MRO Magazine

No Paper Trail: Digital data collection generates visible results for Finning


January 16, 2012
By PEM Magazine

As the world’s largest Caterpillar equipment dealer, Alberta-based Finning sells, rents and services heavy equipment and engines. Their customers run mission-critical equipment in rugged and isolated locations.

To keep customers moving, Finning’s vehicle service teams conduct ongoing equipment inspections and preventative maintenance in the field, generating large amounts of paperwork. The data is used to coordinate repairs, order parts, schedule future service and bill for labour.

Teams collect this information on paper in the field, but it takes time for the data to get back to operations, delaying parts ordering, follow-up service scheduling and billing. On top of that, manual data entry into back-end systems takes service technicians away from billable tasks. A key document process for Finning is the timesheet, as it doubles as an invoice and record of repair. Timesheets are filled out in the field and driven back to the office where they are ultimately entered by hand into Finning’s back-end system. Delayed time sheets create delayed billing and poor operational visibility to service records.

In order to digitize the information collected from the timesheets, Finning started using digital pen and paper technology by Anoto and Capturx Forms Service solution for real-time data capture. Now repair teams use the same timesheet that they’ve been using for years, but as teams fill them out, the digital pen creates a normal ink record on the paper while also making a digital copy — which it stores in the pen’s memory. Teams can use smartphones to send data directly from the Bluetooth-enabled digital pens to their back office. Data sent wirelessly from the field is instantly available in the back office in the original handwriting as well as converted text in data tables. The data can be integrated directly into other back-end systems like timecard management software to automate workflows, such as payroll and billing. PDF files with the original handwriting also contain converted text as keywords, making them easy to search, archive and retrieve.


“Finning provides a range of equipment sales and customer support services to the oil field, pipeline and other industries throughout Western Canada,” said Sam Chapdelaine, customer services manager with Finning. “Capturx helps us efficiently track the service paperwork for our planned approach to scheduled services, proactive maintenance and repairs, so customers can minimize unplanned downtime and get productivity when they need it.”

Service teams no longer take billable workers out of the field in order to drive forms back to the central office. With the extra time, service crews can spend more time on billable tasks. And with reduced lag between service repair and delivery of the service record to the central office, Finning has real-time visibility into their customer accounts and repair teams.

With immediate access to timesheet data, the office can expedite the billing process, keep payroll records up-to-date and streamline account reconciliation. There’s no more month-end scramble, invoices slipping into future months or confusion over missing paperwork.

Despite the use of “sophisticated” tools, many businesses still rely on manual data collection methods with pen and paper. Digital technology automates information in a way that is easy, reliable and requires minimal user training. As a result, organizations — especially those with a large field service staff — can continue to collect information the way they always have but now with the benefit of immediate access to operational data.

Pietro Parravicini is the CEO and president of Anoto Inc., and Ken Schneider is the CEO and chairman of Adapx. For more information, visit