As part of its Smart City vision, City of Edinburgh Council is using a mobile working platform developed by Kirona and BT to improve the productivity of its maintenance and repairs staff. Due to better use of its 210 in-house tradesmen, the council has already reported its need to outsource repair jobs for its 23,000 homes had fallen by 25 per cent within six months of implementation.
The month-long project, which went live towards the end of 2009, extended the council’s existing implementation of the Opti-Time dynamic scheduling system. Edel McManus, business improvement manager, City of Edinburgh Council, explained, “In order to truly realise the benefits of Opti-Time, we needed to introduce a mobile working platform to provide real-time job allocation and communication with our field-based workers.”
The project focussed on evaluating and streamlining existing business processes and working practices as well as assessing the technical requirements, with a view of not only improving the tradesmen’s productivity but also reducing operational costs and improving service to tenants.
This process highlighted the time tradesmen spent travelling to and from the council depot to pick up work schedules and supplies and to complete timesheets and other paperwork. It also demonstrated that the council’s team of workers ring-fenced to deal with emergency repairs were alternately under-used or over-stretched, the latter requiring external contractors to be deployed; dynamic job allocation would allow this separate team to re-integrated into the wider repairs team.
A pilot project involving 65 Edinburgh Building Services tradesmen began with Kirona’s iClient application integrated with Opti-Time and two back-office systems covering works order management and contractor management. This enabled dynamic job allocation to mobile workers in real time, based on their individual skills, location, and current job status.
McManus added, “For the project to be a success, we had to engage our people and involve them in the development and decision-making process. For example, our tradesmen, administrative staff and planners were invited to provide feedback on proposed process changes. The tradesmen also helped with the selection of the PDAs.”
Each mobile worker was given an HTC mobile device to receive job instructions, with a BT leased line connecting the BT-hosted server running the iClient application with the Vodafone mobile network. The scheduling software optimises job allocation using real-time data to use resources better. Jobs are allocated in sequence to tradesmen via their PDA which enables them to start work from home rather than the depot, reducing wasted travel time and vehicle mileage and delvering related sustainability benefits.
Edel McManus concludes: “This solution has all but eliminated paperwork for the repairs team and as a result we have been able to reduce the number of administrative staff by five. Managers also have access to improved management information, resulting in more effective resource and workforce management.”
There are also benefits for the council’s employees and tenants. With real-time job allocation the council’s call centre has more appointments available and can offer tenants a same-day repairs service for the first time. Other advantages include better management of materials used per job, automated control and replenishment of van stock items, and reduced administration costs.
McManus concluded, “Dynamic job allocation allows us to complete more jobs without needing to pass work to outside contractors. In fact, during the first six months of operation the mobile platform supported a 25 per cent reduction in outsourced jobs.”