Founded in 1964, FRS has four fully stocked restaurant equipment and supply superstores in North and South Carolina. Each store serves customers in a radius of about 100 miles. Sales are completed in person or over the phone in one of FRS’ superstores, or by FRS sales representatives during regular customer visits.
How Paper-Based Processes Hurt Business for FRS
As one component of its business, FRS rents commercial dishwashers. Rental agreements include maintenance and chemical supplies. To service these contracts, technicians visit customers monthly to inspect and maintain the equipment and ensure customers have adequate chemicals.
During these visits, technicians used to fill out a two-part paper form that included equipment reading counts such as racks of dishes washed, chemicals used, jugs on hand, etc. These numbers were employed to calculate whether appropriate levels of detergent and other chemicals were being used considering factors such as machine counts and the water quality in that location.
Completing a paper-based form was time-consuming and problematic for the technicians. Sometimes their writing was hard to read and occasionally they made math errors, which lead to under-billing for chemicals, jugs and replacement parts.
Furthermore, the need to re-key data into FRS’ business system after completed forms arrived at the office created duplicate work and introduced the possibility of keying errors. And, because the paper tickets were typically sent in once a week, the resulting invoices and cash flows were further delayed. Lastly, using multi-part pre-printed paper forms was expensive.
Making the Switch to Digital
To eliminate the field technician paperwork problems, FRS deployed a mobile forms management solution from HelpSystems. Using the HelpSystems solution allows technicians to press a button to download their daily electronic paperwork from FRS’ main business system and take the forms with them on a mobile tablet computer.
Tablet computers were chosen for offline capability because WiFi and mobile hotspot connectivity are not always available, and FRS wanted a mobile forms solution that would work whether or not a technician had Internet access.
The electronic version of the form is pre-filled with machine counts from the previous month’s customer visits so technicians know what to expect when they arrive on site. Technicians also have an electronic parts list on their tablet in case replacements parts or accessories need to be ordered during a visit.
FRS Technicians now complete their forms on a tablet while at the customer site. The forms automatically perform necessary field-entry validations to ensure all needed information is captured and all calculations are correctly completed.
Customers are then able to sign forms on the tablet and receive professional-looking receipts on the spot, thanks to battery-powered Bluetooth printers that technicians carry in the field. The receipts take the place of hand-printed forms that were often difficult to read.
When technicians return to the office or connect to the corporate network, they simply dock the tablet and press a button to upload all completed form data to the system for nightly processing and billing. The process is as easy to use for the technicians as it was straightforward to implement.
As part of the forms management solution, FRS uses other HelpSystems products to help route forms as they are uploaded, archive forms in their document management system for immediate online access, and extract billing information from the forms to automatically write data to FRS’ in-house financial system.
The Benefits of Mobile Forms Management
The benefits of forms management from HelpSystems are clear. For one, the 10 to 12 hours of weekly keying effort that used to be required to enter data from hand- printed forms has been eliminated – as has the cost of the paper-based forms. And because data is captured more quickly and uploaded to the system immediately, payments can be received one to two weeks sooner than in the past. Plus, there is no longer any paper to get lost between the field and the office.
Accuracy and billing has been enhanced, as well. Transposition and mathematical errors are now a thing of the past. Chemical overuse and jugs that may not have been invoiced are now billed right away, allowing FRS to capture revenue that was being missed.
What does all of that mean in dollar terms? “I believe there’s going to be tens of thousands of dollars of gained revenue and cost savings in the first year,” said Carl Novit, Vice President. “For us, being a fairly small company, that’s a lot of money.”
A testament to the strength of the solution is that it “opened our eyes to the possibilities,” said Novit. Only two weeks after implementing our first mobile form, “we’ve already come up with two more ideas for tablet forms that we plan to implement this year.”