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Panasonic Toughpads keep railways safe at Roadway Worker Training

by Michael Singer

September 9 2013

This RWT worker appreciates that he doesn’t have to bring his laptop to the field, where it could get broken or damaged
This RWT worker appreciates that he doesn’t have to bring his laptop to the field, where it could get broken or damaged

Keeping freight trains moving efficiently along the 138,565 miles of U.S railways requires precise organization, high safety standards, and Panasonic Toughpad tablets.

Roadway Worker Training (RWT) is one of several companies tasked with helping the country’s railroad industry keep up to date on their safety, compliance and technical training. Inspectors and training teachers in the field collect data from the various freight companies around the country and send their forms to a home office.

While historically that meant filling out paperwork and mailing in forms, the digital age meant the work could be done with a portable computer in hand. Smartphones were deemed too small to work on and laptops were seen as potentially too cumbersome. Therefore, RWT looked to tablets to support its field workers.

Instead of an off-the-shelf option, RWT chose the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1, a rugged 10-inch Android-based tablet. The Toughpad also come installed with 4G LTE connectivity from AT&T to ensure their inspectors and training teachers could send and receive information from even the most remote location. “The biggest benefit by far, is just instant access to collecting information,” said Roadway Worker in Charge Sean Quigley. “As soon as the day is over I hit the send button, and my paperwork is finished.”

(“DEVICES: Choosing your next tablet: The operational advantage” will be a key session at TabletBiz conference & expo in NYC on Nov. 13)

Finding a paper solution for tablets

As part of their duties, RWT’s workforce of nearly 100 veteran railroad professionals must frequently collect data from around the country and submit reports back to the home office.

Until recently, this data was collected by hand on notepads and manual invoices before it was faxed to the main office to be sorted and sent to railway clients. With such a labor-intensive pen-and-paper based system, paperwork was not always legible or submitted promptly. The written system had many issues.

“The employee in the field would complete the form and they could potentially skip a field,” said Jennifer Wiethman, a systems manager at RWT. “The quality was not very good, at times, when the fax came in. And, they may not send it that very day; they may not have access to the office equipment to do that.”

To help keep ahead of the paperwork issue, RWT decided to add the ProntoForms app list on its Toughpad devices. The software helps the RWT employees complete customized forms that have required fields, like signatures. Additionally, they can capture text, pictures, barcodes and GPS and time information, and submit their work directly to the back office system or to other data destinations like the cloud.

Below is a short video explaining the process.

(The Panasonic Toughpad – do more in rugged field conditions. This whitepaper profiles the Panasonic Toughpad, and how its unique and durable features, combined with mobile business solutions, are allowing field workers in rugged conditions to get more done: view it now.)

Michael Singer is the Business Editor at TabTimes

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