Automated food safety audits and inspections can replace paper forms as part of an OH&S systems.
Can a PDA or a mobile device (handheld device) automate food safety audits?
Absolutely. Most handheld devices operate on the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system, and can easily handle safety inspections as part of the OH&S systems.
Handheld devices should provide information that already exists on paper forms or on the desktop, and at the same time improve one's ability to access and utilise the data. For example, if an inspector fills out a routine inspection report ensuring the food storage procedures are being followed and comply with HACCP, the handheld device should fulfil the same function.
A handheld user can pick from a list of possible choices and/or write or type in information, according to the organisation's requirements and preferences. The Handheld should easily incorporate the option to use the built-in camera to take photos of non compliance events.
Handheld devices can include validations that allow or disallow data entry. They can also provide the user with historical information or reference to current legislation or company policies pertaining to previous inspection report.
Handheld applications should also be designed to minimise the amount of data entry and keystrokes required by incorporating a variety of techniques, starting from pick lists, through check boxes, to look-up lists and automatically generated results and shortcuts. Minimising the amount of data entry that the end user has to perform is recommended to improve speed, accuracy, efficiency, ease of use and cost.
Finally, handheld software should be able to run on multiple hardware platforms, providing flexibility and utilisation of future technology without avoidable and costly software upgrades.
There is a wide range of PDAs available with differing functions such as Bluetooth and wireless capabilities, phone, voice recorder, scanners (Barcode and RFID) and imaging capabilities. Ruggedised and durable PDA's are available for companies who operate in harsh working environments.
To maximise utilisation and return-on-investment, handheld applications should not be standalone. They should be designed from the outset to collect information, display and manipulate information, and transfer information to and from the desktop application and back to the handheld seamlessly.
The desktop application should provide a variety of operational and management functions including scheduling, tracking, reminders, corrective actions, follow ups, helpdesk, management functions and reports, and analysis tools. The means of data transfer between handheld devices and the desktop application can be through a standard cradle, wired modem, infrared, Bluetooth, wireless communications or even via web hosting facilities.
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