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Today's tip is to take another look at handheld devices for data collection. Many organizations have thought that handheld devices would solve all of their problems collecting data related to assets and work orders — but most discovered that handhelds only sped up the collection of poor-quality data.
Before moving from paper systems to handhelds, improve the quality and quantity of work orders. Put some teeth into the paperwork discipline in order to move the documentation system from poor to good. Next, explain the value of handhelds to your technicians, and, have your manager in charge of handheld setup and repairs begin tracking use.
Technology has changed greatly in the last several years. New data-collection units have much more flexibility in setting up menus, fields, codes, and comments. You can buy these units for all kinds of applications, including wet environments, shock-proof, explosion-proof, and ballistic covers and coatings.
With smartphones, tablets, and iPads, the sky is the limit for what you want to use and how you want to use it. With smartphones, technicians still have the problem of using big fingers on small screens. But with iPads and tablets, users have bigger screens, room for looking at lists and drawings, and a large touch-screen keyboard for making notes and comments.
Let's answer the big question in the handheld debate: Is the data-quality better? Today, if you assume the handheld is set up right, you should finish the day with improved work-order and asset data. You might not have the same detail and information in the old comments field, but if the pull-down menus are setup properly, you might end up with better, more complete data.
The bottom line is whether you use paper, old-fashioned handhelds, or smartphones to gather asset and work-order information, the quality of your data depends on only two things — discipline and accountability.