Digital asset and mobility solution pays dividends

Thursday, 10 March, 2016 | Supplied by: TechnologyOne

Conversion from a paper-based system to a digital-based asset management and mobility solution has transformed the way one local council is doing business.

The City of Charles Sturt is located in the western suburbs of Adelaide and serves about 110,000 residents. The council employs approximately 470 FTE workers, with around 170 of them being field workers equipped with about 130 mobile devices. Teams include road workers, mowing, rapid response, cleaning, and barbecue and beach patrols.

The council has $1 billion-plus of assets under management. To keep track of everything, it has implemented asset management and mobility enterprise solutions from TechnologyOne, which has enabled it to transform cumbersome paper-based processes into a slick, efficient electronic and mobile system.

Previously, for instance, if a member of the public called to report a pothole, it would take four or five days for the report to make its way to the maintenance team. Now it’s as little as 15 minutes. The customer service representative takes the call, which immediately becomes a work order request that is then allocated to the right person in the field.

“The field worker on their mobile device receives exactly the location and potentially photos if the member of the community has put photos attached,” said Jodie Rugless, the council’s information services manager. “And from there they’ve also linked into all of the asset data around the pothole itself, so they know the configuration of the asphalt that’s been used on that stretch of road, what the roadbase is and so on.

“We use the mobility enterprise solution to actually track the works we’re doing in our assets out in the field by field workers, and that’s where it all comes together for us,” she added. “We talk about it being an asset management system, but it’s really a work system that we leverage for our field workers.”

And all of the resources used on the job are entered into the system so they can be tracked and costed.

“The culture within the organisation is, if you don’t have it on the asset mobility system, it doesn’t exist,” said Rugless, adding that it has “very rapidly become the heartbeat of our organisation”.

It’s a far cry from the previous, paper-based system.

“We’d always been paper leading up to the implementation of the digital asset management system,” said Rugless. “The first step of that was electronic — the contact centre would record that the customer has called, and then they would print it out from there and the rest of the journey of that job through our organisation was paper-based. And it could literally take weeks to get from the point of being recorded by the customer to all the way through the process, allocated, tracked, monitored — it was just a truly horrendous process.

“The other interesting thing was that even when we did that, we didn’t actually link the cost associated with fixing that asset back to the asset,” she added. “So we maintained asset data separately, and that could have been in Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, on paper files in drawers, all of that sort of stuff. There was no relation between the work we were doing and the actual asset.”

Rugless said the council has continued to expand and adapt the system, such as turning paper-based operations manuals into electronic versions held on mobile devices. “It sounds like such a minor thing, but we’ve got about 150 different pieces of plant in the field, so previously there was a folder kept in every single one of them that had about 600 pieces of paper in it,” said Rugless. “And every time one of those got updated, someone had responsibility for printing out the new one, carting it out to the truck, placing it in the folder and getting rid of the old one.

“The big turnaround for us has predominantly been around redirecting people to the points of the business that make a difference, as opposed to spending time shuffling pieces of paper,” said Rugless. “And our field workers who used to spend a lot of time in the office getting their pieces of paper are now out doing these services on a daily basis. It’s made a huge difference.

“I think what excites me most about it is that [the field workers have] taken charge of it — they own the system, it’s 100% theirs,” said Rugless. She cites the example of the council’s arborists using the asset and mobility system to fine-tune their tree pruning program. “Using the asset management system and the mapping capabilities the tool has, the arborists sat down and looked at all of the routes they were taking when they were doing the pruning. They also looked at the street tree varieties and growth rates in those areas, redid their whole-of-street pruning program and got it down to 2.5 years.”

There have been other simple but effective unexpected benefits too, such as expediting legal requirements when putting traffic cones down on a road, which previously would have required filling in a form. “But we’ve looked at it and gone, ‘Hang on a minute, they’re really only three questions on here’,” said Rugless. “So we’ve just modified the asset management to add those three questions. We’ve bypassed the whole concept of the form and just embedded it into how the workers actually manage the piece of work when they’re in the field.

“It’s that kind of stuff that you don’t see coming — it’s just a really, really minor tweak to a really good customisable solution and all of a sudden you’ve delivered this outcome for them,” she said. “And I could never have predicted that going in.”

Image courtesy Michael Coghlan under CC

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