is how QR Mobile Data software was created.
QR Mobile Data software is fully compatible with the QR Inventory. It adds an option to create custom mobile forms with the advanced capabilities, and record equipment inspections and maintenance in the field using these forms. You can use QR Mobile Data software to set custom reminders on the next preventive maintenance, equipment warranty expiration, etc. and receive automatic e-mail alerts.
You can check out a more complete list of the QR Mobile Data software features here, check out a product tour, or test drive QR Mobile Data.