Likewise, Helix Electric field technicians have turned to mobile devices to improve fleet monitoring. Employees undergo a daily vehicle checklist on their phone that can be monitored by the fleet manager. The 27-year-old specialty contractor is implementing a pilot program in Las Vegas later this year that will enable customers to sign off on work in the field using an iPhone form linked to the company's database, says Helix information technology manager Frank Farina.

Technicians can attach work progress photos and instantly e-mail signed work orders to both customers and office staff. Helix declined to disclose program costs, but the company's initial plans call for up to 30 participants.

"This will remove all paper forms from the field for the service department," says Victor Fuchs, Helix Nevada president. "It's really going to streamline things."

Telematics has definitely streamlined work for E.R. Snell Contractor Inc., Snellville, Ga., which implemented a HCSS GPS system on 300 machines in January. Foremen can now input data on idle time and hours of operation into a Web-based system. E.R. Snell has additionally turned to telematics for other tasks, such as payroll processing, reducing paperwork by 95%.

"We were a paper-based company bombarded with time sheets and equipment hours," says Jared Snell, office manager. "Our foremen would spend an hour and a half collecting and writing down equipment hours. Now it's all done with the click of a button. It enables our guys to spend more time concentrating on the job."

The company's 400 employees quickly embraced telematics. E.R. Snell took a poll after only two months of using the new system, and 95% of foremen said they would never go back to paper. The firm's management feels the same way. The process has nearly eliminated paperwork while producing other unanticipated benefits.

"There was gas and time spent leaving the field and coming to the office. Now, [employees] can do it all electronically. It's hard to put a number on the savings, but it's huge," says Justin Snell, the firm's software manager. "The accuracy of our data has also improved, so we can adjust our bid numbers and be more competitive. The only place we're not paperless is with our shop because we haven't had time to set it up yet."