What is the best way of handling a geographically spread PDA-solution in a tough working environment where all communication is wireless?
BITS DATA chose a solution from Optiscan for centralized operation, supervision and administration of numerous redundant wireless networks at Scania´s workshops. "We have minimized the need for being on site while maintaining total control of the operation" says Pasi Luoma-aho at BITS DATA. For the workshops the PDA-solution is an appreciated tool for making the daily work more efficient.
The workshops are undergoing a gradual shift to use PDAs in the daily work. These handheld units are communicating via WLAN to the local network at each site. For BITS DATA this means a responsibility of managing a growing number of remote wireless networks, each consisting of a number of wireless access points and PDAs.
The original project plan at BITS DATA, was to use traditional intelligent access points at each site. Each individually configured access point should be connected via LAN/WAN to the central Automaster application server.
BITS DATA however chose the solution from Optiscan, using semi intelligent access points connected to a local LAN at each workshop. Each semi intelligent access point is then managed and connected via WAN to a redundant central controller cluster at BITS DATA in Södertälje.
"This solution has many advantages. The access points are cheaper and there is no need for individual administration of the access points." says Pasi Luoma-aho at BITS DATA.
Optiscan is responsible for performing site surveys, planning the placements and configuration of the access points at each workshop. Furthermore Optiscan configures each PDA prior to delivery and provides a service agreement on all hardware in order to minimize the impact on the daily work in case of a problem.
BITS DATA is responsible for the physical installation at the workshops and for the operation of the central switch. Optiscan is responsible for 2nd line support concerning operation and troubleshooting.
The central switch is doubled in order to achieve highest level of redundancy. In case of a major failure local network service at the workshops will be available for several days.
Each workshop has up to seven PDAs and each and one can be administrated remotely. Software updates can easily be performed without being on site or interfering daily work at the workshops.
From BITS DATAs perspective the benefits with this solution is mainly a simplified installation, administration and troubleshooting. The benefits become more obvious as more and more of Scania´s 103 workshops start to use PDAs.
"If we can liberate 30 minutes every working day for each of our 25 mechanics, it will amount to thousands of hours per year which can be invoiced. This is an absolutely realistic scenario which means that the time for return on investment will be very short, he says enthusiastically."
The mode of operation is that the mechanic collects the assignment on the common board and reads the bar code of the assignment using the PDA. The mechanic then collects all the spare parts that are needed to complete the assignment. All activities are easily logged using the built-in bar code reader of the PDA. The most common spare parts are grouped in a special area of the warehouse in order to minimize the walking distance and speed up the handling process.
"The PDA enables faster processing of the assignment, since the mechanic is not bound to a PC, and the stock balance is updated instantly at the storage location with the Automaster application. This also simplifies stock-taking and makes data for automatic refill orders more reliable", says Sonny Lindau.
Deviations from the original assignment, such as additions that the mechanic performs by consulting the customer, can easily be added to the order. It is also possible to keep track of, and charge for, additional material that is needed to perform a service, since all items have bar codes.
"Now we have a tool for the handling of all spare parts. A common system used by the management, administration and warehouse staff, as well as each mechanic. This also contributes to tear down barriers between different parts of the organisation."
One of the obvious advantages is that the need for handwritten notes has decreased dramatically. One classic example is when an on-call mechanic makes an immediate withdrawal during a weekend.
"It may take many days before a handwritten note is registered in the system resulting in unpleasant difference in stock. By using the PDA the on duty mechanic is able to register a withdrawal on his way out the door"
One realistic goal that lies ahead is to supply the customer with a receipt before leaving the workshop, consisting of a complete list of all of the spare parts used and all costs. The apparent advantage with this, is that possible issues concerning the up-coming invoice can be solved before the customer leaves the workshop.
"There is a huge interest for the PDA solution in the workshops. In our opinion there would be a vast potential in implementing the same solution to the automobile divisions within the Volkswagen Group, which has already begun on a small scale." says Pasi Luoma-aho at BITS DATA.
He is positive concerning the present cooperation with Optiscan.
"Optiscan has delivered a complete solution which suits our needs well in a very professional way."
BITS DATA supplies IT-solutions for the Swedish resellers of Scania, VW, Audi, SEAT, Skoda and Porsche. BITS DATA works closely with the general agents of Scania Sweden and Volkswagen Group Sweden.
The company is the customers´ partner concerning computer systems, computer operation and communication. BITS DATA also supports car market and service market as well as economy and analysis.