Source: ACR-news.com - http://www.acr-news.com/
REFRIGERATION and air conditioning engineers are not normally employed on the basis of their administrative capabilities. Keeping up to date with new technology is difficult enough without having to keep up with the mundane but vital service and maintenance paperwork that goes with it.
Fortunately the digital age has brought many advantages to the workplace, not least the ability to more efficiently manage your work, whether that be installation, preventative or reactive maintenance work or long term projects. There are a number of service software packages available but few that integrate all the job functions of the busy contractor.
One package that does is Design & Management Systems Ltd's Jobflow Plus. This integrated system allows company's to remotely manage their mobile workforce, reducing phone costs, downtime and head office visits. It marries the the TomTom navigation and vehicle location system with work management software and digital pen data capture technology.
How it works
As requests for work and/or quotes come in, they are logged against the client and site, recording work type and urgency.
Requests may be for call-outs, preventive maintenance visits, large projects or for quotations. Quotes may be created and sent to clients, archived until approved, then converted to jobs.
Jobs are allocated to the operative via the engineer's vehicle's TomTom navigation system.
A TomTom map shows head office staff exactly where each operative is so they can select the nearest one for the fastest possible response. Full site and work details are also delivered via their TomTom.
TomTom will navigate the engineer to the site and continually update JobFlow with the estimated time of arrival, taking into account traffic conditions and any other unscheduled stops.
When the job is finished the worksheet is completed using the Destiny digital pen and paper records the details of each visit.
The worksheet is sent instantly and electronically via a mobile phone/internet to JobFlow. It records details of the work performed and populates fields including the operative's time sheet, parts used and job status. JobFlow will reminds the operative to issue any required certificates which can be attached to the job record.
JobFlow also ensures that hired equipment is returned before it allows the job to be closed. It can also generate a list of outstanding hired items on request.
JobFlow can provide easily accessible job progress information on screen, so dealing with client enquiries is simple.
With the job finished and signed off using the digital pen, an invoice can be sent immediately.
The final worksheet, complete with client signature, is received at head office before an operative leaves site, so the job can be costed and invoiced straight away. The client gets a hard copy of the worksheet too - a big advantage over most PDA systems.
The advantages of the JobFlow system was not lost on Maidstone-based installation, service and maintenance company Flowrite Services.
Providing a nationwide air conditioning and refrigeration service to the commercial, leisure and retail industries, customer service is important to Flowrite and they dropped PDAs in favour of JobFlow in an effort to increase efficiency.
Although the company was fully computerised before it started using JobFlow, Flowrite's head of operations Nick Broad recognised a major weakness. "Getting information from engineers' paperwork onto the system and raising invoices was a slow, awkward process," he admitted
Engineers would complete a job sheet, phone the office with the job details which were keyed manually into the system, then return to the office once every week or two with the signed job sheets which provided authorisation for invoicing.
"Our engineers are great engineers, not administrators," said Nick. "Sometimes there would be miscommunication when they called in, or paperwork would be delayed, lost in vans or, occasionally, lost completely."
One of the benefits of JobFlow to Flowrite was the digital pen - replicating the form filling that his engineers were comfortable with whilst combining a level of discipline that ensured the forms were completed correctly with modern communication technology that ensured the form was received immediately at head office.
"The top benefit of JobFlow for engineers is the traditional handwriting input they are used to," says Nick. "They complete the form as usual, but don't have to call the office and make fewer office visits. And, on the form, they can draw sketches to illustrate queries for technical assistance from head office support staff."
Cash flow has also improved. Sometimes it would be weeks after a job was finished before the company could raise an invoice. Now, invoices can be in the post within an hour of the job being signed off.
For parts orders, Flowrite's JobFlow is linked, via the internet, to its major suppliers. So, when an engineer requests a part using the digital pen, the appropriate supplier can deliver straight away without further reference to the Flowrite buyers.
Sussex-based L&M Refrigeration, whose work encompasses both domestic and commercial refrigeration and air conditioning, has also benefited from the system.
With its previous system, an off-the-shelf MS Access product, L&M had to call engineers every day to take visit notes and get information to create quotes for work. It was sometimes three weeks before work sheets were finished.
A huge benefit of JobFlow over the previous system was being able to view everything from start to finish in one job record, no matter how many engineers have visited, what type of work was done or when. This made it easier to manage the work and more straightforward to cost jobs once they were completed.
Design and Management Systems Ltd 01322 518329