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When HVAC and plumbing technicians arrive to a site, they have a lot more to do than the installation or repair that led to their dispatch. Before they can even begin to plan out their tasks or look for problems, there is a mountain of paperwork to climb with another to follow after the job is done.
Even at a time when technology makes so many daily tasks easy, many companies still use outdated processes to collect information, from clumsy spreadsheets to actual reams of paper, in the field. That slows down a technician’s work, and opens it up to more potential errors, an especially critical problem in plumbing and HVAC, where compliance with local, state and federal regulations is so important. Companies are increasingly on the hunt for ways to automate the workflow in the field, from before the technician gets into the vehicle, throughout the service call, and all the way through the eventual analysis of important data.
Some of the biggest benefits of a mobile workflow platform that supports plumbing and HVAC technicians is what happens at the home office. Getting people to the right place, at the right time and for the right job is the foundation for everything else the technicians do, but it takes a lot of time and energy to manually coordinate the day’s schedule. Automated systems can send out relevant data like location, what needs to be addressed, and any pertinent building codes at any time to the right technicians, making sure they don’t waste time and money going to the office, or driving back and forth across a territory inefficiently.
Once on the site, field technicians can use mobile apps linked to cloud-computing platforms to process all the paperwork automatically, instead of having to fill out paperwork manually. Using their smartphone or tablet, technicians can take pictures, annotate them with any necessary details and automatically append them to their reports in real time. Instead of relying on shorthand notes jotted down to expand upon later, engineers can create a much more complete record of their activity, and the reasoning behind it, marking safety and code compliance as they go.
The code compliance isn’t a small matter either. The right solution can have the details of technical and regulatory manuals built in. The federal compliance standards for equipment used in plumbing and HVAC alone runs for hundreds of pages before even beginning to count the state and local procedures. Where once technicians had to hunt painstakingly through a massive binder filled with tiny print to fill out paperwork and multiple volumes to accommodate different locations, digital mobile platforms can automatically populate the forms and checklists for a technician immediately with some basic prompts.
That’s a big step up even over early electronic documents, since technicians no longer have to find and copy the relevant details. On top of that benefit, cloud-based platforms can automatically update the compliance documents with the latest versions to emerge from regulatory agencies, without any extra effort. The same goes for technical manuals, as they too can more resemble the bricks used to build a building than merely the information for how their HVAC and plumbing systems work.
All of the information collected in the field can be automatically filed and archived at the main company office. This streamlining saves a company a lot of man-hours in redundant data entry, not to mention the time saved by technicians who would have to come to the office and deliver physical paper records. Having all of the records properly cataloged and organized also makes it easier to anticipate future needs in terms of repair and maintenance, so that companies and their contractors will be able to stay on top of when they may need to make a return visit to a client.
Mobile workflow solutions are ultimately about simplification. You take the boring, laborious administrative work out of the equation, and everyone at a plumbing and HVAC company has an easier time. Technicians can get more support in the field, while simultaneously becoming more accountable for their time and the work they do. Any one of the functions may have some existing digital angle, like a shared calendar or a folder of manuals in PDF, but the beauty of operating on a platform specifically built for a company or organization is that it can all be done together without having to switch between multiple services or needing to remember to copy from one place to the next, especially without any physical paperwork.
Mobile platforms can be a silver bullet for nearly any industry, but there’s no question that the future of the plumbing and HVAC industry relies on using them to build and maintain their systems in peak condition.
For more information visit gocanvas.com.
James Robins is CEO of GoCanvas.