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Mechanical contractors are always on the go—responding to field service calls, filling supply orders and keeping up with customers’ requests.

The field service technicians working for Canadian full-service mechanical contractor Dael Thermal are no exception. They spend day in and day out responding to calls in the most extreme conditions: freezers, bakery ovens, boiler rooms and roof-top HVACs, to name a few. They get banged, bruised and downright dirty, which means that any tools they're carrying—tech or otherwise—will too.

Mechanical contractors also must respond to myriad customer service calls. Dael Thermal technicians were in the habit of driving to the home office every time a new service request was submitted, supply orders needed to be processed, or customer authorizations were required. Phones were the primary communication tool; the company often logged nearly 225 calls from technicians to the office support team in one day.

This, of course, was a very cumbersome system. Customers’ requests started becoming more time critical. Technicians weren’t always provided details about the customer complaint or service history in the initial paperwork they received. As a result, upon arrival at a service call, they struggled to isolate problems and initiate the repair process.

“A commercial baker loses money every minute that his ovens are broken and his production is stalled. Our customers can’t afford for us to contribute any further to their downtime, and the burdensome paper-based response and repair processes we depended on were challenging our productivity and our customers’ patience,” says Chris Stewart, service manager for Dael Thermal. “We used to lose 10 percent of our total sales revenue due to missing paperwork alone. That’s not factoring in losses from increased labor needs or repair delays.”

Rugged Tablets stand up to the job

Dael decided to invest in a mobile solution that not only empowered its field teams to provide immediate resolution for its customers, but also that was as tough as the jobs they were completing. (Handheld tablets just wouldn't do.)

Dael equipped all of its field service technicians with Motion F5 Tablet PCs by Motion Computing, and enabled the rugged tablets with the kmplete mobile service management suite from Ontario-based KMP Designs, Inc.

“It doesn’t make sense to give a commercial mechanic a mobile device that can’t withstand 24/7 exposure to extreme conditions such as high heat, moisture or tight quarters,” says Scott Ball, Canada country manager for Motion Computing.

Dael already has eliminated paperwork-induced revenue losses as well as improved field team and office personnel productivity.

Since Dael Thermal started logging and dispatching service calls, processing requisitions, gaining customer authorizations and procuring service contracts via mobile channels, its field teams have not only become more efficient in their customer response capabilities, but also more successful in securing repeat customers.

Many Functions, One Interface

The combination of the rugged PCs and the software solution allows Dael’s mechanics to execute all business functions under a single intuitive and familiar interface. Field teams can now retrieve and update work orders, time sheets, parts requisitions and invoices while at the customer site to minimize back-and-forth calls.

In addition, they can  utilize the on-board camera, barcode reader and radio interface to capture and send real-time repair updates to the home office and customers. Plus, they can submit accurate model information to suppliers without risking miscommunication of serial numbers.

The advantage for Dael is a familiar, company-wide user experience. “The tablet used by the mechanic in the field and the desktop used by the home office staff looks exactly the same on screen,” says KMP support specialist Amanda Geerlinks. “The programs and data entry fields are identical. Plus, by using a Windows-based system, the look and functionality of the software is identical to what many employees have used on their home computers, so there is little learning curve.”

By enabling real-time data entry and information sharing with just a few keystrokes, technicians arrive at the jobsite with all supporting information on customer history and current repair requests, and they can quickly provide recommended courses of action to the customer while keeping the home office in the loop.

Fewer Mistakes Leads to Long-Term Customers

“For more than three decades, we were at the mercy of paper and people. The problem is that both make mistakes, and it often took a long time for us to identify those errors and correct them, resulting in frustration for all parties. Sometimes the customer took the biggest hit, and sometimes it was us,” Stewart says.

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