Why Digital Transformation is Critical to Managing Field Service Operations

Digital Transformation Partner Selection

Nico Gaisman, MD of Metro Mechanical Services (now trading as Metcor), the nationwide commercial environmental services specialist, explains how their timely investment in Digital Transformation was not only critical to managing its field service operation through the crisis but also how it will be the secret to improved efficiency in a post-COVID world.

London skyline to depict customers of Metcor

The effect of COVID on Service Management Industry

The acute disruption of COVID tested businesses on many fronts. The first-order effect was, of course, a massive demand shock, as customers of all types were locked down and consumer confidence evaporated.

But a second-order impact was a severe testing of every company’s operational resilience. The gap between more productive and less productive firms has been widely-discussed in the past decade.  The pandemic has been a wake-up call, exposing unproductive links in the operational chain caused by a reliance on manual processes and lack of joined-up systems.

Enhancing productivity through digitisation has been an urgent priority for SMEs for some time. Yet while cloud software, data analytics and telematics have become engrained in larger corporates and start-ups, most SMEs have not undergone Digital Transformation.

Having endured the stresses of COVID these companies will be under even greater pressure to look hard at the efficiency of their processes and the systems that support them, to see if they are really fit for purpose. For many, this will be the key for delivering the operational visibility and control needed to increase workforce productivity, competitive advantage, and revenue growth.

Disparate Legacy Systems

For Metro Mechanical, Digital Transformation was the strategic imperative for a major investment into the firm in 2018.

We recognised that while we had many elements of digital capture and field service technology in place, we relied on considerable administration and manual processes.

In the face of increased compliance standards, multiple service offerings and proliferating client CAFM systems, the old ways of working would not be viable for much longer.

It was clear that having multiple legacy systems was making it hard to manage the business. Digital Transformation was necessary to empower our team of dedicated, service-led specialists, and to deliver efficient utilisation of the company’s specialised workforce fleet to support future growth.   

At Metro Mechanical, our nationwide services are relied upon by facility and property managers across all industries, who depend on rapid response and leading-edge technical competence. Our office teams need to keep track of thousands of jobs each month.

In the field, we have 100 specialist engineers and a national fleet, including jet-vacuum tankers that cost over £250,000. It is imperative that both human and capital resources are effectively utilised and generating revenue for the company.

Work scheduling is also highly complex. We deal with multiple types of property, including secure healthcare facilities; 30-storey office blocks; shopping centres; industrial facilities; luxury hotels; and fast-food restaurants. These all have specific needs.

Planned maintenance at these sites may require internal drain-coring specialists, pump engineers, electricians and tankers for hazardous-waste removal. Rapid response callouts require a variety of skills that must be delivered across the UK within 3 or 4 hours. 

Digital Transformation Partner Selection

Recognising that our choice of service management technology was critical for our next phase of growth, we carried out a comprehensive review of the field service software solutions market. Having analysed dozens of options, we shortlisted three. 

We went live on schedule in February 2020, just before the first lockdown. The benefits of this Digital Transformation were immediate.  Without it, operating through COVID would have been like steering a ship through a storm wearing a blindfold.  Now we have a modern radar system which gives us pinpoint visibility and control of our business.  

Optimised Workforce Scheduling

We can manage work scheduling remotely, we are able to see which engineers are available, the skillsets or accreditations required for each job, and what anyone is working on at any given time.  We can view groups of jobs by client or site and can analyse performance at every level. 

Automation of back-office tasks and the insight the system provided enabled us to make key decisions about restructuring, achieving a 15% gain in operational efficiency. We expect this to increase further with ongoing optimisation.

It streamlined and automated the processes for creating digital site surveys, quotations, risk assessments, job reports, and compliance certificates.

For example, when engineers collect waste, our system creates an accurate register, along with the required documents for compliance with waste management legislation.  These are sent to the engineer who, in the event his vehicle is stopped, has the digital proof of what is on board. 

We now manage our jobs in a continuous seamless workflow with each next task prompted and recorded by the system.  This data is automatically compiled into the final job report which drives our billing process.

In a world where transparency, data and reporting are of ever-greater importance to property managers, our client job report is a key service deliverable and USP Providing a highly visual and detailed record of work gives customers additional confidence and trust in Metro Mechanical’s quality of service.   

Commercial Automation

At the commercial end of the process, compiling information, especially on complex multi-week projects, was extremely time-consuming and administration heavy, causing significant delays in invoicing. Now, an automatically compiled digital summary of billable details, captured as a job progresses, enables invoices to be approved and issued immediately. This has led to a 33% billing efficiency improvement, increased accuracy, and improved cashflow – key drivers when we set out to modernise our systems. 

Of course, a system is only as good as its users. Operational and technological transformation must be embraced by an innovation culture. Fortunately, our engineers, the core of our business, have been highly engaged, enthusiastically adopting the new technology.  They quickly recognised the benefit of improved efficiency in the field, and the new job reports have given them increased pride in the output of their work.

COVID has forced every business to take stock and re-evaluate their operations.  The winners will be those that can adapt and innovate in the context of a changing, uncertain world. While small and medium-sized businesses can excel as dedicated, specialist service-providers, our experience in 2020 has taught us that Digital Transformation is no longer an option: it should be at the centre of any strategy that aims at productivity and future growth.