Case study: Moving from paper to glass
Director of Vertical Matters, Courtney Smith, demonstrates how digital reporting made a difference for KONE in improving its safety management systems.
In today’s age of mobile technology, using pen and paper is a cumbersome form of data capture that leaves an ecological stain on the planet. In fact, dealing with excessive paperwork is a pain point for workers across the FM industry, so making it simpler increases morale and lifts performance.
Given that electronic records are now legally binding documents, it’s only a matter of time before all FM companies see the huge benefits of moving from ‘paper to glass’.
On any given day, workers will have to carry around documentation and fill out job specific forms (i.e. inspection reports) and work safety forms – not to mention timesheets. We’re seeing many companies get bogged down with paper, so we believe the time is right to evaluate going 100 percent digital.
While glass represents huge value for companies in terms of time savings and costs, the implementation and planning often requires planning and process mapping to identify the best outcomes outside the constraints of paper.
In the example below, we focus on property inspection report forms. Let’s imagine the company as the hub and its worksites as the spokes.
If the company is using paper-based systems for its team in the field, the process generally involves the following:
- head office creates a property inspection report form
- head office arranges the printing of the form in a custom book (expensive carbon pads)
- the form gets dispatched to site
- the worker fills out the form
- the forms are transported back to head office, and
- the forms are processed by being entered into the system.
If the company is using a mobile application, the process can involve the following:
- head office creates the property inspection report forms
- the workers fills them out, and
- form workflow notifies exceptions to specific managers.
As you can see, six business processes can get reduced to three with the addition of custom exception reporting without additional data entry. When FM businesses add up all of the time and resources spent on those three processes, it presents a clear case for moving to electronic data capture from the field. In cases where geographical distances between the hub and spokes are great, the case is even stronger.
Another benefit of going digital is that it gives management team members the ability to effortlessly analyse large amounts of operational data to make business decisions. For example, there is a significant lag when paper is used as the mechanism for collating data such as timesheets.
Algorithms can also be applied to flag events of key importance, which can eliminate the need of manual data analysis. Using the timesheets example once again, administration staff can be notified who hasn’t filled in their timesheets, as opposed to having to process all records to identify the missing pieces in the puzzle.
In 2013, KONE Elevators identified the impact smartphone technology could have on its operations and was eager to find a better way to capture data from the field. After an introduction from Australia’s leading mapping provider, Courtney Smith (director, Vertical Matters) met Rae Raymond (national operations manager, Service) and a proof of concept for the KONE Guardian project was born.
At the core of the project, KONE Elevators recognised that it needed to improve its safety management systems, remove the amount of paper wastage throughout the organisation and increase organisational productivity.
Improve safety management systems
By going digital with its safety management systems, KONE was able to set new standards for safety in Australia and make innovative use of GPS technology. Vertical Matters worked with KONE to develop a ‘lone worker’ application, which supports technicians working unaccompanied faced with potentially high levels of risk. With workers being required to carry their smartphone devices on their person at all times, the ‘stagnant alert’ was developed, which notifies nearby workers if a device has remained still for five minutes.
By going digital with its forms (including timesheets and safety), KONE was able to reduce paper usage by 95 percent straight away! When it is considered that the KONE team includes over 1000 workers spread across Australia, the reduction of the company’s carbon footprint has been substantial.
Once the key requirements of capturing form data digitally had been satisfied, the scope was broadened to identify further operational benefits for KONE. Using the KONE Guardian Application, workers now access information relating to customer equipment including type and characteristics. Previously, obtaining this information would require phone calls and/or carrying around bulky asset registers.
By filling out timesheets using mobile devices, KONE has cut four of the six organisational processes involved with this task. It no longer has to print and deliver the forms out to site and then process them in the office. With the KONE Guardian Application, all the workers have to do is fill out their timesheets and the data feeds into KONE’s ERP.
Vertical Matters also helped create an Uber-like system for the support with its Customer Care department being able to visualise on an interactive map the location of its technicians so they can dispatch accordingly.
KONE Elevators was able to reduce its carbon footprint and make significant organisational gains by moving from paper to glass. Rather than be clouded with a ‘well, we’ve done it this way’ mentality, it made the decision to innovate and it’s reaped dividends. The implementation of mobile applications to perform key operational activities do come at a cost to the company – but so do inefficient layers of administration and staying in the past.
Courtney Smith is a co-founder of Vertical Matters and took a lead role working with KONE Elevators on this project. Courtney has over 20 years experience in the Transport and FM industries and is passionate about helping businesses run operations more efficiently by digitalising the process of data capture and processing.