How cloud-based technology can boost efficiency and facilitate communication in the field
No matter what industry you are in, professionalism and efficiency are vital to your success. When you are in an industry where you are trusted to be in or near people’s homes and businesses — such as those of us in the plumbing industry — it is an even bigger deal.
Establishing trust and maintaining a consistent work ethic is a must-have for any company that wants to grow. After all, how many of us get the best referrals from word of mouth? People won’t refer your company if you don’t do the work well or if you give some other indication you don’t know what you’re doing. This includes how efficient you and your crews are before, during and after the job.
It may seem small, but a simple thing such as using various cloud technologies has been key in our ability to serve our clients and, in turn, rapidly scale our business. These methods are great for a business of any size, even after you start adopting more formal industry-specific programs.
The benefits of the cloud
First, let’s talk about why using cloud technology is important.
Let me ask you this: Are you just getting started in the plumbing industry? Or do you have an established business with a small crew? That is where our company was in 1987 when we started with one small septic tank truck and one small portable toilet truck. In recent years, my business partner and I have been able to scale the business to where we now have 15 trucks and full crews to manage all three main service areas of our business (septic tanks, portable toilets and storm shelters).
Using cloud technologies, you can improve communication, decrease paper waste and allow your crew members to be better prepared for their work at every jobsite. Another great thing about many cloud technologies is they are relatively easy to learn and use, making them another great asset to you and your employees.
Now, let me share how we use cloud technology to manage our business.
The first thing we did was make sure all our staff members, whether they are in the office or in the field, have a smartphone. We use various apps and web-based programs to communicate with each other, transport necessary documents, dispatch our crews and perform various other business operations.
One of the first apps we started using was a calendar. Sounds too basic, right? A calendar app allows us to know which crews are where and when. We can input all the information about a job in each calendar entry. That tells our crews what the work is, where the jobsite is located (the location easily translates into GPS) and any other details they may need about that job. The apps also allow for shared calendars that can be shared between one or more of our technicians.
The calendar also tells our office staff where crews might have an opening to do last-minute jobs that can be scheduled immediately. The office staff can also easily edit the calendar entries to reflect changes in each job without generating a lot of unnecessary paperwork.
We also heavily use a document storage app to maintain all the documents needed for each job, each company vehicle and any other documents that might be needed.
Say, for example, there is a problem with one of the trucks. Our crews have roadside assistance, insurance and vehicle registration information at their fingertips. The same is true for any documents related to a specific job, such as work licenses, septic permits for county and cities, and health department information.
By having all of this information available at a moment’s notice, our crews can inspire even more confidence from our clients in our company’s ability to do the job right. What’s more, it actually gives them the ability to work more efficiently because they aren’t waiting on paperwork.
Over time, we’ve started using industry-specific programs, but even those are entirely web-based, allowing our office staff and crews the ability to manage the program while in the field. We continue to use free, cloud-based apps to stay ahead of our competition.
Cloud technologies can be used for any service or home-based business. They create efficiencies that will allow you to work like a big company, even when you’re a company of only two or three people. RJ 2.0
IoT can take your jobsite and productivity to the next level. The RJ 2.0 staff has gathered a number of products with apps, Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth and more.
Rheem Contractor App: From service to selling, the tools a contractor needs to improve workday productivity. Quickly access warranty and parts, compare replacement options and make recommendations. Contractors can sign up for training in Rheem’s Innovation Learning Centers for exclusive tools, resources and documents to step up their game. It also features a QR code scanner.
Bosch Toolbox: Features include: a measurement camera that allows users to take a photo of the jobsite and enter the measured distance and angles directly onto the photo; digital project documentation that incorporates media (text, photo, audio, video) and allows users to export daily reports and complete documentation as a PDF or text; a conversion tool with more than 50 units of measurements; dealer and tool service center locator; tool location services and more.
A. O. Smith iCOMM: This platform allows users to interact with one or multiple heaters on the app, adjusting temperature and differential, viewing status and fault history, and setting custom alerts.
Milwaukee ONE-KEY: A digital platform for tool and equipment management combining a free-to-use inventory program with remote locking security, location tracking and tool performance customization and reporting.
Rinnai Control-R 2.0: Homeowners can enable maintenance alerts and communications with a Rinnai independent dealer right from the app. It serves as a remote diagnostics tool and increases their connectivity to their customer. The module pushes system codes and other service information automatically to dealers, enabling them to proactively contact their customers and arrive at a customer’s location with the right equipment and parts. Dealers are also able to reference diagnostic codes, product information and step-by-step instructions, with links to manuals, training, videos and more through the app.
Hilti ON!TRACK and Connect: An asset management system that gives contractors visibility into who has their assets, where they are located, and tracks as they are moved between warehouses and jobsites. It also enables contractors to proactively manage repairs and inspections, set reminders for inspections, as well as set reminders for maintenance.
Noritz PROCard: Contractors can continuously monitor their tankless water heater installations with the app. Features include a live map displaying each installation’s location and error code alerts, prompting the installer to schedule a visit with the affected homeowner. It also allows contractors to install the Wi-Fi capabilities for their homeowner clients without needing to request access to the homeowner’s phone or mobile device.
Read more about plumbing apps in the RJ 2.0 December eBook.