Mark Jolley, a fruit inspector for the Washington state Department of Agriculture, inspects apples for grade and quality at a Yakima, Wash., warehouse on Oct. 2, 2008. Portable computers deployed by the Washington state Department of Agriculture at warehouses and packing sheds are speeding the inspection process, while making it easier for industry officials to gather information necessary to market the crop and monitor shipments.
The advantage of using a tablet PC is that the inspector no longer needs to carry reference manuals and handbooks to the warehouses when they inspects apples and pears to ensure the quality of the product for the export market.
"We're the only state I'm aware of to put these kinds of tools in the hands of our inspectors," said Jim Quigley, the Agriculture Department's fruit and vegetable program manager. "It's really added another dimension to our inspection programs."
The fruit and vegetable program currently inspects seven commodities — apples, pears, cherries, asparagus, potatoes, onions, prunes, peaches and apricots — for grade, size and quality to ensure they meet requirements of export countries. The program is crucial, in particular, for the fruit industry, where some $783 million in apples, cherries and other fruit were exported in 2007.
The Agriculture Department first introduced the tablet PC to inspectors two years ago, but they're only now being widely used. Inspectors use a stylus to write on the tablet's screen, selecting criteria from drop-down fields and checking boxes about the quality of the produce.
Note: The State of Washington is using tablet PCs and Active Ink Software for food inspections. http://activeink.typepad.com/active_inks_blog/2007/02/spokane_health_.html