Our inspectors are carrying these things out in the field. They're laying them down on concrete. They do occasionally drop them. They're exposed to the elements, so we went with the ruggedized Toughbooks. And it's really worked out well. It has met all of our needs."

Completed reports are also immediately uploaded into the department database, making review of employee work a snap for supervisors. It also significantly simplified end-of-the-month reporting. Instead of poring over pages of handwritten reports, Higgins and his staff can quickly analyze automatically generated reports in minutes.

"It has been just a giant leap forward in productivity and consistency," said Higgins. "Florida's a big state, and we want our contractors to be consistent. The program's designed so everyone is asking the same questions. So you could take the computer and you could be working in key West, and you could take that same computer and give it to somebody, and they could do the same inspection in Pensacola in a different facility and everything would be exactly the same."

Higgins said the Toughbooks have helped cut costs and improve efficiency. The printing of thousands and thousands of forms every year is gone, he said. The cost of shipping those forms from the counties to the districts is gone. The cost of archiving the huge number of boxes every year is gone. And the software is designed to deliver the completed inspection automatically, so other than printing out an inspection in the field to give the operator, he added, it truly is paperless.

The results have garnered Higgins and his staff recognition and even awards from the state. Twice Higgins' team won the Davis Productivity Award. The award, presented by Florida Tax Watch, is given to government agencies that excel at saving taxpayer money.