South Somerset Works has replaced in-van radios with PDAs and integrated front-line operatives with back-office stock control.
SSW is the contracting arm of South Somerset Homes, which maintains 14,500 homes, and has around 60 maintenance staff carrying out planned maintenance and repairs, cyclical servicing and gardening. The volume of work and number of service requests meant that SSW needed to reduce the daily administrative burden on each employee, remove process bottlenecks and improve the day-to-day experience for its workforce. By improving productivity at the employee level, the organisation expected to gain additional time and resources to focus on increasing the number of properties under management.
As its existing software was not able to integrate job management effectively and was not flexible enough to incorporate new compliance requirements, SSW upgraded to Consilium’s Task Contractor, resulting in improved financial and operational management.
Having addressed its internal operational requirements, SSW then considered how to improve the utilisation and efficiency of its mobile maintenance staff, looking specifically at cutting down on travel and integrating front-line operations with back-office stock control and inventory management.
SSW trialled Consilium’s Windows-based TotalMobile service with some of its maintenance staff, with PDAs replacing an expensive in-van radio system. The service also incorporates stock management functionality, linking front-line operations to SSW’s stores depot; once a job is logged and completed, information about materials used is captured from the electronic form and transmitted to the stores. Replacement supplies are then picked so that the van can be replenished once it returns to base.
Prior to the trial, the PDAs were distributed to the staff, who were encouraged to use the phone facility, getting them used to the devices before the software was uploaded. Once the trial started, Consilium’s team demonstrated how the solution fitted into the daily itinerary and implemented improvements suggested by the operatives.
Rob Barker, finance manager, South Somerset Works, said, “User feedback was a critical factor in our testing. Consilium advised that any mobile strategy had to be accepted by the employees, not simply thrust on them with no warning. Feedback was incorporated into the completed solution to make sure staff understood that their opinions were very much part of the process.”
The solution went live across SSW’s entire maintenance team in April 2007, with back-office staff trained to field IT support queries from the maintenance teams. One year later, SSW estimates that efficiency has improved by 10 per cent, with a further five per cent expected over the next twelve months as additional software modules are deployed.
In terms of the environmental, SSW is saving approximately 20,000 miles a year spent on journeys to and from the head office, while the electronic capture of information has also reduced the amount of paper and printing.
Rob Barker said, “Traditionally the last people in the business normally to benefit from new technologies, the tables have been turned. The introduction of mobile devices has helped to create a greater sense of job ownership amongst the operatives. They can now embrace mobile working, which improves their daily work-life balance and gets rid of the constant to-ing and fro-ing between home, the properties and HQ. Now they can give their full attention to the jobs that need to be completed onsite.”
As related news, Consilium has appointed Malcolm Thompson as its new chief operating officer. Previously Consilium’s operations manager, Malcolm Thompson has more than 20 years’ experience in the technology and telecommunications sectors, including senior positions at Eircom and UTV Internet.