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Automating the maintenance of laboratory instrumentation using handheld devices

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Over the past few years, automation has proven to be an important tool in the management of Laboratory inspections, maintenance, and service activities. It enables effective equipment tracking, scheduling, service management, and management of parts and inventories. Benefits include improved productivity, reduced downtime, increased equipment life expectancy, compliance with regulations, and lower overall maintenance costs.

In the past, many automation solutions offered ‘paper-based’ software, which produced paper work orders to perform field service. Once paper forms were returned to the office, they would be ‘manually’ entered and integrated with the software product. The same concept applied to web-based solutions, which required paper work orders and computers to enter the data back onto the system.

In recent years, the role of handheld devices and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) has gradually increased from ‘toys’ used by early adopters, to day-to-day tools deployed by organizations that want to improve their staff’s productivity and minimize unnecessary administrative tasks.

A PDA (handheld device) can be used to automate laboratory equipment maintenance and replace paper work orders. In fact, most handheld devices operate on either the Palm Operating System (PalmOne) or Pocket PC (Microsoft), and both platforms can easily handle Laboratory inspection and service software.

Handheld devices should provide information that already exists on paper forms or on the desktop, and at the same time improve one’s ability to access and utilize the data. For example, if a user fills out a monthly inspection report providing specific information, the handheld device should fulfils the same function. A handheld user can pick from a list of possible choices and/or write or type in information, according to the organization’s requirements and preferences. Handheld devices make current, past, and future information accessible and easy to use.

According to Techs4Biz Australia , handheld software should also be tailored towards Laboratory field service personnel who need to perform their tasks using easy-to-use screens and functions. Furthermore, by simplifying navigation buttons and minimizing keystrokes, field technicians can learn to operate their PDA software in a very short timeframe.

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