When building services firm, Hirotec, was looking to grow its business, director Paul Sicari realised it would only be possible on the back of a strong mobility solution.
“Our strategic direction was to grow the business, and in particular, grow our maintenance business,” he explains. “In order to do that, we knew that we had to upgrade our entire business software solution. So when we went to market, our top objectives were that it could grow with our business and grow to a size which, at that point in time, was a bit of an unknown.”
Topping Sicari’s list of priorities was a solution that was well-supported locally — he had learnt the hard way that overseas solutions which didn’t have strong support were a world of pain. Next on the list was mobility.
In the end, Sicari chose to combine a PDA with the Pronto enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. The software had already proven itself in the market and it was locally developed, allowing Hirotec to put its own stamp on the product to suit its needs.
“We wanted to make sure that the core components of the system for upgrades and so forth were fairly straight forward” Sicari says. “But we have put enough IP into the way we use the system to make it a real point of difference in our selling proposition in our industry.”
Hirotec had a clear project plan and understanding of its customers and wanted a system that would easily align with its business objectives. Previously, field personnel used a paper-based docket system. Sicari and his team measured the cycle time of the work in progress and were able to use the KPIs to drive process improvement through the business.
“It was a bit of cultural shock in our industry — getting technicians away from a manual, paper-based system to our heavy-duty PDA,” Sicrari recalls. “But we had an extensive training program. And we monitored how they adopted and adapted to the technology very closely.”
The project was not without hiccups; most notably issues around data transfer that required careful monitoring. But the mobility solution eliminated the amount of information technicians had to complete in the field, rationalising timelines, decreasing human error and streamlining business process. It has enabled the company to move to multiple service offerings, more than doubling the number of employees within four years, most of whom are field technicians. “The reality is we wouldn’t have been able to grow the business without that ERP,” Sicari admits.
But while the initial implementation may have been about business process and growth, Sicari has found the system is enabling new opportunities around business intelligence. Hirotec’s mobility solution collects large amounts of operational data, and the company’s clients are increasingly looking to it as a data manager.
“We are now integrating our ERP with customer ERPs and transferring data, to allow them — and us — to make more informed decisions around what they’re doing as a business. Our clients are relying on us to be, in a sense, data managers with respect to the assets which we are maintaining, replacing or upgrading.”
Hirotec’s work in data centres and mission critical environments puts the company in the position to be able to capture and use information electronically. It’s not an easy task — not least of which because it puts pressure on the field PDA. But business intelligence has become a key focus.
“It is the next big thing for us as a business,” Sicari says. “It is about getting the right infrastructure in place to be able to extract the data out of the ERP and represent that internally to senior managers and to the client.”
And potentially transfer the data electronically from between ERP systems. Hirotec already runs a live interface for some of its clients. Not bad for a humble mobility project. “Right up front we knew we needed to ensure the system was something we could utilise as a selling point within our business. And it really has turned out to be the case,” Sicari says.