THE LATEST EDITION

September 2018
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Leicester City Council improves mobile workforce productivity and customer care with GRASP

Background

As the East Midland’s principal unitary authority, Leicester City Council is the primary residential landlord in the area, responsible for a social housing stock of over 22,000 properties. To ensure that its properties are kept in the optimum state of repair, the Council employs a large mobile workforce of skilled trades operatives (bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, electricians, roofers, painters and decorators etc). This workforce undertakes all of the planned and reactive maintenance and renovation work on the properties, with job allocation and scheduling organised on a daily, and potentially, real-time basis.

Challenges and Objectives

All organisations suffer from inefficiencies and those organisations with skills-based mobile and field workforces probably suffer more than most. They are an expensive resource to run and their dynamics can cause inefficiencies to be more acute. Effective scheduling of time and skills is crucial to optimising their utilisation and maximising return on investment.

With 450+ operatives, Leicester City Council’s property-related scheduling task is immense. The challenge facing them was how to continue delivering cost savings through better workforce management at the same time as improving service levels to the public, enhancing working conditions for employees and reducing the overall environmental impact of the operations.

In order to adhere to the guiding principles of the Gershon review of public sector efficiency carried out for the Government in 2004 and embed a culture of efficiency improvement in its mobile workforce scheduling and management processes, Leicester City Council determined that automation of its underlying systems was clearly the way forward. The challenge was to achieve it without adversely impacting service levels. A further challenge was to provide a platform that would enhance the performance of its housing services within the context of the Audit Commission’s Comprehensive Performance Assessment. This measures local authority service provision to local people and communities through a series of key indicators.

Integration with Leicester City Council’s existing Capita OPENHousing back office system for both reporting and work allocation purposes and Unit 4 Agresso stores solution for improved materials management was also an important objective.

-Achieving the right balance of efficiency and customer satisfaction is a difficult and complex problem which is magnified by the size of our workforce,” said Ian Craig, Head of Direct Services at Leicester City Council.

Solution

Following a stringent tendering process that involved the evaluation of a number of potential solutions, Leicester City Council chose Wheatley Associates’ GRASP browser-based appointment booking, work scheduling, tracking and mobile communications software solution for the automation of its mobile workforce scheduling and management requirements. Leicester City Council’s choice of GRASP was further reinforced by the successful implementation of an initial pilot project. In addition, Wheatley Associates has also integrated GRASP with Leicester City Council’s existing, Capita OPENHousing back office systems. This integration enables full synchronisation of work details in relation to the mobile workforce, including jobs booked, amended or cancelled through the customer call centre and visits made, work carried out and appointments booked in the field. An interface has also been developed to integrate GRASP with Leicester City Council’s existing Agresso stores and materials management system to facilitate the handling of remote stores requests, orders, booking and use reports.

-Our tender process was particularly tough to ensure we selected a system that would not only meet our immediate requirements but also provide further scope for the future. We are confident that Wheatley Associates’ GRASP solution will drive out inefficiency, improve productivity, scale to our workforce and concentrate on enhancing the experience of our tenants,” continued Ian Craig.

Once jobs are booked into the GRASP system, sophisticated algorithms enable the allocation of work to maximise the efficiency and productivity of the workforce. It does this using its detailed knowledge of all the operatives and their skill sets as well as tenant requirements and commitments. Leicester City Council’s work planners create the schedules on a daily, end-of-day basis for the following day although work can be dynamically re-scheduled and jobs re-sent to operatives as the day progresses on the basis of updates received from the field. They also have the ability to manually adjust schedules to make best-use of their domain knowledge, experience of specific situations and facilitate ‘must do’ repairs.

All of Leicester City Council’s operatives are equipped with smartphones, enabling their daily works orders to be dispatched directly to them in advance. The works orders include comprehensive information on who the tenant is, location, optimised routing, work to be undertaken and materials required as well as ancillary information relating to the nature of the work such as health and safety, environment and ‘at risk’ issues. Using their smartphones, operatives provide feedback directly into works orders on job progress through to completion, eliminating the potential for errors in the system caused by re-keying data. This also enables the work planners to respond dynamically to any issues and keep individual customers informed on the status of their appointments throughout the day. Appointments for any return visits can also be booked directly by operatives through their smartphones.

To further improve productivity, the assisted working functionality within GRASP’s team jobs capability has enabled Leicester City Council to achieve greater flexibility with regard to its implementation structures (ad-hoc, small teams and void teams) and implementation requirements (part-job assistance, dependent works orders and works at locations that are deemed a risk).

Leicester City Council has used the new assisted-working functionality in GRASP to manage a series of small, multi-skilled maintenance teams who predominantly, but not necessarily, work together. The operatives take responsibility for their own, individual time management and work load within the team context. Its ad-hoc team capability allows large, single trade jobs that could be undertaken by one person to be split into parts, so that an ad-hoc team of multiple operatives receive a portion of the job each. Leicester City Council has also been able to manage a separate void team capability specifically to undertake empty property refurbishments. The generally static nature of these teams and longer duration of works, allow them to share a tablet and still permit each operative’s start and finish times and any non-availability will be individually recorded.

The part-job assistance facility enables an operative to be scheduled to assist another for just part of a job for either trade specific or generic work. Each operative receives separate and individual job instructions. The dependent works order capability relates to jobs that require multiple, different skills at various points in the process. It enables operatives with the appropriate trades to be scheduled on the same works order in the order and at the times they are needed. The at risk location function allows an operative to be scheduled to assist another for the entire duration of a job in locations identified as being at risk. Again, each operative will receive individual job instructions.

-Achieving the right balance of efficiency and customer satisfaction is a difficult and complex problem which is magnified by the size of our workforce,” said Ian Craig, Head of Direct Services at Leicester City Council. -Our tender process was particularly tough to ensure we selected a system that would not only meet our immediate requirements but also provide further scope for the future. GRASP is enabling to drive out inefficiency, improve productivity, scale to our workforce and concentrate on enhancing the experience of our tenants.”

Results and Benefits

Leicester City Council’s use of GRASP for its housing repair and maintenance operations is already delivering considerable results in terms of improved productivity and improved quality of service to tenants.

GRASP’s work profiling capability has delivered significant efficiency savings throughout the mobile workforce management process. In the call centre, for example, the software suggests advantageous appointment slots to the call handler. First-time fix rates have been improved and the need for return visits reduced by ensuring that operatives have the appropriate skills to complete the job. With real-time feedback on job progress, additional resource can be quickly and easily applied to a job, if necessary or additional work issued if a job is completed ahead of time. GRASP’s use of the public mobile network infrastructure with fewer ‘dead spots’ than traditional private radio systems, has also improved mobile workforce communications. However, if a worker is in a dead spot, a full-offline capability allows them to continue to authenticate and review jobs, carry out work and record outcomes as data is automatically synchronised once a network connect is restored.

Leicester City Council is also exploiting GRASP’s ‘green’ credentials. With the automated distribution of works orders to the field operatives via their smartphones and data capture of job progress / completion details directly into the works orders, GRASP potentially delivers a truly paperless scheduling option. Route optimisation has also contributed significantly to better vehicle fleet management with reduced fuel costs and reduced wear and tear due to fewer journeys and less mileage covered.

The working conditions of the mobile workforce have also been improved, with GRASP facilitating a better work/life balance for employees with a move to more flexible working hours. Health and safety issues have also been addressed with appropriate responses on environmental, hazardous materials and social risks handled through advance warning to works planners, warnings delivered to operatives’ smartphones and automated scheduling of second workers for particularly high risk locations.

-Planning daily work schedules for such a large skilled mobile workforce, ensuring that the right people with the right skills are on site at the right time, is no easy task,” said Amrik Singh, Planning and Major Works Manager at Leicester City Council. -GRASP not only provides us with the basis for planning our work schedules but also enables us to respond dynamically to the changes happening in the field for all our operatives. GRASP’s integrated smartphone solution feeds information back in real-time directly to our works planners and supervisors, allowing dynamic decisions to be made quickly and easily. This is not only crucial to the overall efficiency of our housing repairs and maintenance operations and but also ensures tenant satisfaction, as the software also allows us to keep tenants firmly in the loop, communicating when work has been scheduled and when operatives are on their way to them.”

Leicester City Council’s implementation of GRASP is not just a scheduling tool but a platform for the continuing successful delivery of its services dependent on a mobile workforce. Once fully embedded in its operational culture, Leicester City Council plans to exploit its scalability, expanding its use beyond its housing repair and maintenance operations to a total of 1000+ mobile workers covering other Council departments including Social Services and the Clerk of Works.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>