IRVINE, Calif. - A lot of mechanical contractors can boast about their use of mobile computing but one, EMCOR Services Mesa Energy Systems, claims to be the “first major HVAC contractor to utilize handheld field devices for technician work orders and time cards in the U.S.” That is according to Kip Bagley, Mesa Energy System’s vice president of service.
The company recently switched to CN3 Mobile Computers for its field technicians, enabling them to gather and retrieve information electronically via e-mail and the Internet and communicate with the home office while at the jobsite, saving time, money, and improving communication.
“We have rolled out over 170 new CN3 devices in California since April, 2008,” said Bagley. “Mesa remains the largest contractor in California currently utilizing mobile field devices. The CN3, manufactured by Intermec, is a handheld device that features Blue- tooth and WiFi and offers a choice of an integrated, network-independent GPS receiver and WAN voice and data services.”
According to Intermec literature, the CN3 is “designed to meet the needs of workers performing mission-critical tasks in transportation, logistics, and field service. The CN3 mobile computer delivers a powerful combination of communication technologies in a compact, rugged package.”
Mesa Energy Systems chose the CBN3 for a number of rea- sons, including the ability for technicians to internally reconcile their productivity. “The technicians must have all their work tickets completed daily in order for their time cards to post within the system,” said Bagley.
“Technicians can be incomplete on a particular job, however they must complete a summary of their work each day. The CN3 application connects to our back office financial platform, which allows for more complete and correct service reports.”
ADAPTING TO CHANGEGetting everyone on board and learning the broad functionality of a mobile computer was part of the learning curve for technicians, dispatchers, and office staff. Bagley noted that technicians of all ages were adapting to the new technology but the younger technicians were having a little easier time of it.
“It is unique to see the younger more computer-literate, yet less HVAC-experienced technicians easily move through the applications while the more experienced technicians have taken longer to master the computer applications,” he said.
“In general, all technicians are working very well with these new devices. They really like the camera within the device, which can easily send salespeople or customers an e-mail with a picture attachment.”
Bagley said that even the most experienced Mesa Energy System dispatchers have noticed that the dispatch portion of the CN3 is very demanding as they must review each technician’s work tickets on a daily basis in order for the costs (labor and materials) to post into their back office system.
“The dispatchers will eventually have a better grasp of their workload and more importantly, where their technicians are at all times,” Bagley added.
He talked about how complex the dispatcher’s job has become, with each having two monitors in order to work with the old and new systems simultaneously. “The new system navigation is very detailed,” Bagley said. “More and more customers are sending service calls, repairs, and project requests via e-mail so this system works to expedite each request.”
Having an efficient mobile computer and software also allows for more complete and correct service reports - a surefire way to improve cash flow. Bagley said, “The most noticeable improvement within our system is having the costs posted quicker, allowing us to bill quicker. This will help lower our ‘days to turn,’ substantially increasing cash flow.”
GOING GREEN AND BEING COMPETITIVEThis new technology is also having an impact on other parts of Mesa Energy System’s business, namely its commitment to going green and giving customers more reasons to do business with them.
“These devices help save thousands of dollars annually on paper and ink currently needed for multiple copy work orders and time cards,” Bagley said. “Our sales staff uses our updated devices as a differentiator with customers daily. Our customers appreciate professional, electronically-generated field work orders versus the old-style handwritten paperwork, which was sometimes legible.
“Customers like the fact that we can send them work orders from recent or past work electronically as e-mail attachments versus digging through old file cabinets for paper work orders. These devices and professional work tickets set us apart from every company currently using paper field work tickets.”
For more information about EMCOR Services Mesa Energy Systems, visit www.mesaenergy.com. For information on the CN3, visit www.intermec.com.