Settle Group has saved hundreds of hours of administrative time and reduced by two months the surveying period for its annual repairs programme by introducing mobile working. Its building surveyors are now using an app built using NDL’s awi MX software when they inspect properties, eliminating paper forms and enabling the automatic transfer of reports into its Aareon QL housing management system.
Every seven years, all of Settle’s properties on specific estates are individually inspected and assessed for repairs, with any remedial work then scheduled for the following year.Therefore at any given time, one seventh of Settle’s property portfolio is undergoing a bespoke maintenance programme, with another seventh being surveyed for repairs the following year.
Before the introduction of the NDL mobile-working software, when Settle’s surveyors visited its properties, they used numerous printed forms to record the repairs needed, encompassing 500 types of entries covering task, trade required, quantity, location, unit of measurement and other miscellaneous extra works. These forms were then manually added to a spreadsheet, double-checked by a surveyor and corrected if necessary, and then transferred into the Aareon housing management system, with the whole process fraught with data duplication and manual processing errors.
As an existing user of NDL’s awi SX integration toolkit, Settle realised that awi MX could be used to automate its property inspection forms by enabling Settle’s staff to design, deploy and manage multiple bespoke and secure mobile applications across different types of devices.
Indy Bhogal, software business analyst, Settle Group, said, “Before I started developing an app to replace the complicated paper forms used by the surveyors, I needed to understand exactly what the surveyors did and they did it, so I spent a lot of time out on site with them as well as discussing in detail with Settle’s property team throughout the development process exactly what they needed from the app.
“It was really important to understand the surveyors’ processes and how you can mimic those so that they don’t have to learn something completely new. As a result of doing this, we got the app right from the start rather than having to go through lots of iterations, which meant the surveyors really wanted to use it.”
Settle’s NDL-based app runs on iPads and replicates very closely the previous paper system. They can work either on or offline and connect either through 4G or wi-fi, uploading and downloading data to and from Settle’s housing management system.
Steve Foulds, building technician, Settle Group, said, “I had no idea that technology could work so well in something like this. Our IT team was brilliant in the way they did this; they listened to everything we said and came up with exactly what we needed to support our inspections.
“As well as streamlining the way we enter information, the new system gives us real-time information on the properties we are inspecting when we arrive. It’s a clean, seamless and accurate way of working. Settle’s managers can also get very realistic real-time overviews of what’s going on. It’s a great piece of kit – everyone is sold on it.”
Bhogal said, “From a developer’s perspective, NDL’s awi MX is very easy to pick up and does a great job. It allows you to develop exactly what you want to make it as user-friendly as possible.”