ACHRNEWS

Contractor Enhances Efficiency With Field Service Automation

May 26, 2004
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Yamas Controls is a facility automation, mechanical services, and HVAC equipment company that designs, manufactures, and services a full range of automated building management systems, including temperature and lighting controls, access, security, and energy information applications.

With mission-critical applications running 24/7 at the company's high-tech and biotech accounts, it is vital for Yamas to be consistent, efficient, and professional when responding and conducting service and preventive maintenance calls. Also, since many of the companies have to comply with government or industry regulations, quick access to accurate information is also a must.

As corporate strategy and customer demand mandated expansion, it became more and more difficult to operate at this high level of service and remain cost effective. Manual scheduling systems, paper-based work tags and time sheets, and lack of consistency between branch offices hindered efficient information flow, created excessive administrative overhead, and delayed billing and payroll.

To overcome these challenges, company officials at Yamas decided to implement an automated system that would standardize service management processes for all branch offices, eliminate field technician paperwork, decrease administrative overhead, and increase service revenue. Ideally, the system could be integrated with the company's Maxwell accounting system.

"There was no way in a paper environment that we could be consistent, effective, efficient, and grow the business," said Christina M. Carrera, database specialist and FieldCentrix project manager for Yamas. "To grow, make the kind of money, and provide the kind of service our customers expected, we needed to jump into the electronic age, automate, and standardize our service management operations. For a company that had just recently embraced voice mail and e-mail, this was going to be a pretty radical, but necessary, step."

The Solution

After thoroughly evaluating several vendors, Yamas turned to Irvine, Calif.-based FieldCentrix Inc. to provide wireless and Internet-based field service automation (FSA). The technology is designed to integrate mobile devices, advanced workflow software, wireless data communications, and the Internet to automate and optimize all tasks associated with field service management.

"FieldCentrix was the benchmark against which we compared all the other solutions," said Carrera. "FieldCentrix stood out from the crowd because it eliminated the paper work order tags, and it allowed us to share service information and thus create standard processes and procedures to consolidate our service operation and be more efficient and cost effective."

The bulk of the phased implementation was completed in March 2003. The FSA system automated Yamas' dispatching and call center functions, quickly delivering electronic information to and from the field technicians and the office.

The solution also integrated with Yamas' Maxwell accounting system for fast and accurate paperless billing and payroll.

"Our entire service operation was dependent upon one very important piece of paper - the service work order tag," said Carrera. "However, work tags didn't contain much information, were easily lost, hard to read, and difficult to track. Most of a service coordinator's time was monopolized hounding the technicians or searching inboxes for work tags. This inefficiency and lack of accurate information meant that customers were not getting the bang for their buck, and our overhead for service calls was too high."

However, with FSA, Yamas field service technicians receive and complete all work tags and job information electronically on mobile computers running FieldCentrix FX Mobile® software. The paper tags were eliminated. The software automatically prompts technicians to perform diagnostics, standard tasks and readings, take notes, and record future recommended repairs.

Cost-effective and reliable wireless communications keeps field technicians in real-time contact with the office. When done, the technician closes the work tag and it is wirelessly sent to the office and is instantly accessible for processing by the Maxwell accounting system. At the same time, an electronic timesheet is also transmitted to the office. There's no lost data, no rekeying, and no waiting for paperwork, said Carrera.

All of this field information is captured and received by FieldCentrix FX Service Center® and stored in a single database that is accessible by all office personnel.

Benefits

By automating and standardizing the scheduling process, Yamas has been able to decrease the ratio of service coordinators to field technicians, which decreases the overhead of service calls. Yamas has been able to move to a "virtual call center" model, where service coordinators are located in various offices and all access the same information and back each other up.

In the field, real-time electronic access to work order history, jobsite and equipment data, and other information via wireless mobile devices has increased the field service technicians' "wrench time" and first-time fix ratios. Not having to complete and turn in paperwork has also added to productivity and increased morale.

Because FieldCentrix software automatically prompts the technician to record additional service opportunities, Yamas has been able to automatically generate quotes for recommended repairs within 24 to 48 hours.

"Today, customers want insurance that the job is getting done and they are getting what they pay for," said Carrera.

Yamas was also able to speed the billing cycle and provide more accurate invoices. According to Carrera, before FieldCentrix, it could take up to six months to generate a bill. Now, it takes less than a week.

"Field service automation has provided exactly the value we needed to take our service offering to the next level and grow our business," concluded Carrera. "It has allowed us to create standard best practice processes for all offices so we are all on the same page; eliminated paperwork so we are better able to make use of the personnel we have; and it has provided us with improved data capture and tracking so we are able to offer key customers the reporting they need to meet regulatory compliance."

For more information, visit www.fieldcentrix.com.

Publication date: 05/31/2004