Safety Authority improves its mobile IT

With 20 inspections a day, Mississauga, Ont.-based Electrical Safety Authority’s (ESA) 220 inspectors needed a system that would speed up the synchronisation of information to and from their laptops.

The mandate for ESA is to write the electrical safety code for the province of Ontario and to inspect all electrical work for compliance to the code. ESA’s field inspectors get about 350,000 requests for new permits a year at the organization’s call centre in Cambridge, Ont.

“The morale was very low [amongst inspectors] because they were putting in a lot of overtime and personal time trying to input data and synch data,” said Mark Taylor, director of information systems for ESA. Aside from morale, the old system also caused a productivity problem.

In 1995, ESA was using a proprietary electronic system developed when the company was part of Ontario Hydro. The system was replaced by SAP field service software for both front and back-end offices in 2000. A few months after installation, Taylor found making improvements and corrections to the SAP applications difficult, but put up with the hassle for a few years.

When a new release of ESA’s SAP applications became available, Taylor felt instead of automatically upgrading, ESA should look around for other solutions in the marketplace.

The selection process for a new system began in January 2004 with Taylor talking to ten different companies with field workers to find out what systems they used. After conducting an RFP and having candidates offer a four-week proof of concept, Toronto-based FieldWorker Products was engaged as the provider of choice for a new solution for ESA’s inspectors in June 2004.

FieldWorker Products provided ESA with its FieldWorker enterprise client and server tools. The FieldWorker smart client design, said Taylor, sits on a Sybase database, which is on the inspectors’ laptops.

The inspectors synch their laptops to FieldWorker using iAnywhere’s mobile link synchronization software, either from home or in their vans, to receive and send data, A Tomcat Web Server that communinicates via a SAP business connector sends information from FieldWorker to the SAP back end.

The project, Taylor said, also included new laptops where inspectors would input their work into forms developped by FieldWorker at the end of every call. “We put in VPN software so they can tunnel securely into our network. We also put in wireless aircards (using 1xRTT and GPRS networks) for real-time communication requirements,” he added.

According to Craig Tyndall, business development manager for FieldWorker, ESA knew what they wanted for a solution.

“It is ESA’s third electronic solution so they had specfic requirements. Because [they] had gone through this several times, they are comparing different technologies and they had some requirements we didn’t have [such as] scheduling and work sorting functionality,” Tyndall said.

He added those functionalities were built into the FieldWorker base product to overcome that barrier. The ESA solution not only benefited the organization but also benefited other FieldWorker customers.

Since implementation in late January of this year, Taylor lists reduction in synch times from 20 minutes to two minutes, data inputing going from a minute down to 40 seconds and easier navigation within the application as benefits of the FieldWorker system.

“The switch over was eagerly desired and the inspector community group has been very pleased. It has improved their productivity and reduced overtime, so it was very well received.”

QuickLink: 053624

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