Leading edge automated systems are a bit rich for small company budgets. At least that's the conclusion reached by Pacific Mechanical Service, an Upland, Calif.-based company that services commercial air conditioning equipment with some 15 field technicians, when it decided to automate its dispatching system. After company executives compared the features of more than two dozen systems they decided that the communications and management features offered by FX Enterprise, a product of FieldCentrix (www.fieldcentrix.com), a provider of wireless and Internet-based field service software, would be perfect for their business. "We knew that FieldCentrix would put us at the leading edge of automating our dispatch system, but we really didn't think we could afford it," says John Klopp, CEO of Pacific Mechanical Service. In November, however, FieldCentrix began offering a wireless ASP system called FX Central, which provides the features of FX Enterprise for a low monthly fee based on the number of users.
"When I learned that the ASP program was available, I signed a contract with them in just a couple of days," says Klopp. According to Klopp, the FX Central option reduced the upfront costs to implement the FieldCentrix system by more than $100,000.
A Smooth and Speedy Implementation
Less than six weeks after Klopp signed that contract, the system was fully implemented at Pacific Mechanical Service. In fact, says Klopp, the on-site training of the service department by FieldCentrix took only four days.
"FieldCentrix came out to review our existing dispatch system, and they put together a custom training program," says Klopp. "We broke the service department into three groups so that we never totally shut down our ability to do service during the day. Each day, we trained one third of the group, with that group going online the next day. Over a four-day period, we trained three groups and had all three groups go online.
"FieldCentrix's ability to set up a training system as they did, focusing so many of their people on bringing us onboard, really enabled such a quick implementation," Klopp says.
The Benefits of
Klopp says that the benefits of the new dispatching system have been enormous. "The most obvious benefit of the system is that it allows us to bill the next day after service rather than seven to 10 days later," he says.
Klopp also notes that the system now provides the management team at Pacific Mechanical Service with a tremendous amount of data never before available to them to monitor the efficiency and profitability of various service projects.
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of the new system for the company is the accessibility of information for the field technicians. "The technicians in the field now have access to a complete database of information so that they can review past work histories and notes in the field," says Klopp. This feature has allowed Pacific Mechanical Service to dispatch technicians to a job even if they have not previously visited a site, since all technicians now have access to information they need.
Pacific Mechanical Service's monthly fee buys them use of all software capabilities as well as hardware, such as handheld computers. The company also receives routine maintenance, software and hardware upgrades and an IT infrastructure for support.
Available to All
FX Central's pricing model helps make a leading-edge management tool available to even small companies. The program also allows any company that may not have IT expertise to outsource this function so they can concentrate on what they do best. "Our wireless ASP program is an alternative way to enjoy the benefits of our product," says Judy Johnson, senior vice president of marketing at FieldCentrix. "Now any company can take advantage of technology and functionality that they never would have thought they could afford."
Craig Burbidge, FieldCentrix's ASP manager, adds, "to a field service company, our service automation software is mission critical, but many field service organizations, especially those with fewer than 25 technicians, cannot afford to put the computing infrastructure and manpower in place to maintain and support their operation and to ensure a high level of availability. We are able to solve this issue by managing the computing infrastructure for our customers, allowing them to rent use of the application. We are delivering the software as a service.
"Running a field service company is obviously not about building IT empires. It's all about increasing profitability and maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction. FX Central provides a means for companies to accomplish this, regardless of their size. By leveraging an outsource model, they can focus on their business, while FieldCentrix focuses on the technology."