Bristol Water is using technology such as ruggedised devices, PDAs and workforce management apps in a bid to reduce paper-based processes.
The utility company increased productivity by 40% after implementing a mobile workforce management solution with Vodafone. Bristol Water has now streamlined more than 30 manual processes and 80 paper forms, while administration is now more than 25% more efficient. Better scheduling means workers can fit 50 more water meters a day.
Before switching to Vodafone’s workforce management solution, Bristol Water used paper-based systems to capture information about a job and relay its status, which at busy times left large backlogs. Now the utility firm uses Panasonic Toughbooks supplied by Vodafone with a workforce management solution, GE’s Field Force Automation (FFA), integrated to its SAP system in order to manage engineers’ daily workload and schedules.
The solution automates the work process for Bristol Water’s network engineers, who predominantly have a reactive role; production engineers, whose role is mainly planned but with an element of reactive work; and samplers, who collect samples at around 250 sites on a regular but random schedule.
The system has removed the need for engineers to travel to and from the office to pick up and drop off endless paper forms. It helps distribute and schedule jobs, and immediately relays the status information of the job, such as ‘arrived onsite’, or ‘job completed’, saving administration time.
The accurate capture of this information allows for electronic timesheets to be created for the engineers. The FFA solution integrates with other GPRS systems to track the location of the vans, helping the company to monitor which jobs the engineer has just checked into, as well as improving safety and security for engineers working alone.
Matthew Stephenson, project manager at Bristol Water, said: ‘It is, in our eyes, an all in one package that delivers a mobile platform and an office-based scheduling system. The best thing about it is its flexibility. It can change with us rather than the other way round, and it’s proven to be very successful because of that.
‘You want something that’s going to work everyday. This system has got to be able to cope with that, and you’ve got to be able to change what was a back office type paperwork exercise into something which is mission-critical.’
Bristol Water chose Vodafone because it wanted to work with a specialist in this field and the Vodafone Applications Group had a great track record. Vodafone led the way from an IT perspective, and worked closely with Bristol Water’s other IT partners to make the solution happen.
Stephen Robson, Bristol Water’s director of HR and legal services, said: ‘The very real point about being in a regulated industry is that every day we are supposed to be trying to make ourselves more efficient.’
‘We’re seeing massive jumps in productivity in terms of output and therefore efficiency overall, which meets the overall customer objective we’ve been set by our regulator. We would give out a package of work on a daily basis to people, and they would come back and give us the ones they hadn’t done.’
Stephenson added: ‘Now we know exactly when they do those jobs, we know exactly how long they spend travelling between those jobs, and that gives us a whole wealth of information that we just didn’t have before.’