Online Tool Shares, Stores Digital Data
June 28, 2010
ELYRIA, Ohio - Technology is catching up with the needs of service contractors. Ridgid, a manufacturer known for its hand and power tools (such as its digital inspection products), recently launched RidgidConnect™. The subscription-based online business tool is designed for service professionals and contractors who create or use digital information.
It allows contractors to share and store digital assets such as diagnostic jobsite photos and videos, job reports and histories, maintenance records, customer lists, and other business files, which in turn simplify external and internal communication, as well as recordkeeping.
“While developing RidgidConnect, we conducted hundreds of hours of research with professionals to identify their needs and make sure the tool could easily and quickly be adopted to help manage their digital assets,” said Jay Gatz, Ridgid’s vice president of strategic planning. “Based on our research, we were able to develop an online business solution so professionals like plumbers, HVAC technicians, and facility managers have the opportunity to consolidate and access items associated with a particular job in one location, then communicate this information with pertinent parties, thus increasing their effectiveness and efficiency.”
The online tool was borne out of field research that started over two years ago, he said. “We saw a proliferation of digitally enabled tools being used. The end user is interfacing with complex systems that are now digitally enabled (dataloggers, laptops),” Gatz said. “Just as we start to deal with digital devices in our own offices, the question is how to store the information, make it relevant, then share it.”
What the company heard from service contractors was, “I don’t know how to share the readings or field observations I take on a piece of equipment with someone back at the office.”
The service is intended “for any service provider who needs to share, with one or many people, in a secure manner,” Gatz explained. “We like to say it’s a permanent electronic record for each of their customers or jobs.”
SHARE, STORE, SIMPLIFYRidgidConnect’s functions focus on its ability to share and store data, therefore simplifying these activities for contractors, especially in their customer communications. The share aspect “allows professionals to overcome communication challenges previously associated with digital media assets,” Gatz said. Subscribers can:
• Prepare and send detailed, professional job reports that include notes and customer details to multiple recipients.
• Edit digital media (videos and photos) to provide concise, easy-to-follow explanations.
• Control recipients’ access privileges through the site’s security tools.
In the storage aspect, the system stores and protects a professional’s digital assets on a secure and continually backed-up system, including:
• Detailed customer lists and job histories.
• Uploaded digital media from inspection tools (of any manufacturer) as well as digital recording devices.
• All digital business files and records.
Finally, the system is said to simplify and bridge the technology gap by:
• Eliminating the need to burn DVDs, CDs, or copy to thumb drives.
• Lessening back-and-forth explanations between clients and/or co-workers.
• Providing around-the-clock access to records from any location.
• Utilizing RidgidConnect mobile to conduct business in the field via a web-enabled smartphone.
The service is available in four subscription plans to suit the needs of businesses and organizations of various sizes. Payments are made on a monthly basis or annual subscriptions are available through select Ridgid distributors. The subscription plans range from Basic to Enterprise. It works with any manufacturer’s digital equipment, and any digital file can be supported.
“Several contractors take HVAC manufacturers’ Service DVDs and load all the content to Connect. They can tie it into customers’ system info, then access it in real time over a mobile device to quickly recall what device or system they are working with.”
CONTRACTORS' EXPERIENCESSo far, the service “has allowed contractors to present a complete story of what they’ve done,” Gatz said. “It gives them a more professional image. A lot of the stuff they’re doing is digital as well so this helps with consolidating information in a usable manner that makes business sense.” The service’s site is hosted in a tier-one data center and information is backed up daily; backups are saved at a different site, Gatz said.
Bill Head, service director of John E. Barry Plumbing and Heating has been using it for about two years and began as a beta tester. “I’m kind of a tool geek,” he said. “Anything to make my job easier, I’m all for it.”
The most notable benefit Head observed was “how fast information can be shared with my customers - between homeowners, managers, and my office.”
Head has another reason to love it. “I work out of a van, so I keep my laptop, printer, and catalogs in there. Then my van was stolen. I lost a lot of files; my laptop was backed up, but the DVDs were in the van. Luckily, everything was backed up on Connect.”
Jason Radesic, plumbing service manager for Geisel Plumbing and Heating, has been involved with the product for about a year, also as a beta tester. His company does PHC and electrical work, and so far plumbing and HVAC are using RidgidConnect.
Radesic noticed its help in staying organized. “I had a file cabinet with vendors’ books and a video inspection library.” He appreciates the service’s digital library and ability to provide video bookmarking, to guide viewers to the most important sections. “Not every inspection is 2-3 minutes,” Head said. “People don’t necessarily want to watch a 15-minute video.
“I get very positive feedback on it,” he continued. “Customers like being notified by e-mail. A lot of my customers are offsite property managers and homeowners. They can review it whenever and wherever it’s convenient.
“We do a lot of work for the city government as well,”he said. “It definitely speeds the pay, the entire job. The hardest part is feeding in all the information, and after that it’s really smooth; and it’s always right there and accessible.”
Radesic said his customers love it too, “having everything in an e-mail, especially customers that have multiple properties. I would go out, do the inspection, and go back with the recording. E-mail is pretty convenient for most people.”
To register for a free, 30-day trial, or for additional information, visit www.ridgidconnect.com.
Publication date: 06/28/2010