“Yes, well, you have one of the older models. We don’t have a parts catalog on the computer for that one. Let me see… ah, yes – here it is.” The man behind the counter at the repair shop pulled out a well-worn book that had either tears or grease marks on every page. I needed a gear for the drive mechanism on my self-propelled lawnmower. As he thumbed through the pages, I held my breath. Many of the part numbers were either missing or unreadable. Fortunately, the part I needed was legible. But the experience made me wonder: How many people in the field service industry still rely on paper for important information? There are many excuses managers make when justifying not going fully digital.
Laptops are Just Too Costly
For many small service organizations, this used to be a valid point. It didn’t make sense to digitize documentation because the cost of buying each service rep a laptop would take a huge bite out of the budget. The tablet has blown this excuse out of the water. Several Android tablets can be found for less than 100 Dollars and are more than adequate for viewing digital documents.
Converting to Digital is a Long, Expensive Process
Okay, there’s no eluding the lengthy process of converting all hardcopy documents to digital. Someone has to take the warehouse inventory books apart and scan them, and then make sure they are all there. Depending on the condition of the documents (hopefully better than my lawnmower parts list), this can take a while. But with OCR software and an inexpensive scanner, a searchable, scalable, digital manual can be produced with relative ease. Today’s OCR solutions even recognize illustrations and produce them as images, making it possible to scan parts catalogs and schematics in a way that both text and image are kept intact. Of course, there are a plethora of companies that will do it for you. Competition has brought that price down as well.
It’s Too Difficult to View Schematics
Even with the ability to zoom as large as you want, blowing up a digital image on a laptop or desktop used to leave a lot to be desired with a digital image. Constantly clicking zoom in, scrolling up, zooming back out, and then finding out you had scrolled too far, trying again – it was enough to make you wish for a hardcopy diagram again. Touch screen magic has solved that problem as well. Swiping, pinching and pointing have replaced the cursing involved in trying to zoom in using a mouse pad.
Two tips to remember if your techs use a lot of diagrams: scan the images in a high resolution and give them a device with a touch screen and a mobile field service application.
Business the Way it has Always Been
You might be saying to yourself, “But we’ve been doing fine the way we are.” Field service software has shown that those who embrace the digital age get a leg up on the competition, as well as become more efficient and productive. Electronic documentation can give your techs the same edge. An entire bookshelf of manuals, parts catalogs and inventory sheets can be at their fingertips, offering search options that those using paper can only dream of. So, what are you waiting for?
About the author: Donald B. Stephens is a field service technician with 30 years of experience with the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, blogger, novelist and humorist. You can contact him via email: email@example.com