Aster Property Management completed the installation in March 2011 of ROCC’s Uniclass Social Housing system for job costing and repairs, an upgrade from its original Uniclass Enterprise product. Aster has already reported a 10 per cent saving on job costs and expects a full return on its investment within a year.
Aster Property Management looks after Aster Group’s 18,000 properties, including those of Aster’s subsidiaries such as Testway Housing, Sarsen Housing, Flourish Homes and Ridgeway Community Housing.
Uniclass Enterprise was originally installed at Testway Housing in 2005 but following various restructuring processes, it was used by Aster for all of the group’s jobs but due to a lack of integration between Uniclass and Aster’s finance system, staff struggled to complete monthly invoices and answer client queries. Their problems highlighted the lack of job costing with no schedule of rates, standard job descriptions or materials tracking.
Sharon Simmonds, head of finance, Aster Property Management, said, “Uniclass Enterprise was a tool to report KPIs but it wasn’t used to feed our finance system. A job would be raised in Uniclass but the purchase order would be raised separately in the finance system.
“Every cost we incurred was charged back to the client. They never had individual job costing but it was the best we could do. The clients were very unhappy.”
By 2010, substantially increased workloads of around 1,000 calls per week about repairs meant that job costing had to be introduced, with the aim of linking Uniclass with Aster’s OpenAccounts finance system.
Simmonds said, “We wanted to improve performance, control the budgets and monitor what was going on. That meant improving management controls and introducing full job costing.”
After a six-month project beginning in September 2010, Aster’s job costing system now has schedules of rates for 200 of the most common jobs such as changing a tap washer. Workers select activities on their PDAs while subcontractors use the same list for consistency. All materials are now subject to tight controls including annual contracts with builders’ merchants that demand the use of valid job numbers. All supplier invoices are raised against specific jobs, enabling Uniclass Social Housing to record actual expenditure, including labour, stock materials used, direct purchases and sub-contractors on a job-by-job basis.
Uniclass Social Housing now covers Aster’s responsive repairs, planned maintenance and estates work. The tighter management controls have resulted in significant efficiency savings and cost reductions.
Simmonds said, “We have a real audit trail on materials and it’s so clear now that everything links together. I think we will get our money back well within the first year as well as make a 10 per cent saving on costs, plus there is a lot of potential to save money across the whole business.”