AT A GLANCE
- City Parks Services
- Public works, utilities & local government
- Lift organisational efficiency
- Provide customers with B2B links into City Parks Services’ job management system
- Equipping 250-strong field force with Mobico-supplied handheld devices
- More jobs completed in the same time
- Streamlined job scheduling
- Automated timely reporting to customers of job completion
- Improved recording and notification of on-site hazards
- Step up in overall competitiveness
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Making Auckland a dynamic city has become a catch-cry of its civic leaders. And Aucklanders show their approval by attending annual events such as Christmas in the Park and Pasifika Festival in their hundreds of thousands.
But who cleans up when the party’s over? That job, along with countless others, falls to City Parks Services.
All told, the 250 City Parks Services staff, who do everything from cutting grass and cleaning footpaths to tidying up after concerts by megastars such as U2, carry out more than 30,000 jobs a month. And they are having to do so at a time when the Council and other customers expect more for less.
“We still have to provide ratepayers with value for money,” says City Parks Services systems manager Louis Chetty. “The council puts out tenders and we have to compete on the open market for that work.”
That drove Chetty to look for a mobile job management system to increase productivity, among other things. He could have opted for app-equipped smartphones, but figured their flimsy construction and frequent operating system upgrades would be a support nightmare.
Multiplied 140 times for the number of City Parks Services crews on the job each day and Chetty decided to look elsewhere.
“Consumer devices would have been cheaper to buy but not as cost-effective in the long run,” he says. Instead, wanting a stable platform that would last at least three years, he opted for ruggedised Motorola ES400s supplied by Auckland company Mobico.
There was another consideration as well. The council, the biggest of a number of City Parks Services’ customers, was anxious that public data could be erased from any device that was lost, a remote management feature that Mobico provides. However, Chetty’s choice of system and supplier was more subtle than ticking the boxes on a wish list of product features.
Consumer devices would have been cheaper to buy but not as cost-effective in the long run
Louis Chetty. systems manager, City Parks Services
“We had a range of features and benefits in mind, but we also wanted a business partner that gave us the confidence that it would deliver what it promised.”
“Partner” was the operative word. Chetty says a past experience of having technology in place that didn’t quite meet requirements, then running up against a lack of vendor responsiveness and flexibility, had made him cautious about who he does business with.
“That led us to look for a partner – rather than a supplier – that took the time to understand our business,” he says. City Parks Services ended up working with Mobico on the hardware front and another Auckland company, e-merge, as supplier of the job management software.
That was two years ago. Chetty says implementing the job management system had two drivers.
“We wanted to be able to position ourselves strategically in the market with the intention of winning new business; and we had customers wanting access to our job reporting data as part of their operational requirements.”
With 30,000 jobs to do each month, there was plenty of scope for gains from streamlining scheduling and from paperless recording and reporting of details from the field.
As well as Auckland Council, City Parks Services’ customers include Auckland Airport, schools and landscaping clients. Customers, and the Council in particular, were clamouring for links between their contract management and City Parks Services’ job management systems so they could get near real-time notification of a job’s completion.
This wasn’t a case of micromanagement, Chetty says, but was to allow external auditors to visit work sites in a timely fashion to check contractual terms were being met – in other words, before the grass had regrown, the toilets had become dirty again or litter had piled up.
“Without the system, we weren’t able to inform the auditors in reasonable time when jobs were done, so it was hard for them to tell the quality of the work.”
The job management system’s implementation has been an unmitigated success. With Mobico supplying and supporting the hardware and remote management software, and e merge taking care of job management software Con-X, the system is doing all that is asked of it.
Instead of being handed a printed job schedule by a supervisor at the start of the day, field staff, who typically work in pairs, log in to their assigned Motorola ES400. That tells them where they’re working and what the task is, and once on-site runs them through a health and safety checklist.
If they discover an unrecorded hazard, they can upload the details, including geospatial information and a photograph, so the next crew on the site will be warned in advance. Once the job is complete, they sign it off on the handheld and Con-X makes the information available to the customer’s contract management system.
“Field staff would probably argue that life was easier before the system was introduced,” Chetty says. “Their routine was pretty straightforward: they would go to the office for a spreadsheet printout of their day’s work and be told by their supervisor where to go and what to do.
“Now they get their jobs on an electronic device, which has required them to acquire new skills and be diligent about doing pre-start safety checks. And when they’re done they have to remember to sign-off their jobs so they come up on the system.”
If bad weather throws the schedule out, the system you can keep track of jobs that haven’t been done and reschedule them.
“From the organisation’s perspective there’s a tremendous advantage in terms of ensuring jobs are done on time with managers having the ability to glance at the system dashboard to check progress. The company benefits from having people on the job for more of their time.”
From Aucklanders’ point of view, they get the benefit of a lively city that looks good too.