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Fueling Jets with Rugged Tablet PCs

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Taughannock Aviation’s using rugged tablets and custom software to make its operations more efficient. It is a good example of an organization reaping the rewards of implanting tablets in the workplace.

The company is responsible for fueling more than 6,000 aircraft per year at the Ithaca-Timpkins Regional Airport. Besides pumping 1.4 million gallons of fuel from its trucks and into customers’ aircraft, Taughannock Aviation provides a number of other services, such as aircraft charters, maintenance and repair.

Taughannock Aviation selected MobileDemand xTablet T7000 Tablet PCs for the task. We spoke with Erik Balcome of Taughannock Aviation about how his team is using rugged Tablet PCs. He said the company saves more than an hour a day thanks to the tables and reports are more accurate.

“What the tablets have done is allow us to achieve efficiency through electronic data collection of fueling activity on the field,” Balcome said. “It turns that data into information that we use for managing fuels, monitoring activity, reporting to our customers and furnishing reports to whomever may need them.”

Each fueling truck is outfitted with a MobileDemand xTablet T7000 and Brother PocketJet 6 mobile printer.

 Taughannock Aviation employees fuel aircraft such as the jet pictured above. The xTablet T7000 is mounted in the middle of the cab and used during every fuel transfer.

While the user interface appears pretty simply, it makes the business more efficient in a number of ways. Fuel operations are logged on the tablet and later relayed to Taughannock Aviation’s office. Retail customers that receive on-demand services can confirm the data and pay for their fuel in the office. Invoices can be printed and handed over to crew members on the tarmac thanks to the Brother printer. The data is transferred  into the company’s billing system so established customers, such as airlines, can retrieve it through a Web portal. Fuel balance sheets are continually updated.

That’s quite an improvement over Taughannock Aviation’s previous method of passing around carbon copies and transcribing information into their billing and inventory systems.

Consumer Tablets Won’t Do

Consumer tablets and mobile operating systems just won’t do in the rough-and-tumble world of airport operations. Taughannock Aviation’s equipment needs to work whether it’s 5° F or above 120° F, which is about the temperature range in the company’s fueling truck cabs depending on season and time of day.

“We had them running through the entire winter. We had some single digit days and didn’t experience any issues at all. The cabs are very cold in the morning. The tablets are cold and they operate just fine,” Balcome said. “The durability of the T7000 has exceeded our expectations. The hardware has been fully functional, every thing’s worked flawlessly so far. They have seen rain and they have been dropped.”

Balcome noted that an iOS or Android app wasn’t a viable option since the company is already standardized on Windows computers and Microsoft  business software.

“People mentioned to look at Android and iOS, but to be honest those things take interfaces to run with Windows databases. It doesn’t make sense to go with something that’s not proven,” said Balcome.

The MobileDemand xTablet T7000 starts at about $2,000 and can be configured to meet the needs of those that work in a variety of work environments, including construction sites, racing pit stops and warehouses. The rugged tablet meets military standards (MIL-STD 810G/F) for drops, shock, rain and other hazards. It is equipped with an outdoor-readable 7″ touchscreen display.

MobileDemand is a GottaBeMobile sponsor.

Xavier Lanier is the publisher of Gotta Be Mobile and a photographer. He uses too many devices to count, but his current favorites are the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nikon D800 and Sony RX 100M II. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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