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When mobile applications were still rare and in the domain of big ERP software providers, Bidvest Facilities Management embarked on a Mobility Solutioning Project in 2007 with the objective of increasing operational efficiency and reducing costs by providing field technicians with access to information while in the field.

At the inception, the IT department at Bidvest Facilities Management experienced many challenges, as mobile applications with rich functionality were not easily accessible. In addition, mobile operational processes were not efficient, and the costs to run them were high.

Against this backdrop, Bidvest’s IT department decided to implement their own Mobility Solutioning Project, and since they started, the functionality of the internal solutions has grown exponentially and realized many benefits for the organisation and their clients. These benefits include reduced costs, improved data accuracy, barcode scanning capabilities, use of Standard SAP technology for mobile applications, reduced total cycle time from demand to invoicing, to name a few.

Implementation

The project’s scope included the design, build and implementation of a mobile application for field technicians to receive work and confirm that the work was performed. It is important to ensure that applications and devices could be managed from a central point. The team therefore implemented a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP), which added another important layer of functionality, as well as complexity. This decision has proved invaluable, as fewer resources have been required to support the distribution of applications and the control of devices.

Challenges

With any solution, glitches may arise due to various unexpected factors. These included the varying requirements of clients’ Service Level Agreements, which had to be factored into the solution. In addition, the solution had to assist technicians to prioritise work, as well as deliver quality service within each SLA.

The company selected Symbol mobile devices, as they complied with all requirements. The GPS unit was a clip-on to the device and special implementation and management of the clip-on units was also required.
The number of work orders and the associated data, such as locations and equipment, caused the synchronisation process to fail when the number of work orders exceeded a certain number. This was mainly due to the memory available on the devices. Limiting the data to the relevant work centre and introducing a local database on each device solved this. These challenges were in the long term beneficial, as they prompted the IT team to align the mobile solution according to each client’s needs, as well as provide further training to field technicians.

The solution’s interfaces had to be simple so that it was easy to use, but still provide actionable information and operational performance data. This necessitated a special UI design to fit relevant information on a relative small screen,

Benefits

With the solution, field technicians can attend to a maintenance task much faster, as well as in fast turnaround times, which result in increased client satisfaction. The field technician knows exactly what is expected from him/her, as well as who, and where the client is located. This gives the client reassurance that the technician is proficient. The client is also notified of the maintenance task status as soon as the field technician completes the task. Customer satisfaction can be captured directly on to the hand held device. The solution also provides increased accuracy and protection of information, as well as reduction in administration costs.

Uniqueness

The design and architecture of the SAP mobile platform allows for the handling of huge amounts of data. The solution seamlessly integrates mobile, middleware and back-end systems with device management. This approach makes the solution sustainable and scalable.
The Mobility Solutioning Project has produced a completely integrated system – from the call centre fault logging through to field technician dispatching, integration into the SAP ERP system and updating of operational and SLA performance reporting.

Statistics
Since implementation, the project has been a great success with statistics to verify this claim. Of the 551,00 work order, 430,00 were handled by the mobile hand held solution. These included the following tasks:

  • Time bookings (multiple resource capability)
  • SLA Measurements
  • Engineering lifecycle statistics of equipment (cause and defect types)
  • Photographs
  • Process activities and status updates
  • Scheduled maintenance equipment engineering instructions adherence
  • Equipment measuring points

The solution has been extended across all Bidvest Facilities Management contracts and multiple industry sectors and internal field force technicians as well as third party contractors are using it.
Today, mobile applications form part of an integrated solution at Bidvest Facilities Management and cover the requirements of both internal service delivery, as well as specific client requirements.