Making the Most of Mobile Technology

29 Aug

Technology Enabled Business Solutions

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This is the third in Kestrel’s series of articles about Technology-Enabled Business Solutions.

A decade ago, when “handheld computers” (i.e., smartphones) first became popular, storing appointments and contact information on a portable electronic device was the prime functionality of the smartphone. Convenient? Yes. Robust? Not quite yet.

Mobile technology has clearly come a long way since then. Your smartphone and other mobile devices/tablets are every bit as powerful as any computer you have in the office—perhaps even more so when it comes to collecting real-time data and creating operational efficiencies.

Forms, Checklists, and More

Think about this for a minute…how many forms and checklists do you use in your operations? Maybe it is a daily forklift checklist, near-miss form, behavioral-based safety observation, daily housekeeping checklist, food safety sanitation inspection, hazardous waste inspection checklist, near-miss form, and so on.

What if—instead of taking a clipboard into the plant or field—employees were able to simply pull out a phone, complete the checklist online, and hit submit? What if they were able to do it from anywhere and without any login information? What if management could access the data immediately to run reports and get real-time analytics?

Case Study: There’s an App for That

That is precisely what a large chemical distribution company needed. In the most basic terms, they asked Kestrel to create a mobile form for forklift inspections that would provide:

  • Simple electronic access to the forms employees already use daily
  • Ability for employees in the field to submit data without logging into the system for ease of use
  • Data in CSV format that could be sent immediately via email to management for review/analysis
  • Dashboard reporting to show a real-time view of checklist status, outstanding issues, overdue items, and other metrics

By integrating various Office 365 technologies, Kestrel created an app using the company’s familiar forklift inspection form, which can be customized per location. The mobile version allows employees in the field to capture forklift inspection data electronically. The forms are accessible at multiple levels and can be assigned down to an individual location. Importantly, there is no need to log in to submit data, ensuring ease of access and use for all employees. Shortcuts to forms can also easily be added to mobile devices, computers, or other websites for ease of access.

As employees complete the checklists, data is collected and uploaded into the company’s Office 365 compliance information management system (IMS) in real-time. Not only does this eliminate the problems associated with manual data entry and manipulation, it provides real-time access to valuable data. Kestrel has created dashboards that house key metrics on inspections completed and issues identified that are updated immediately and automatically whenever a new checklist is completed. Beyond that, using the simple forklift checklist, we can now automatically create an entire series of events that had traditionally been done manually (e.g., maintenance requests, part orders, inspection requests).

Mobile Technology, Operational Efficiencies

For employees, mobile technology makes completing checklists of almost any type easier and faster in the field. For management, mobile technology takes things a step further by creating operational efficiencies:

  • Provides central management of inspection schedule, forms, and other requirements.
  • Increases productivity through reductions in prep-time and redundant/manual data entry.
  • Improves data access/availability for reporting and planning purposes.
  • Allows data to be submitted directly and immediately into SharePoint so it can be reviewed, analyzed, etc. in real time.
  • Creates workflow and process automation, including automated notifications to allow for real-time improvements.
  • Allows follow-up actions to be assigned and sent to those who need them.
  • Integrates with the overall compliance IMS for a comprehensive view of compliance status.

Stay tuned for coming articles in our series, which will continue to dig deeper into functionality, highlight some case studies of Office 365 in action, and tap the insights of Kestrel’s Office 365 developer.

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