Electrical Safety Authority upgrades mobile workforce

Inspectors for the Ontario Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) can now spend more time inspecting electrical hook ups and less time fussing with their mobile workstations.

ESA, the body responsible for inspecting and providing oversight to all of Ontario’s electrical products and installations, selected Toronto-based FieldWorker to provide a mobile enterprise solution for their field equipment, synchronizing software and tools that map the mobile technologies to the backend system.

Representatives at both FieldWorker Technologies and ESA say that the flexibility of the FieldWorker solution has increased productivity and reduced frustrations for field workers.

“Eighty per cent of the reasons why mobile solutions fail is because the field people reject them,” said Peter Neve, President of FieldWorker Technologies. “It’s got to be easy, or else they’ll say, ‘I don’t want to use this.'”

Rick Moroz, a senior systems analyst at ESA, said the biggest benefit the new software offers is freedom – ESA inspectors can configure their workspace to suit their personal work habits. For example, if inspectors want to enter the customer’s information last – or first – they can. It is their choice.

Previously, Moroz explained, inspectors developed complicated routines to get around the rigid, difficult-to-use processes of the old system. Many inspectors would often export data from their laptop database into Excel. They would work in Excel, and when the work orders were completed, they would transfer the data back to the database where it could be transmitted to ESA’s offices. With the FieldWorker solution, inspectors can do all their work in one program.

“That’s probably the best thing to come from this. It configures to how guys want to do their work,” said Moroz. “People are extremely happy.”

In addition to making work easier for field inspectors, the new system streamlines data transfers, one of the key challenges outlined in ESA’s tender.

The old system – an SAP Customer Relationship Management system – required inspectors to carry a database containing a complete client history on their laptops. These databases were often four sometimes five gigabytes in size. Inspectors spent nearly an hour each day synchronizing their field laptops with head office in the morning and at the end of the day. The monolithic nature of each field laptop made simple tasks, like switching between screens, a frustration for field workers. With these problems multiplied by 220 inspectors working across Ontario, ESA’s productivity suffered enormously.

The new mobile platform that FieldWorker engineered provides inspectors only with information relevant to the job. Moroz said the databases inspectors carry on their laptops now average 20 megabytes in size and synchronization takes less than two minutes, sometimes as little as 30 seconds. Field inspectors can update their files, and if they need more information about clients, they can query the pertinent information quickly and simply.

On the IT side, Neve said, “(ESA) wants the ability to manage work processes in-house without constraints dictated by SAP,” adding that FieldWorker is designed for field users “without a set-up symptomatic of technology built by an IT department.” The non-specialist functionality of the FieldWorker solution means that ESA will be able to change the system to suit current needs without having to pay a consultant to re-write the software.

“The nice thing is that when they have the knowledge in-house they can do things themselves,” said Neve.

Moroz said there is another benefit with choosing a smaller Canadian company: “We have people who are local. We can call FieldWorker and say, ‘It’s not working, can you come over and fix it?’ without having to explain everything. They’re responsive.”

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