Just how has one of Scotland’s largest local government authorities digitised to enable frontline worker efficiency?
Fife, which is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, is world famous as the home of golf with its rugged seaside courses at St Andrews and the neighbouring coastline attracting millions of visitors each year. Fife’s three major towns are Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline and Glenrothes. Fife Council, which was founded in 1996 is the third largest local authority in Scotland. It keeps the streets clean, educates young people and adults, provides public transport, swimming baths and leisure centres, cares for the vulnerable – and much, much more – for a population made up of around 360,000 citizens.
Fife covers more than 500 square miles and includes lochs, mountains, large towns and rural hamlets along with hundreds of miles of coastline. This diverse geography presents challenges to the Council in the way it organises and delivers its services, especially those requiring visits by staff to homes, businesses or Council land and property.
Given the size of its territory and the constant drive to make tight budgets stretch further, the Council has been looking closely at mobile working as one area of improving front line services and developing a more productive and streamlined workforce.
After analysing their working practices, the Council decided to trial a fresh approach to mobile working within their busy Housing Repairs teams – part of the Building Services department of Fife’s large direct labour organisation.
Staff within the repairs teams had followed a traditional work pattern for decades, arriving at depots spread across Fife, picking up work, travelling to each job and then returning to the depot. The Council estimated that the paperwork created by even the most simple of jobs would pass through no fewer than 11 pairs of hands from the beginning to the end of the administration process.
‘’We knew that opportunities to improve productivity and cut costs were being missed’’, says Allan Barclay, Service Manager, Fife Council Building Services.
Real-time, from-anywhere access to information drives productivity
The first phase of the mobile working rollout was to equip field-based electricians with rugged mobile devices and Vodafone’s TotalMobile app. This gave them mobile access to back-office systems, so they could transmit the details of each job electronically. It was a big transition for the electricians and at first they were concerned about losing control of their working day – but over time they realised that, in fact the opposite was the case!
According to Allan Barclay, ‘’Almost immediately we saw productivity increasing significantly with around 20% more jobs completed each day. The TotalMobile solution enables us to stay in touch with the team on the road and to send them directly to their next job without returning to the depot’’.
Thanks to the new application there was a huge reduction in the amount of paperwork generated too as the details of each job are now transmitted electronically. Scheduling, stock control, billing, time-sheets are now all taken care of through the handset, the application and the network, enabled the council to greatly reduce the internal resources previously committed to these areas.
The council was also able to identify which items in an electrician’s van were most frequently used – and to use this information to guide procurement decisions, buy items in the right quantities, standardise products and reduce waste.
Happier staff and greater value
Nobody enjoys the reduction in paperwork more than electricians themselves. They now have much more control over their working day, using their handset is so much quicker and easier than filling in lots of forms manually, they achieve more and can go straight home when their jobs are completed.
According to Allan Barclay, the new system has been a big step forward for Building Services. ‘’We are a trading organisation and we have to demonstrate our efficiency in order to show value for money and so safeguard our future. These developments are also being watched with great interest by other Council departments and there is no doubt that the initial success of this in Building Services could be replicated elsewhere in areas where our people are travelling to deliver services, such as health and social care for example.’’