At Home With a Palm

Mike Melton is a Sacramento-based lead construction manager at Kimball Hill Homes. As such, he has used plenty of tools: hammers, drills, wrenches, saws -- you name it.

But he recently added another piece of equipment to his toolbox: a Palm Zire 72.

Melton says his Palm Inc. handheld eliminates a few hours of paperwork for him and his colleagues every day. It also better organizes his notes and orders, helping to reduce errors and confusion.

At Home With a Palm

Corporate officials at Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Kimball Hill Inc. are impressed by such reports, says CIO Frank Scaramuzza. Therefore, the home construction company decided to roll out Palm Zire 72s to the construction managers at its 90-plus building locations after running a successful pilot program in Sacramento. Scaramuzza wouldn't disclose the estimated ROI but says it was "sufficient to move forward with the product."

On a typical day, construction managers walk through homes under construction, taking notes on what needs to be done, inspecting completed work, checking jobs in progress and scheduling the contractors, Melton says. In the past, they took notes on paper while walking around and then transferred the information to computers or to paper forms back in their on-site offices.

"Now we have the Palm, and [construction managers have] virtually a phone, a fax, a computer and a printer in every home. They have their schedule right there, they can take notes, they can make changes on the fly, and the messages go right out," Melton says.

The efficiencies created by the handhelds are tangible, Melton says.

For example, a construction manager changed a cabinet order for a home under construction, but the vendor failed to deliver the new item, claiming it hadn't gotten the order in time. But the construction manager had all the pertinent information right there in his hand, detailing when the change was ordered and who at the vendor's company verified its receipt.

"In the past, we would have ended up having to buy a whole home's worth of [the wrong] cabinets," Melton says. "But rather than us having to pay for it, we could show we did everything right. The Palm created that accountability."  

See the complete Faces of Mobile IT special report.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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