About one year ago, I made a conscious decision to apply new information technology to fire protection engineering. That decision has transformed, and continues to transform, our processes in ways we weren’t even expecting. Take one of our Senior Fire Protection Technicians, Jim Tuten, for example.

Jim conducts fire alarm and fire suppression inspection and testing for Harrington Group. In part, his job entails traveling to new construction sites where he checks the building’s fire protection mechanisms. On the job site, he makes sure the fire safety contractors have installed devices up to specification. To test new technology, he gave up his laptop for the iPad on his site visits. The results have been inspiring. Not only does he enjoy the convenience of carrying fewer physical items to his visits, the improved data-entry and calculations free him up to focus on what matters.

A Simpler Form of Data Entry

Jim Tuten’s laptop was small, but it was still too cumbersome to use while on the move. He only used it when the situation demanded. Because the iPad is so light and easy to use, he loves carrying it around during site visits.

To prepare, he pulls up a spreadsheet in Numbers and compiles a list of the devices he will check. This preparation makes his job more efficient when he arrives onsite. Moving down the list, he can easily indicate in the notes field whether a revision is necessary or not. On multi-day site visits, a progress list that identifies any deficiencies can be e-mailed directly from Numbers to the contractor. Typically, the remediation has been completed before the next day begins.

Calculations have also been simplified to where he no longer uses his handheld calculator for on-the-spot computations. He merely inputs the data and the spreadsheet delivers the bottom line – whether the system is sufficient or insufficient. His laptop was too unwieldy to use in the same way.

Although fairly light, laptops are not designed for use while walking through a facility and data entry is too physically complex to improve efficacy. So, Jim jotted down fire safety revisions by hand. The iPad’s touch screen and increased portability has changed the way he enters data and the streamlined calculation system allows him to focus on the site instead of the computer in hand.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.