Constructing the future
Notebooks are one of the more traditional routes to mobility. Henley Properties group IT manager, Lawrence Chong, recently deployed 70 Toshiba M200 tablet PCs and M400 tablet PCs to one of the least computerised industries around.
"Henley Properties is almost national; we have offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, mainly doing residential construction," Chong said. "We have about 80 construction supervisors who each manage anywhere between 15-20+ projects at any one time."
Like many construction firms, Henley Properties didn't have much in the way of modern IT tools and didn't see the need for them.
"It's very much a world where it's about a human putting one brick on top of another. It was quite a hard sell. People were asking, 'well, does it build a house for me?'" he said. "Supervisors had to run their entire project carrying around big folders and armed with a mobile. The big drawback was very high mobile phone costs and they were not online to do anything. Information was not communicated in a timely manner."
Chong said the team used to meet once a week to compare notes and get up to date. The result, he said, was the team mostly worked blind and good customer service was difficult to achieve.
Chong said wireless tablet PCs had several advantages - although it took a while to teach some staff how to use them. Users got immediate access to email, fax, Internet and intranet tools. The mobile phone bill dropped by at least 50 per cent. Users also look at building designs and drawings on the tablets with staff and customers. Importantly, the tablets allow supervisors to access Henley Properties corporate systems for the latest details and any last-minute changes.
"That's where we used to get caught out all the time. We also get information on how each project is progressing and they can get all the latest information synchronised with the corporate database daily," Chong said. "Instead of going around with a big shopping basket of folders, they carry the tablets - which looks more professional and enables better customer service. And that is really what it's all about at the end of the day."