This blog was written by guest blogger, Stephen Arndt, Managing Director of Pindan Asset Management Pty Ltd.
Since 2014, Pindan Asset Management has relied on IFS to deliver a mobile-enabled asset management and facilities maintenance service. Serving 315 users, the system lets us manage and maintain tenanted property assets for clients across Western Australia, including maintenance and repairs for some 6000 houses for the Department of Communities. It’s a complex operation, with several operational challenges.
Firstly, we must service a wide area. Properties are distributed across over 1 million square kilometers in some of the most remote areas, often enjoying only 3G cellular connectivity.
Secondly, we have a mobile workforce on-call 24/7/365 traditionally completing high volume, low value type jobs. In addition to fulfilling work orders with circa 70 Pindan employed technicians, maintaining agreed service levels means we must also subcontract work to some 160 carefully vetted associate firms.
Thirdly, we need to schedule the mobile workforce and manage parts logistics. With some 150 work orders arriving daily comprising up to 500 operations, our job scheduling and logistics must be slick and tightly integrated. Technicians need access to visibility and reporting in real time, on the move; they also need to know they have the parts they will need for the day picked and loaded on their van.
The upgrade rationale
Few businesses relish embarking on major software upgrades. But the commercial reality of delaying too long is losing out on step-change new functionality and capabilities. For us, IFS Applications 8 was approaching end-of-life for support, and the business saw the logic of upgrading straight to the most current release.
Having committed to the project, we accepted the offer to embark on an IFS Digital Business Value Assessment. It offered an opportunity to explore exactly where and how new version capabilities could most enhance and further automate our business operations, and so give us confidence in the outcomes. Completed virtually and in under a day, we populated templates with key data. The outputs, shared in meetings a week or so later, mapped the enhanced version functionality and features available to specific, and quantified, operational and business process automation improvements.
From customization to configuration
The findings were revealing. For example, our Work Order Management requires two-way integration and sharing with our key client’s system, including the ability to import orders directly from them. If a work order has different activities that we need several tradespersons to fulfil, a major customization in Applications 8 has historically let us split it into multiple child orders. In the latest version however, the assessment highlighted how work orders are task driven, allowing activities to be allocated to multiple suppliers in the standard software, without customization. Similarly, another customization allowing Recipient Created Tax Invoices (RCTI) to be managed automatically could be replaced with a simple configuration instead. Eliminating these two customizations removes the risk of issues or delays due to testing for any future updates.
Instead of sending work order information to external subcontractor firms by email, the new B2B Contract Management capabilities will provide them real-time visibility, including the ability for their employees to view and access assigned work tasks on their tablet or phone.
Bring your own device: savings
Initially, by go-live in March, we aim to have migrated all our current business processes across. One of the first and most exciting benefits will be allowing our 350 or so employed technicians and approved subcontractors to access work orders remotely, out in the field, using any tablet or smartphone they already own.
Currently, access to Applications 8 requires the purchase of a tablet running Windows 10 Professional, set up with a specific software version and a user ID. But if a subcontractor is only completing one job every month, this isn’t viable. Instead those work orders must be allocated manually. In contrast, when the upgrade is complete, they can use their own device – any existing smartphone or tablet – via IFS Aurena client (the responsive and browser-based user experience) or the latest Mobile Work Order application. Migrating the workforce away from a specifically configured laptop or tablet to use any standard smartphone or tablet device promises significant time and cost savings.
Contractually, any subcontractor sent to work on a property must be fully pre-vetted and have completed Health and Safety inductions. The real-time platform means that, since only vetted individuals will have a login to receive work orders from us, we’re not exposed to the risk of a job accidentally being passed to a non-vetted worker. Having completed an induction, a new employee or subcontractor can start accessing work orders using their own device the same day.
At each client site, our contractors can complete and upload an online risk assessment on their mobile device before commencing work, and upload supporting images before and after work is completed enhancing quality assurance. 3G connectivity is sufficient for any data exchange required.
Configuration, Reports, Interface and Modifications (CRIM) testing, currently under way, will also highlight any further areas where specifically provisioned requirements in Applications 8 can now be replicated through standard functionality. Once user tests are complete, we aim to go live in March 2021.
We’re excited that further automation will create significant improvements in workflow efficiency, with time and cost savings. After bedding in, Phase 2 will see us initiating several improvement projects enabled by new capabilities, including, for example, rule-based automated scheduling. We are contractually obliged to meet several demanding Key Performance Indicators for clients around response times and resolution. The new system should be able to automatically allocate an incoming job to a tradesperson who is already nearby and has the right skill, removing the need for manual scheduling. The increased visibility will also further streamline Inventory Management and optimize the selection of parts held on employees’ vans.
In summary, the Digital Business Value Assessment clearly illustrated several real-world commercial benefits the upgrade would offer. Considering the modest input needed from my team, I would certainly participate again when considering an upgrade.
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