Magazine Article | November 28, 2012

Tablets, Automation Software Ease Data Collection Woes

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Field Technologies magazine

Rodan Energy & Metering Solutions Inc. is a provider of metering and energy management solutions for power producers, consumers, and distributors throughout North America. Rodan recently won a contract with Powerstream, a utility that needed help replacing hundreds of old mechanical meters with digital meters. The regulatory nature of meter change-outs required Rodan technicians to document a large data set of parameters, including digital photos of both the old and new meters. In addition, all data collected was to be delivered to the utility on a daily basis.

Because of these requirements, Rodan needed an easy-to-use, flexible solution that could be quickly deployed with minimal training and implementation. To accomplish this, Rodan deployed Field2Base’s Forms2Base application, which ran on rugged tablet PCs.

The solution allows the utility to generate a data file with more than 100 data elements for the meters that need changing and upload it to the Field2Base system. Field2Base then parses this data, creates prepopulated work order forms, and dispatches them to the appropriate work crew’s tablet in an automated manner. The work crew pulls up its work order list for the day and works through each address. This process includes capturing data such as old meter readings, bar code serial numbers from the new meter, GPS coordinates of the meter location via a wireless GPS device, and photos of the finished install.

The Field2Base solution allows Rodan technicians to complete meter change-out documentation, process the information, and send the data wirelessly. The data is collected on the Field2Base server, automatically processed, and converted into the utility’s data format. The data is then uploaded to a holding server where Rodan can review the data (and edit if needed) and where it is automatically imported into the utility’s back office data systems. Rodan technicians are now able to complete more work orders per day. Additionally, data is more accurate and is received in a more timely fashion.

Get In The Game With Field Service Software

Bally Technologies is a gaming company that designs, manufactures, distributes, and operates gaming devices and computerized monitoring, accounting, and player-tracking systems for gaming devices. Until a few years ago, Bally’s technicians carried a book of tickets that they would complete and mail back to headquarters after installing or servicing a gaming machine.

The gaming industry is heavily regulated and closely monitored, making the need for accurate and upto- date record keeping critical. Before implementing its mobile solution, Bally utilized a paper-based system and relied on the U.S. Postal Service or faxes to receive updates from the field. It didn’t have a way to reliably capture a customer’s signature that a gaming machine was delivered, which is required to officially transfer ownership, validate a lease, or recognize revenue. Days could pass between when the machine was delivered or installed and Bally could officially recognize that sale.

The company also couldn’t verify when a gaming machine went live, was converted to a new game, or was removed. Bally Technologies went on the search for a mobile solution that would provide real-time data, signature capture and activity tracking, while still providing the flexibility to change and update the workflows to add new functionality in the future. Apacheta ServiceACE, running on a Motorola MC75 handheld and connected to the AT&T wireless network, fit the bill.

ServiceACE is a mobile application that automates the daily tasks of a field service technician, enabling organizations to streamline operations, increase customer satisfaction, and capture new revenue opportunities. Because ServiceACE is built on Apacheta’s flexible mobile framework, it is easy for companies to change workflows and add new functionality. Bally rolled out 135 Motorola MC75 devices running on ServiceACE to automate its field delivery and installation operations. ServiceACE integrated with Bally’s back end Siebel and MAPICS ERP systems to enable installers to capture customer signatures and send them in real time over the AT&T network to the home office.