The UnitInfo system

The basic idea behind the UnitInfo system is simple. During any machine’s lifetime, you may have occasion to work on it multiple times—and possibly even for different clients. The latter situation might arise, for example, where it was a manufacturer who first hired you to do warranty service (or a home-warranty company to do contract service), then later the consumer called you to do COD service. It might likewise arise if a house in which you’d done service was sold, and you were later called upon to do service (on the same built-ins) for the new owner. Regardless, you may have a more enduring relationship with a machine than with any of the particular clients who pay you to work on it. With such as the case, it would be silly if, each time you went back to work on the machine, you had to re-create the kind of specific information in its regard that’s sometimes needed—such as, for example, model number, serial number, and perhaps purchase date and selling dealer. Indeed, it would be silly even if having to re-create this information when going back to work on the same machine for the same client.

Thus, we have what’s called the UnitInfoSheet (“UIS”): a simple form you fill-out and which thereafter maintains the critical ID info that pertains to a particular machine. The beauty is that you create this UIS for a particular machine but once, and from then on, any job you do on that machine (regardless of for which client), you simply attach that same sheet to any new such job. Naturally, it brings all the pertinent machine info with it. You’ll find this is very simple, and convenient.

The heart of the UnitInfo system (don't be surprised) is the UnitInfo form. You can display this by rightclicking on any Callsheet's ‘Item(s) Make’ box. As you can see, the form is quite simple—having spaces to fill-in, or display, each of the information items enumerated above. There are also a series of command buttons that are largely self-explanatory, but we’ll describe them regardless.

Let's suppose you are an appliance servicer and receive a dispatch from Whirlpool to repair a refrigerator that was installed in the customer's home about one month ago. The dispatch includes all the relevant homeowner's information (i.e., name, address, etc.), and the kinds of specific-to-machine information that we're concerned with here. You fill-out a Callsheet, using a QuickEntry to insert Whirlpool's own name, address and telephone numbers (into the Callsheet’s Customer-Info block), then type the homeowner's name, address and so on (into the Callsheet’s Location-Info block). Then, of course, it's on into the Callsheet’s Item(s) Type and Item(s) Make boxes to put info there. Now, however, rather than typing descriptions into these boxes, you may instead right-click on the Item(s) Make box. At this point you are presented with the UnitInfo form, where you may enter not only the Type and Make of item, but other relevant items of information too. Thus, you’ll create a UnitInfoSheet, and attach it to the Callsheet. Then, when in another few moments you create a JobRecord from that Callsheet, the same attachment will carry through to that new JobRecord.

Of course, another possibility would be that this is a machine you've already serviced—in which case there'd be an existing record that already has the appropriate UIS attached. If that were the case, rather than creating a new UIS for the same machine (actually, once the system catches you entering the same serial number as exists in another UIS, it will not permit it), you'll want to simply attach the existing one. Because this is another possibility as you enter the form, ServiceDesk does not default to either format (i.e., creating a new UnitInfoSheet versus attaching an existing one). Instead, the first two command buttons (proceeding along the bottom of the form) permit you to select from among these two, most common alternatives.

In particular, assuming again that you're presently setting up this warranty job for Whirlpool, we'll further assume that you've never worked on this particular machine. Thus, you need to create a new UnitInfoSheet in its connection. Since this is the more common situation, you'll notice that the command for the purpose is the one that already has the Windows focus as you entered the form. This means that you can simply hit Enter on your keyboard (effectively “clicking” the focused button) to select that function.

Upon so doing, you'll find your cursor is immediately positioned in the TypeDescription box. You might further notice this is a combination typing/list box. If this is your first use of the system, there will, as yet, be nothing in the list, so simply type-in the kind of description you want to regularly have used, within your company, for the kind of machine in question (most appliance servicers use "REFER" or “REFRIG” as an abbreviation for refrigerator, for example, but you can use whole terms or whatever suits you). Then hit Tab to move to the MakeDescription box. Here, of course (assuming our current example), you'll type "WHIRLPOOL", then Tab to the Model Number box, type as appropriate, and so on.

The system requires that you fill-in at least the first four boxes (figuring a UIS without at least that much information would be useless, while that much information in itself). Once this requirement is met, you'll note that two new command buttons are enabled: one to ‘Save’ the record, and another to ‘Attach’ it to your Callsheet (the latter action, as you might guess, incidentally saves the record too; the first is provided simply for those rare instances where you might want to save without incidentally also attaching). When ready, you may either click on the wanted command button or, for greater ease when wanting to proceed with the expected attachment, just press Enter.

Whenever you create a UIS that contains either a Make, Type or Dealer description that was not previously within its own respective list, you’ll find the system demands entry of your password before allowing you to save the UIS. The reason is to enforce a bit of data integrity. In particular, the system will not allow use of a Make, Type or Dealer description that’s not found, or that you’re not willing to add into, its own respective list. This means when you pick something new for such a description, it’s either got to be added into its own respective list, or you’ve got to relent, and pick something that’s already in the list.

For a better understanding of why this is so, consider that mere adding of a new item could be made completely simple—except we’ve learned by experience that when free license is granted to add to these lists, they soon become clogged with an absurd panoply of varying descriptions. You might end up with both “RANGE” and “STOVE” in the Types list, for example (what’s the difference?). You might likewise have “BUILT-IN RANGE” and “RANGE BUILT-IN.” Under Makes, you might have “OKEEFE,” “OKEEFE & MERRITT,” “O&M” and “O & M.” As you can imagine, it can soon become ridiculous, so a means is needed by which you can police these entries and be sure they conform to some reasonable scheme. That’s why a user has to either use the same text as already exists in these lists, or use a password to add a new entry.

In terms of strategy for populating these lists, you can do it either on “ad-hoc, as needed” basis (i.e., simply create UISs as often as the need arises and, when a new UIS happens to involve a Make, Type or Dealer that was not previously in its respective list, use that occasion incidentally to add it to the list), or you can make a wholesale effort to populate the lists up-front. If this latter is your course, you can insert items to any of these lists simply by typing them in at the top, then hitting Enter on your keyboard to insert (you’ll be prompted for password confirmation). If you want to delete an item, simply select it from the list by clicking on it with your mouse, then hit Delete on your keyboard. To edit the text of an item, similarly select it, then hit Ctrl-Enter on your keyboard (Hint: there’s a tip sheet summarizing these methods available in the form itself; look for white text in the form on which you can click to bring the tip sheet up).

Anyway (and returning to the subject of simply creating and attaching a UIS to your job-initiating Callsheet), suppose you've just done so. At this point, ServiceDesk returns you to the Callsheet. Here, you'll see it's entered a notation into the Callsheet's Item(s) Make box that references the "UIS" attachment. At the Callsheet level, this is ServiceDesk's only means of registering the attachment, so (assuming you want the attachment to hold), do not mess with this notation.

The next step occurs when you create a job from this Callsheet. At that time ServiceDesk registers the attachment (as indicated by the above-described notation), and in consequence takes a series of background steps while creating the job. Most important, it makes an entry into the UnitInfo Database that ties the job you've just created to the same UIS as was connected to its initiating Callsheet.

You can easily see the fact of this connection from the JobRecord. Simply hit F7 to bring up the JobsCurrent form. Since this is a job you just created, it will be the most recent in the JobsCurrent file, and therefore will automatically be the one displayed. The fact of a UIS connection is indicated here by two facts (in contrast, remember that a Callsheet-to-UIS connection was encoded solely by textual notation in the Callsheet's ‘Item(s) Make’ box). First, on any UIS-connected JobRecord, there is a line/shadow drawn under the Item(s) Type and Item(s) Make boxes. This provides quick, at-a-glance indication of the fact. Second, there's a, small radio button in the ‘Potential Actions’ section of the JobsCurrent form. If the JobRecord in question has no UIS attached, the caption on this button will read "Create UIS" (which, incidentally, suggests the fact that if you haven't already created an attachment when initiating the job from a Callsheet, you may nevertheless do it later from the JobRecord itself). Alternatively, if the JobRecord already does have a UIS connection, the caption on this button will reference the ID # of the UIS in question.

In either case (as you might guess), you can access the UnitInfo form by clicking on this button (alternatively, you can right-click in the JobRecord’s ‘Item(s) Make’ box (just as you can from the equivalent box in a Callsheet). If there was not a previous attachment, you can create one. Or, if displaying an existing attachment, you can edit it, change to a different attachment, sever (i.e., break) the connection, and so on.

Still another context in which a UnitInfo sheet might be created and/or attached to a job (assuming it was not previously done) is when making the PostVisitReport. Whether using the old dialog or new fill-in-the-blanks method, provision is made for creating (or attaching to an existing) UIS as part of the process. Please note also that, if you sometimes work on multiple machines under the same ticket, you can attach up to five different UISs to a single JobRecord (this multiple-attach capability does not exist at the Callsheet level).

One advantage of having a UIS attached is that the system no longer needs to query for make, model and serial number when you’re ordering non-stock parts (it already has that data, after all). Another is that if it’s a warranty job (or other situation where Model and Serial data is required for payment), the system has the information, and can fill it into the final claim form for you.

Another incidental takeoff from the UnitInfo system concerns entry of information into Callsheets themselves. Once you’ve added a few listings into the UnitInfo’s ‘Type of Item’ or ‘Make of Item’ listboxes, you’ll notice a new entry aid as you’re entering a Type or Make in the a Callsheet’s own equivalent boxes. Now dropdown lists will appear as you type, and you can select the wanted ItemType or ItemMake from within such a list, rather than having to type it out in its entirety (you do have to have this feature turned on from within the Settings form, but that’s the default, so you’ll probably find it’s already on and you don’t have to worry about it).

In addition to the above benefits, the UnitInfo form provides a couple of its own, independent search-andreview type capabilities.

In particular, if you want to quickly review all the jobs you’ve done on a particular machine, just bring up the UIS as is relevant to that machine (either link to it from an applicable JobRecord, or independently bring up the UnitInfo form and locate the applicable UIS via an Serial Number lookup (Click on the button labeled ‘Find an Existing Item’ and proceed per prompts). Then click on the button that’s labeled ‘Show All Linked Jobs’. The system will show you a listing of all such jobs. You can click on any item and instantly see the full corresponding JobRecord.

Similarly, if you want to quickly review all the jobs you’ve done on any particular model number (regardless of the particular machine involved), you simply need to again bring up the UnitInfo form (from any context). Again, click on the button labeled ‘Find and Existing Entry’, and follow the prompts. In this case you’ll be shown a listing for all jobs that involved whatever model you indicate, and again you can select from any item in the list to instantly see the full corresponding JobRecord.