Mobilising Field Efficiency

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How Kier Groups Building Maintenance division is harnessing the power of Pervasics mobile data platform for its field operatives nationwide
 
Kier Support Services is part of the Kier Group, a 1.8 billion leading construction, development and service group specialising in building and civil engineering, support services, private house building, property development and the Private Finance Initiative. The Support Services division includes Kier Building Maintenance, which provides an extensive range of building support services primarily for local authorities and housing authorities.
 
Kier Building Maintenance handles the housing stock for local authorities such as Sheffield City Council, Leeds Council, Ealing and Islington councils among others. For Sheffield City Council alone, Kier Building Maintenance looks after more than 50,000 local authority homes, providing 165,000 responsive and out of hours jobs per year.  The company was looking for a more efficient means of scheduling jobs for its field operatives, improving not only its internal processes, but also raising the quality of service for tenants to an even higher standard.
 
We were already in the 90 percentile range in terms of performance to our external tenants. We wanted to improve that even higher, but in particular, we needed to address our internal processes for a more efficient means of job scheduling, said Phil Oades, Service Manager for Responsive Repairs and Gas.  Daily work schedules were telephoned out to operatives in the field by supervisors.  This not only resulted in a lot of mobile phone air time, but also interrupted the operatives when they were in the middle of existing jobs. We were also using a manual paper-based system for job scheduling, which was not only time and paper intensive, but also subject to human error or duplication. The existing system meant that operatives had to return to the service centre to hand in completed job sheets.
 
 
Drivers For Mobilisation
Oades worked with his IT department to find a solution that could increase the efficiencies of the companys job scheduling system, streamline processes, reduce costs and provide an easy to use option for operatives.  Another motivation for mobilising its field operatives was the local government agenda relating to efficiency savings in the industry as a whole, moving away from paper to real time electronic data transfers. This was already part of Kiers business plan and was congruent with its overall strategic business objectives. 
 
We had previously run a trial with a thin client system with some of our operatives, said Chris Hone, Kier Building Maintenance Project Manager. However, this wasnt entirely appropriate for our needs. The thin client online job system required network coverage, had no storage capacity,  and we found that it didnt reduce the amount of travel time back and forth to our service centre. Our operatives went away and came back with suggestions, thoughts and proposed improvements about the type of functionality they required. Without knowing it, what they actually described was a PDA.
 
The Kier Building Maintenance team reviewed a number of market solutions before selecting the Pervasic MobileOne Managed Service Platform as its mobile data platform of choice. Pervasics MobileOne platform runs in a secure, purpose built hosting centre designed to eliminate single points of failure with full redundancy and backup. The software has been specifically built to address the unique problems of supporting hundreds of customers with many thousands of users over all mobile networks.
 
Solid Track Record of Delivery
Phil Oades comments, A number of reference sites were visited and Kier felt that Pervasic was an extremely close fit with our requirements. They had a solid track record of delivery and we were impressed with the reference visits we conducted to their other local council customers, particularly with how they are benefiting from the system and the simplicity and usability aspects for operatives. We also felt the system was flexible enough to absorb any customisations we required. Pervasic is just as simple to integrate at the back end. It simply connects to our scheduling system, then moves real time data to the job completion system and then on to the job management system for billing and payments.
 
Working closely with the trade unions, Kier ran a two week initial trial with thirteen operatives in April 2006.
 
We made a deliberate decision to be inclusive in asking for feedback, added Chris Hone. We did a lot of consulting with everyone from senior management to trade unions and the operatives themselves. Our operatives had a chance to feed back any minor changes they required and Pervasic was extremely responsive to the changes. Small changes can make an enormous difference in terms of benefits to the user and this is one of the reasons we had no resistance when it was deployed. The previous thin client system that we trialed was not at all user friendly, which was one of its main downfalls. However, with Pervasic, we can customise the application to how we work, which is why weve had such successful uptake.
 
Nationwide Deployment
The Pervasic platform is currently rolled out to over 230 operatives on different Kier Building Maintenance contracts across the country as part of the first phase. Over 150 of these are in Sheffield with 23 operatives in Ealing and 49 operatives in Islington; future works planned with operatives are shortly to be deployed in Leeds and a pilot scheme soon to begin in Ascham. The ultimate target is deployment to a total of 500 operatives by the end of 2007.
 
We are currently working on templates for our gas and electric work, which has certain legislative requirements for signatures and forms, said Phil Oades. Ive seen a lot of systems and Pervasic is both fast and simple. We went from initial field trial to deployment within a matter of just 12 weeks. We even got our operatives involved in training other operatives and also included them in our reference site visits to other Pervasic customers. We did wonder if there would be a divide in getting some of our operatives to adopt new technology. However, it is so simple to use that weve had no negative feedback at all and no resistance to change. One of our operatives who had no previous expertise in using new technology informed us that it used to take him about 10 minutes to fill out all of the paperwork for a job. It now takes him less than a minute.
 
As a result of this work, Kier Building Maintenance now has the ability to tailor and roll this solution out to any existing or new clients, helping to create a competitive advantage for Kier in the future.
 
Reaping The Benefits:

Our ROI estimate is currently realising our forecasts.. This is based on 46 working weeks per year using just 63 operatives from our service centre. Our estimates are very conservative and we are confident that well meet our objective. Weve not yet factored in other savings, such as travel reductions on fuel for operatives not having to continually return to the service centre, nor have we yet factored in significant reduction of mobile phone air time costs, said Phil Oades.

In terms of productivity and efficiency, we have seen an increase of 1.5 extra jobs per operative per week so far, added Phil Oades. We also have fewer errors further down the line as all of the information is validated upon entry into the Pervasic system. The increased accuracy means fewer queries relating to bonus payments or overtime, and unlike paper, the information doesnt get damaged or smudged in the rain.
 
Another important benefit has been the environmental aspect of using Pervasic. On its old paper-based system, each operative was using up to 200 sheets of paper per week.

Our objective is to increase flexibility to meet the changing needs of our clients, concluded Oades. Before Pervasic, we had no real way of capturing that information. Now we are able to measure our performance with meaningful data. Whilst we have been deploying the new system, our performance levels havent slipped. In fact, our 2006/2007 targets are being met and exceeded. With the introduction of a new system, you may expect to see a dip in performance levels as it is introduced. This hasnt been the case with the Pervasic platform, which is a testament to its ease of use. This is perhaps the biggest compliment I can give it.

Summary of Business Benefits

  • Internal ROI realising forecast in the first year based on 46 working weeks in the year
  • Potential for Fuel savings.
  • Reduction of manual, paper-based system
  • Initial estimates on productivity are 1.5 additional jobs per week per operative.
  • Reduction in paper costs
  • Full integration to back end systems with reports for performance management targets.
  • Bespoke templates currently being created for gas and electric legislative requirements.
  • Simple deployment and highly customisable deployed within just 12 weeks.
  • Minimal disruption to existing performance or business operations during deployment.
  • Simple to use, resulting in high acceptance rates with operatives.

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