A constant topic of discussion for those of us involved in building EROAD Inspect is what will the workshop of the future look like? Obviously it's fun to image robots helping to repair machinery in a similar vein to Jarvis from Iron Man. But in the shorter term what are the technologies available now that can change the way mechanics work on our machinery - improving efficiency, reducing cost and above all helping to make our lives safer through better maintained equipment.
EROAD is already bringing the future to life today by changing the processes used by workshops to manage defects discovered during routine inspections of machinery, such as those performed by a driver on their truck before they start driving. We've introduced a defect board to bring Kanban-style process management, giving a complete overview to your mechanics and admin teams of the defects you have, and where they are in the repair lifecycle. We've already seen that using this board can save one and a half hours every day, but as you may expect we're already thinking about how to make this better.
Historically users have interacted with Depot using their PCs, usually in an office away from the real action. This is not the most efficient way to work, constantly having to walk from where you are to your office to access information - such as walking away from the truck you are working on to check for any other defects. This is now changing as we move to a more mobile-first world with all the capabilities of Inspect working on a smartphone or tablet, meaning your mechanics can carry the defect board around with them as they go about their day to day work. Although this is helpful, workshops are not the safest places for expensive phones and tablets. A better way could be a large touchscreen monitor, showing the defect board to everyone in the workshop, so the entire team has oversight on the work to be done. Mechanics are able to update the board by simply dragging defects using their fingers from 'Reported', to 'Repairing' as the work is underway, and finally to 'Repaired' once the defect has been repaired. These kind of monitors can be run using a small, low-powered PC and are cheap - if oily fingers eventually damage the screen they are only a few hundred bucks to replace, a fraction of the cost saving already achieved by Inspect customers.
Touchscreens are something we can use now, bringing the workshop of the future closer (and if you want to try out such a setup get in touch using the chat button in Depot), but where next? In my next post we'll look at technologies currently in their infancy that can do so much more.
Jim Bennett is a mobile developer at EROAD, as well as an internationally recognised thought leader in the mobile developer space. He is a Microsoft MVP, Xamarin MVP, technology blogger, author of Xamarin In Action from Manning publications, and is a regular speaker at meet-ups and technology conferences around the world such as Xamarin Evolve, Microsoft Ignite and NDC. You can find him online at https://jimbobbennett.io or on twitter at @JimBobBennett.