Making the move from paper-based administration to electronic is not without a few teething problems, especially if trying to run an old paper system and convert to electronic on the run.
Thanks to tablet technology it's now possible to totally do away with paper without spending hours at a desk each day, and that's exactly what Sargent Rental and Maintenance have done.
Sargent Rental and Maintenance, a national fleet management companies, has recently overhauled their vehicle-checking and inspection system with a simple, highly customisable app, developed in Australia and designed for the iPad.
ChekRite is a vehicle checking system that provides a complete alternative to traditional, paper-based, clipboard checklists.
It is designed to ensure compliance and consistency in vehicle inspections around the nation, as well as significantly reducing the time and cost involved with regular vehicle inspections.
Not only does it ensure a full audit and compliance trail, ChekRite has more than halved the time that Sargent's mechanics take to carry out vehicle inspections.
After three months in trial, the ChekRite app has been implemented across the entire Sargent fleet of over 3200 commercial vehicles.
Sargent chief maintenance officer Malcolm McIntosh said ChekRite has delivered increased efficiency and productivity across a network of 17 locations in Australia.
"One of the challenges with a national business like ours is that we demand a level of consistency and compliance across our fleet that needs to be delivered by more than 100 mechanics," he said.
"To ensure full compliance, a key thing for us is the consistency of the process, and ChekRite helps with that, in that everybody is completing the same steps, the same way, every time – so we always get the same result.
"ChekRite incorporates a 'failsafe' system, so mechanics have to complete the steps the way that the program dictates – having said that, if you find a better way to carry out the inspection, or you need to exchange one step of the process with another, it's very easy to change."
According to McIntosh, the ChekRite rollout has resulted in improved productivity and increased efficiency.
"It used to take our mechanics over an hour to carry out an inspection using paper-based checklists; we have now reduced that to less than 30 minutes – a 55 per cent increase in efficiency," he said.
"That efficiency even equates to administrative efficiency, in that we don't have a leading hand trying to charge up the batteries or find the cable for the digital camera, we don't have paper documentation to keep track of; it's all collated and stored in one digital location."
Every time a vehicle is returned from hire – and it may have been out for two days or two years – Sargent's mechanics carry out a full inspection as part of the company's return-from-hire procedures.
Sargent has a rigorous process for keeping track of each vehicle returning from hire, which can be after one or two years in the field, and in the past this process included a paper trail with checklists and digital photos.
Naturally, the filing system was time-consuming and frustrating to manage, as workshop supervisors had to convert paperwork and photos to PDF files and reports, then merge them into Excel spreadsheets.
"Now not only has ChekRite halved the time taken to carry out vehicle inspections, but all the data captured is immediately available to our supervisors and management teams," McIntosh said.
Sargent's workshop supervisor at the Brisbane branch, Colin Bailey, said that the major advantages of ChekRite was the way it enabled consistency of inspections, while cutting away time spent double-handling paperwork.
"Everyone has to use it the same way so all the checks we're doing are exactly the same, and everyone is on the same page," he said.
"And it definitely cuts down the amount of paperwork I have to do.
"I don't really need to do any paperwork at all except for standard branch stuff."
ChekRite is fully integrated into the workshop iPad, which takes a mechanic through each step of the inspection process, with unique ID for both the mechanic and the vehicle being checked.
The data gathered by ChekRite can also be used for analysing trends, keeping track of repair and maintenance costs, and other fleet management requirements.
McIntosh said that ChekRite's integration into the business was an easy process.
"When we were doing the initial trial of ChekRite, we held one toolbox meeting with our local workshop, which took about 10 minutes," he said.
"Within a month of that 10-minute familiarisation, we'd attained a 40 per cent increase in productivity and efficiency, and after the second month we were up to 55 per cent."
McIntosh said Sargent's mechanics find ChekRite very easy to use, comparing operation of the tablet app to the simplest of transactions.
"Essentially if you can use an ATM, you can use the ChekRite app!"
Available as a free download from Apple's app store, the ChekRite model is based on a fee-per-inspection, where the fee level changes depending on the number of equipment items to be checked.
All data is permanently recorded and kept in a secure Tier 4 data centre, here in Australia, ready for immediate access by Sargent.