Powys County Council is rolling out 1st Touch’s mobile working and portal solution across its operations in mid-Wales.
Powys County Council is responsible for a largely upland and rural county covering 2000 square miles, about a quarter of the area of Wales. With only one person in every 10 acres, it is one of the most sparsely-populated local authority areas in England and Wales. As well as its housing remit, PCC is also responsible for 120 schools, 12 community sports centres and numerous leisure centres, libraries and civic buildings, and employs 8000 staff in locations across the county.
With such a large area to cover, PCC had originally introduced a mobile working system for 50 maintenance and repairs staff, but the system wasn’t perfect, with coverage proving problematic in certain areas.
Having decided to replace the existing mobile system, John Jones, systems administrator, Powys County Council, said, “We wanted to use the opportunity to introduce greater flexibility into the system so that we could bring everyone in the authority on board, but without the overhead of managing multiple systems.”
PCC already had a back-office job costing system from ROCC, which in turn had integrated its systems with those of 1st Touch, an electronic forms specialist, to deliver complete mobile solutions. This led to PCC finding out how 1st Touch Mobile could be used to drive jobs and the flow of information to and from operatives and the back office, while providing PCC with the flexibility to change forms quickly and develop different solutions for new mobile users.
Learning from 1st Touch, Powys developed forms which reflected the familiar paper-based systems that operatives had been using. Each job requires a different set of forms, and the forms needed in each job will differ as well; a single job could involve up to 30 forms being loaded onto the PDA, with the operatives routed through the forms depending on their answers. Jones added, “The real thinking goes into planning the routes for the forms to ensure that the operatives collect all the information they need and then deliver the information back to their office-based managers.”
The first phase of the project involved the replacement of the original system for the maintenance and repairs staff. The second phase involved the rollout of the system to 50 staff working on PCC’s housing. The 1st Touch Mobile system covers all tasks that the operatives need to undertake, from receiving job details through van checks, imprest stores used and bought-in parts, to the schedules of rates for each completed job.
Working electronically saves time in office visits and paper form filling and also speeds up processes when further action is required. Jones said, “For example, an operator might be due to fix some guttering at a school. Using the forms on the PDA, the operative can carry out a risk assessment before starting work. If the assessment fails, that gets reported straight back to our back-office system, which alerts the manager that action needs to be taken. Previously the manager would have had no idea that there was a problem until it was reported by the operative later.”
During the latest implementation stage, PCC has begun to use the mobile system beyond housing, maintenance and repairs for extra applications such as legionella testing at leisure centres and boiler testing and servicing.
The mobile system is also providing better information to PCC’s managers via web-based portals. These have user-defined views, showing information relevant to the individual users’ roles, such as maintenance and service records. Jones said, “The portal is a major development and is a big winner for us internally, giving the mobile solution a high profile across the authority.”
PCC is now considering other applications for its mobile system. These include the collection and secure management of clinical waste and reporting road traffic accidents, as well as possibly extending the portals to give tenants access to real-time and historic information about their properties.