Corio, Victoria, Australia
Organizations with large water needs, including airports, shopping centers, prisons, military bases, defense projects, dairies, apartment and residential towers, mining sites, land development projects, and holiday resorts.
Environmental solutions, including wastewater, stormwater, and rainwater, building service solutions, fire protection, irrigation, wash bays, detention and retention, and service and maintenance across all solutions
The staff of 4 handles account management, scheduling, dispatching, billing, and customer service functions.
About AKS Industries
AKS Industries provides a diverse range of smart water management systems and products specifically engineered for commercial, industrial, and governmental facilities and applications.
Groups of specialists at AKS Industries design, build, and support innovative solutions for problems faced by major water users. The solutions involve water storage, fire protection, wastewater, stormwater, sewage, irrigation, and more.
Unlike companies that manufacture standard equipment on assembly lines, no two AKS installations are the same. Many customers need AKS to manufacture customized equipment for their specific situations.
The company is staffed with extraordinary expertise to help customers solve difficult challenges. A few examples:
- To meet a customer’s compliance deadline, AKS manufactured a fire pump station in one week instead of the normal four-to-five-week turnaround time.
- When a client required a regulation-compliant fire system at a site with no available electricity, AKS designed and built a solar-powered system in just three weeks.
- At a site using lake water to train firefighters, AKS found a unique, economical way to contain and cleanse hydrocarbon runoff from the training exercises.
Since AKS designs, builds, and maintains highly unique assets for each customer, out-of-the-box field service management systems will not suffice. To manage the complex and varied equipment it sells and services, AKS sought a system with superior asset management capabilities.
Before the implementation of Next Service in 2019, AKS technicians were using an internally developed mobile app for field repair and maintenance jobs, but it had major deficiencies:
- The app’s user interface was cumbersome.
- The app was unreliable. Connections were often dropped in building basements, resulting in lost data that had to be re-entered.
- There was a lag time between capturing data in the app and the accessibility of that data in the office.
- Creating customized forms, checklists, reports, and invoices was difficult.
- Most AKS customers opt for preventive maintenance contracts, but the old app had no scheduling capability. Scheduled maintenance tasks were maintained with spreadsheets. New assets were added manually in some places but not others. This created multiple problems, including the potential for missed preventative maintenance service deadlines.
Why AKS Chose NextService
Sam Valentine, Business Improvement Manager at AKS, had been one of the first users of NextService when he was with another company. He was deeply familiar with the system’s field service management capabilities and knew NextService had continually improved the product.
At AKS, Valentine saw that NextService would eliminate scheduling miscues, provide far greater reliability, and give technicians and management much-needed visibility into the assets being managed at each customer location.
“We’re doing a lot of very sophisticated checklists, forms, and reporting with NextService. With our old system, we could do very little customization.”
~ Sam Valentine, Business Improvement Manager
Business Impact of Implementing NextService
During Valentine’s tenure at AKS, the technician staff has grown from 4 to 9, yet the massive growth in activity—and cash flow—has not required expanding the scheduler team, thanks to efficiencies enabled by NextService.
Scheduler board enhancements included in the latest release of NextService are a big hit with AKS technicians and schedulers. Highlighting information with various colors gives users a quick, clean visualization of what they need to know. The colors can be used in a variety of ways, such as to visually flag priorities, link assigned tasks to individuals, or advise case type.
With its new robust scheduling capabilities, AKS is broadening how it handles service calls. One recent change is using subcontractors. AKS can license them to use NextService in the same manner as employed technicians. The first subcontractor retained by AKS found NextService to be significantly better than the mobile app he had been using.
Similarly, AKS is licensing some of its factory workers as NextService users to augment the staff of field technicians.
Another innovation is the use of team service calls. With NextService, a team can be set up to handle a single job, with team members linked in the Scheduler. This approach is useful when safety is a factor, enabling one person to watch over another person who is performing work in a potentially dangerous situation, such as in a well, with both parties being able to contribute to the notes.
Forms and checklists
Few mobile apps give users the ability to produce highly customized forms and checklists. With NextService, technicians have excellent checklists to follow. The AKS staff can add new fields easily to appear anywhere on mobile displays or printed reports.
Before implementing NextService, information output from jobs varied substantially by technician, and the office staff had to key in information received from the field. Now, checklists and other information dynamically guide technicians’ input based on programmed business rules for defined scenarios. The result is faster, more consistent, more accurate, and more detailed reporting with less data entry. “Just removing the paperwork, along with the resulting lag in getting data back to the office, is a game-changer,” said Valentine.
Photos and customer signatures can now be captured by NextService for reporting needs. Staff can review all images and select which ones to include in a report or asset history file. Some of these capabilities have been custom-developed by AKS, thanks to the flexibility NextService provides for customers to build their own forms easily without being locked into a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Some of our reporting needs are complex, but NextService makes it easy for us to build our own customized reports. We don’t have to rely on standard reports designed for average requirements.”
~ Sam Valentine
AKS has installed over 3,600 assets for more than 900 customers; 75% of these are on AKS preventive maintenance programs. With the NextService Scheduler fully operational, the company never overlooks maintenance tasks. They are now automatically scheduled, and any unassigned tasks are continually moved to the current date.
Asset history and management
The old system provided little in the way of asset management other than a list of assets by customer. If a technician at a job site wanted to see what work had been done previously to a particular asset, he or she would have to call the office and then wait for information to be retrieved and read over the phone, or emailed to them.
Now, with NextService’s advanced asset management capabilities, techs can immediately see what has already been tried and tested. The field staff considers this is a huge benefit.
Office and field personnel can see full details on exactly what tasks are needed for each asset and what parts have been replaced. This is also available within NetSuite.
Valentine has noticed technicians’ first-time fix rates (FTFRs) are increasing. He believes much of the increase is attributable to technicians having improved access to asset information, although other factors are contributing too.
“We’ve been very pleased with the asset management capabilities we have with NextService.”
~ Sam Valentine
In the past, each tech has been able to complete three or four jobs a day. Now some technicians can complete between 8-12 jobs per day when there are multiple assets at some of the sites on the day’s schedule.
Technicians are using pre-start checklists in the NextService mobile app. These significantly streamline information collection and reporting for safety considerations and regulatory compliance requirements.
Take fire pump sets, for example. The checklist for this equipment has 97 items. An insurer may require proof that a fire pump set has been serviced regularly. Simply by clicking a checkbox, AKS can produce compliance certificates for customers.
“The technicians like the mobile app a lot. One told me it is nearly bomb-proof.”
~ Sam Valentine
Future plans for NextService
Valentine expects the benefits of NextService to grow as AKS takes full advantage of its extensive features. He mentioned several priorities for implementation in the near future.
- AKS wants to use NextService to track warranty costs for more than 600 active warranty projects.
- Another priority is to use the rich financial reporting capabilities of NetSuite to leverage the wealth of information captured in NextService.
- Soon, AKS will be tapping into the benefits of tracking field service inventory through NextService and NetSuite. Valentine expects this will reduce the number of lost parts. More importantly, technicians will be able to track inventory used in the field via their mobile app, thereby reducing wait times due to inventory shortages and ensuring vans remain fully stocked.
“To prepare for a meeting with the NextService support manager, I asked a team leader to report any problems. He said, ‘It’s so good, I really don’t have any.’”
Key Business Outcomes for AKS
AKS has overcome some difficult challenges by implementing NextService. Here are some of the benefits evident in the summer of 2021, with many more likely to be achieved in the coming year.
|Challenges||Outcome with NextService|
|Scheduling was haphazard and error-prone due to siloed data. Planned maintenance was often missed.||
NextService eliminated AKS’s reliance on a patchwork of spreadsheets and other data sources. Dates for scheduled tasks are automatically highlighted. To handle more service calls, AKS has more than doubled the number of technicians without adding any schedulers.
|Information entered by technicians at job sites was inconsistent.||Technicians are now dynamically guided on what to enter by checklists and programmed business rules.|
|The prior system could not accommodate AKS’s needs for customized checklists, forms, and reports.||NextService enables AKS to do most customizations without vendor assistance. Photos and customer signatures are easily added to service reports.|
|Data entered at a job site was not available in real time. The lag time led to errors and billing delays.||Before, AKS sent out invoices about a week after work was performed. Now, most invoices go out the next day.|
|Technicians and management could not readily get the information they needed about customer assets.||NextService gives AKS advanced asset management capabilities. For example, technicians can check the maintenance history of any asset while on site.|
|Loss of WiFi signals at a job site often required reentry of data.||When WiFi signals are lost, NextService is still available to capture data entered by technicians|
“With the greater efficiency and visibility we now have with NextService, we’re finding that we can attract and win bigger accounts. We can offer solutions to large customers that we couldn’t offer before. In essence, NextService is giving us a new sales tool.”
~ Sam Valentine