South Yorkshire Housing Association’s investment in mobile workforce technology for their Home Maintenance Team enabled them to enhance service levels significantly and to achieve efficiency savings of over £200,000.
Since 1972 South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) have provided quality local living; retrofitting, renovating, designing and building homes throughout the Sheffield City Region. However, the work they do is now more than housing; 60% of their work includes providing care and helping vulnerable people to remain independent.
SYHA have around 6,000 homes spread across North, South and West Yorkshire and across both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Maintaining this housing stock is an important element of the service SYHA provides and the Association’s in-house Home Maintenance Team is responsible for all aspects of this operation, carrying out routine day-to-day, emergency and planned repairs.
SYHA had discussed the concept of introducing mobile technology for a couple of years, as the intensive manual labour processes followed by the Home Maintenance Team were originally managed through a series of complex paper based procedures. This resulted in a great deal of duplicated work and inefficiencies. With an eye on delivering the highest service levels, SYHA realised that mobile technology could enable them to automate all these procedures; significantly enhancing service levels whilst delivering operational efficiencies.
Thus, following a Value for Money review, SYHA committed to a major investment in mobile technology for their Home Maintenance Team. The aim was to make it a more sustainable service for the organisation. As Claire Sockett SYHA’s Systems Development Manager says; “To invest in our people was the most important thing we could do and the introduction of mobile technology would bring our Home Maintenance Team into the 21st Century.”
SYHA then set about identifying a suitable solution which would need to meet a number of core criteria. As Claire Sockett notes:
“We needed a mobile system that would integrate with our existing systems, including our Aareon QLx Housing Management system. It also had to be flexible enough to allow for continuous improvement and enable us to expand it into to other areas of the business as appropriate.
“We also required a picture of where staff are in real-time, which in turn ties in with our Health and Safety and Lone Worker strategies. This posed real issues, as originally we just did not know where staff were. It would often require us to make phone-calls to identify where they might be.”
After reviewing the market and conducting due diligence, the solution that SYHA chose was 1st Touch (www.1sttouch.com). As Claire says, “The 1st Touch solution ticked all the boxes in respect of our pre-defined criteria. In particular, we liked their approach to implementation and flexibility in delivering the solution. We also appreciated the ease of integration with our current systems, including our Aareon QLx Housing Management system and the simplicity of how the data is captured in the field. The forms designer, reporting tools and portal management are other plus points, together with the lone worker capabilities such as GPS location and alerts. We also very much appreciated and valued their approach to us as customers.”
1st Touch applications can bring significant efficiencies and productivity increases to any application where field based operatives equipped with PDAs provide services. 1st Touch has already won widespread acclaim in the social housing market where the software manages, supports and controls all aspects of mobile operatives’ activities. The resilient but flexible system enables programming-free, user-customisable PDA based solutions to be created through its easy-to-use graphical interface and is specifically designed to simplify handheld form design and data capture. Any type of electronic form can be generated without the need for Business Process Mapping. 1st Touch has also developed high quality integration with most of the leading housing management systems used by social housing organisations, including the Aareon system used by SYHA.
Claire Sockett feels that the new system has had significant benefits for SYHA noting; “The new mobile solution is very much a real-time system and it gives us a grasp on what we are doing and what is happening. We have screens in our property services department that tell us the exact status of each job. Every day is different. We might have a range of emergency appointments or a number of people off sick. With the new system in place, it allows us to shuffle people around and then gives us real time information once they are in place. It’s really important for us to deliver a great service and the new solution helps us to achieve that.”
However, the benefits extend right to the sharp end of the responsive repairs operation too. Home Maintenance Team Manager Andy Jones is keen to highlight the positive feedback he has received from his colleagues in the Maintenance Team. In his view, “99% of the guys would say that they don’t want to go back to paper. They all now live in the 21st century and realise that paper is old hat. They recognise that mobile technology is the way to go.”
With the new systems in place jobs are now based on the mobile operative’s home address. This ensures that they each get the job closest to them both at the beginning and end of the day.
As Mick Charters, one of SYHA’s joiners notes, “One of the big bonuses is that you can start work from your front door now; instead of having to turn up at the depot each morning to collect a paper run sheet. The jobs just come through on the phone, so that you can go straight to the first job at the start of each day.”
As the new solution has enabled the same number of people to deliver a more efficient service, the benefits to SYHA are both significant and quantifiable.
As Claire Sockett says, “Over the 12 months since the system became fully operational, we have carried out just over 1100 extra jobs. This works out at about 94 extra jobs per operative. In total, the value of this work is in excess of £200k and as the work is delivered by our internal contractor this is free of VAT which means a saving of another £40k.”
With the benefits of mobile technology so clearly visible and quantifiable over time, SYHA are looking to expand the use of mobile into as many areas as they can. As Claire Sockett says, “we are working closely with 1st Touch to see which business areas might also be able to derive similar benefits. In fact we are quite excited by what the next couple of years are going to bring.”
Robert Dent CEO of 1st Touch welcomed Claire Sockett’s comments adding, “South Yorkshire Housing Association is an award winning organisation, widely respected for their commitment to delivering only the very best levels of customer care to their residents. Clearly a major part of this service portfolio is their responsive repairs operation and we are thrilled that 1st Touch has been chosen as the mobile solution to manage, control and support this. Naturally, it is immensely rewarding to hear of the significant and quantifiable benefits they have derived. It is also especially pleasing to hear that the service levels delivered to SYHA’s tenants have improved too.
“Looking to the future, we are keen to work closely with South Yorkshire Housing Association to explore other ways that 1st Touch can introduce measurable efficiencies and savings across the enterprise.”
A video covering the points raised in the above can be found at: http://www.1sttouch.com/component/video/?view=main