Case Study: Signature Pad Integration for a Transload Company

Client

Our client is a market leader in oil field logistics and transload services.  They own and manage a nationwide network of transload terminals where they store and move millions of pounds of bulk sand, crude, and other materials to and from trucks, railcars, silos, and other containers.  Their services are a critical element in the energy supply chain in North America.

One of the client’s transload facilities.

Problem

The client has a proprietary cloud-based operations management application they use to track all material and asset movements at each of their facilities.  A key part of this process requires capturing bill of lading signatures from truck drivers before they leave the facility. Different facilities require different configurations, based on available equipment, facilities, and staffing.  Some facilities use desktop PCs with a USB signature pad, while others use a ruggedized mobile device with a touchscreen.  Still others use custom-built kiosks with larger touchscreens.  No matter the hardware used, signatures need to be captured and stored in a consistent format, and must be easily retrieved later for auditing and verification purposes.

A USB signature pad can be plugged in to a desktop PC and used to collect driver signatures.

Solution

Using an open source jQuery signature plugin, and the proprietary SDK from the device manufacturer, we built a single, reusable component which allows signatures to be captured via any method: signature pad, touch screen, mouse drawing, and saved to the app’s datastore as a PNG file.

Trucks are weighed on a truck scale to capture the final gross weight before generating the bill of lading. Once this data is collected, the driver signs the BOL eletronically.

If the signature pad is installed, impressions are captured in real time, and rendered on the screen.  If the signature pad is not installed, the system will fall back gracefully.  A message informing the user on how to install the signature pad can be displayed.  Meanwhile, the other signature methods are still available.

Driver signatures are captured in the web app, along with the other truck data. This box supports both physical signature pads like the one pictured about as well as signing with a mouse or touch screen.

Result

Our client no longer has to be concerned about signatures when planning deployments.  Any possible situation can be handled with minimal overhead, whether they are using desktop computers or mobile handhelds.  Not only that but some time after this solution was deployed, the transload company began installing kiosks with a large desktop-sized touch screen at certain facilities.  Because of the flexibility of the signature solution, the kiosks were able to support on-screen signature capture without any additional development.  Whether the facility uses touch screen kiosks, handheld devices, or a signature pad attached to a desktop PC, the application is able to handle it seamlessly.  Digital signature capture for Bill of Lading documents will be available in any scenario.

James Adams Technology Consulting is now Fulcrum Dynamic

When I started working for myself in 2013, I wanted to keep things simple.  I was one person, usually working for one client at a time, typically as a 1099 contractor.  And frankly, I wasn’t sure how long I would stick with it, or whether I would close up shop and go back to being an employee as quickly as I had begun this adventure.  So I didn’t see any compelling reason to form a legal entity for my company. Most of my sales and marketing consisted of word-of-mouth recommendations, so I wasn’t terribly concerned with branding.

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Project Profile: Toggl Invoice

Toggl is a fantastic, simple time tracking application. It allows the user to start and stop a timer, add a note, and attach it to clients and projects, and generate reports. However, the report generated by Toggl was not quite sufficient to use as an invoice. So we decided to write a script that would parse our Toggl reports and generate nicely formatted invoices in HTML and PDF formats.

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Later, we added additional features, including exporting directly from the Toggl API, rather than from a flat file, as well as the ability to export time entries from Toggl to Freshbooks time tracking.

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