Since automation has become an important aspect of lift equipment servicing and complying with strict industry codes and regulations, Techs4Biz Australia has come up with automating lift equipment servicing using handheld devices.
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 productivity tools deployed by organisations that want to improve their staff’s productivity and minimise unnecessary administrative tasks. Most PDAs operate on Windows Mobile (Microsoft) operating system and differ in terms of their functionalities such as wireless and imaging capabilities and durability.
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 utilise the data. For example, if a user fills out a lift service report providing specific information on a Hydraulic System service, the handheld device should fulfil the same function. A handheld user can pick from a list of possible choices and/or write or type in information, according to the organisation’s requirements and preferences. Handheld devices make current, past, and future information accessible and easy to use for example, tracking down the last time the cable, chains and V-Belt were checked for excess Play/Lubrication/Wear etc. Handheld software should also be tailored towards service personnel who need to perform their tasks using easy-to-use screens and functions. Furthermore, by simplifying navigation buttons and minimising keystrokes, field staff can learn to operate their PDA software in a very short timeframe.
Handheld applications specifically designed for lift services should deliver the following functionalities:
- List all information required by the Australian Standard 1735 or any other relevant legislative code to perform tasks including questionnaires, possible results/outcomes, acceptable threshold values (for collecting field data), etc.
- Provide easy to use navigation capabilities and quick access to information.
- Allow service personnel to enter as much (or as little) information as needed.
- Enable service personnel to record recommendations and/or quickly create new corrective tasks.
- Produce reports or invoices as required using portable printers.
Handheld devices can also include validations that allow or disallow data entry. They can provide the user with historical information pertaining to previous services or particular pieces of equipment. Furthermore, barcodes, timestamps and scanners attached to handheld devices enable quick identification of devices and equipment, identify points of entry and exit, improve efficiency, and minimise human errors.
Finally, handheld software should be able to run on multiple hardware platforms, providing flexibility and utilisation of future technology without avoidable and costly software upgrades.
The Desktop / Database / Server
To maximize utilisation and return-on-investment, handheld applications should not be stand-alone. They should be designed from the outset to collect information, display and manipulate information, and transfer information to and from a desktop or server database and back to the handheld seamlessly. The desktop/server application should provide a variety of operational and management functions including scheduling, tracking, management functions and reports, and analysis tools.
The means of data transfer between handheld devices and the database can be through a standard cradle, Bluetooth, or wireless connectivity.
Benefits of combining software with PDAs for automating lift servicing