The days of paper work orders are quickly coming to an end with the emergence of mobile devices and the cloud. Being able to bring data to the jobsite and store it in the ‘cloud’ is changing the way work is done for service contractors.
For Steve Hutcherson, president and owner, Elite Heating & Air Inc., www.myeliteair.com, Colfax, N.D., the ‘old’ way of doing things was creating a paper trail with carbon copies of work orders. But after testing a cloud-based solution, he quickly decided to move away from using paper and toward using construction-specific software.
As a small business owner, he did not want to invest in a system where he would need to spend a lot of money up front. Instead, he decided to implement a hosted solution from TRACTree Software, www.TRACTree.com, Manchester, N.H., a division of Control Technologies, which means the provider hosts the technology for him. His technicians are able to access the data through the Web in order to manage work orders and proposals, as well as keep track of key customer information. The software also tracks bids, jobs, service, and provides a customer portal so the clients can review all the work orders. For small service contractors, the cloud is an appealing option because companies don’t have to spend extra capital up front, and they don’t have to incur additional long-term costs associated with managing overhead and hosting the data internally.
Following the implementation of the cloud-based software, Hutcherson bought netbook computers, in addition to the smartphones the technicians were already using. With the devices, the technicians are able to access the software from the field.
He says, ”A technician does not make you money in the office or the shop, so you want to keep them as mobile as possible.” The cloud-based software-combined with mobile devices – allow Hutcherson to do just this. Once the work order is created in TRACTree in the office, it is sent out via text or email to a technician’s phone. Using the netbook, the technician can then download the work order – and any related information they need – and go to the job. Once the job is completed, the technician can type everything up on site and have the customer sign the work order on a signature pad. Then, the technician can immediately send the information back to the dispatcher in the office for filing. The software from TRACTree also integrates with Intuit QuickBooks to seamlessly share information from the service software to the accounting package.
The combination of the mobile devices and the cloud-based software has proven to be a powerful combination for Elite Heating & Air, and Hutcherson has plans to use additional functionality in the future. For example, the software has a technician knowledge base, which allows the technician to put in manuals for other pertinent information – such as “the knob needs to be turned three times” – to make it easier for the next technician to fix. TRACTree is also currently beta testing GPS functionality, which Hutcherson is considering using in order to know which technician would be closest to the service call.
Technology has advanced to the point where service contractors can have data at their fingertips on devices, but Hutcherson points to another interesting trend that is changing the way service contractors do business in the field. He says, “I think the industry is moving toward more laptop computers…and smartphones because equipment nowadays has onboard computers where you actually have to plug a laptop computer into it to make your changes to the parameters.”
He says, “I can dial up to what they call building automated systems, entities, or facilities that have that type of heating or air-conditioning system where you can monitor the temperatures and the heat.”
The emergence of tablets has changed the way business is being done at the jobsite, but it is also changing the way service contractors do business. With cloud-based software and mobile devices, small-sized service contractors can take advantage of a hosted solution in order to create a paperless workflow.
www.constructech.com May/June edition of CONSTRUCTECH