Collaborating with an over-worked employee and frustrated office staff at one of our clients, a disturbing picture started to be formed. There were a high number of on-site jobs this client was doing were not getting billed in a timely fashion. Some would be months late. Some missed billing entirely essentially giving them away for free.
This single individual had to manage over 20 contract workers through only 3 quick summer months and somehow schedule and complete over 2,000 on-site inspections. She did this all at her home office while these contract workers drove and flew literally all over the globe. She tried to keep up with them all using a series of spreadsheets, maps, websites and constantly charging cell phone.
Not only that, all these inspections had to be done outside and demanded perfect weather to also be coordinated. The workers were paid to sit in the hotel if the weather was bad, so they didn’t really have an incentive to help her coordinate.
The biggest surprise was she didn’t quit or rip all her hair out trying to manage this year after year.
So we systematically chunked and prioritized the issues:
- She needed to quickly be able to spot where everyone was and if they were safe. Workers were required to check in each morning and evening on their local time, but they typically did this across texts, emails, and phone calls. She needed a way to quickly spot who was missing and then try and follow-up with them to make sure they were all safe. Did I mention that the average age of these workers was early 20 something?
- Allow the workers to easy schedule work and prevent work from being lost if it needed to be rescheduled. Up to this point, everything was being put on a calendar. Problem was life happened. People got sick. Weather and traffic interrupted plans. There was no way to know if something on the calendar was actually completed. Workers would start bumping events forward and things often got deleted or left behind.
- There had to be a clear way to identify that the work was actually completed and left to be done. Again a calendar event can’t really be marked as completed in any easy way.
- Help coordinately the work by using geo-location. Sitting in her office, she was not aware of everyone’s exact location throughout the globe. She often would try to find someone who was inside the same state as the work at that moment, which is not as efficient as using real locations. For example, a job in New Jersey may be only 20 minutes away from someone in near-by Philadelphia, PA or Delaware as apposed to someone hours away in the northern part of that state.
So we set off to solve the issues for them:
- We developed a Dispatch tool that used an easy check-in & out process that the workers could use on any device. The Dispatch screen back at her office would constantly update with the last time a worker was seen checking their schedule and the worker could also add a quick text message to their check-in & out. Adding some status colors allowed her to quickly spot people who were not online for a while. Her mornings and evenings routine then became a single login to VO Work Order to see everyone’s status in one spot which she could also easily check from her phone.
- We added Work Orders in addition to a calendar for scheduling. Events could be created and deleted quickly, but work orders continue to be available till they were actually scheduled and completed. Work Orders could only be cancelled and never get deleted. She could then easily track work in one area and not be distracted by the typical personal events scattered all over the user’s calendar.
- So then the Calendar became a dream to work with for both the workers and the managers. Work was easily separated from normal events like their requested days off. If something unplanned came up, we added a “Bump Work” function that would simply move Work forward by 1, 2, or 3 days. If something came up and the could not finish the job on that day, they either rescheduled the work or simply deleted the event on their Calendar and the Work Order would go back down to be being “Pending”. All the manager had to do now is watch globally if the Work Orders were being scheduled and being completed.
- Instead of everyone being overwhelmed by over 2,000 Work Orders, the workers only had to see what was scheduled for them that day, week or month. The manger could look at the Work Order tool to easily spot work that had past being scheduled, but was not Marked as Complete. Most work was marked complete by the end of that day and she was notified by email each time a job was marked as completed.
- We then sprinkled in some Mapping tools to make everyone’s life easier. Workers were able to easily build optimal routes off selected work orders. They could also see where they were in reference to that work so they could get turn-by-turn directions there. Back on the Dispatch screen, the manager could see where everyone was checking in and all the work that was scheduled for that day. So if someone was stuck, she could easily spot the next closest worker that was free to do the work that day.
- While we were doing the maps, we also saw we could pull back Traffic & Weather info for that job location. This gave both the manager and the workers some insight into the traffic to and the weather for that job on the day they were trying to schedule it.
In the first year using the system some interesting things started to happen:
- As soon as they launched their summer season, a flood washed out their traditional central starting point sending their workers in multiple directions. Typically, this would had set them back a week as all the routes would have to be re-calculated manually, but it only took them a few hours to do with all the new routes using the VO Work Order tools.
- She caught a few workers fibbing about their location, traffic or weather at the job site as they tried to get some paid for free time. Some even tried to put in for travel per diem when they were clearly showing as being home on that day. Something she had no way of knowing previously without the tools. It not only showed it in real time, but kept a history that she could constantly re-check.
- The office was happy as they finally started seeing the billing requests for the completed jobs coming in a timely fashion.
- But the best was hearing her say, that it was the first year she could go to sleep, certain that everyone checked in safe and was accounted for. That peace of mind if priceless.
When the short 3-month season was over, we could see that the work order system finally solve the issue with missing billing. There were still a few late billing requests as she chased down status on some work orders while workers hurried to get their lists done.
So the next year, we thought we would try an experiment…Let’s add a game to the mix.
We gamified the system to encouraged the workers to make sure the work was marked as complete the same day it was scheduled. As they waited to mark it complete, they would be awarded less and less points. Then we added a leader board to compete on points each month and per their respective managers breaking them into teams as well.
The workers loved it! All the talk that year was about the game, but the side effects also got the managers smiling.
Nearly 100% of the jobs were marked complete within 3-days of completion. Billing was finally humming as those jobs were billed now in less than a week where previously the metric was probably closer to 60 days after completion.
Problem solved thanks to VO Work Order!
Want to learn how these tools can help turn your organization around? Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.