Roads & Paving
By Katherine Borthwick
B.C. contractor finds software solution to workflow woes
By Katherine Borthwick
April 27, 2016 – Nechako Northcoast Construction, a road and highway maintenance company, needed a solution that could streamline call logging, road inspection reports, maintenance job tracking, and communication with its stakeholders.
The team initially transitioned from using paper forms in the field to a software solution specifically designed for road maintenance projects, but they found it was lacking in mobile capabilities. They had to hire the software provider each time a change was needed to a mobile form, which was a costly process and didn’t provide the flexibility they needed.
“When we wanted to make changes to the previous solution, it was slow, time consuming and expensive,” said Benjamin Davidson, IT Manager, Nechako. “We wanted more flexibility to make changes as different business needs or government regulations came up.”
At the office, Nechako’s admin team takes calls from the general public. They needed a way to record call information and initiate critical follow-up procedures when road issues were reported, to better serve stakeholders such as the Ministry of Transportation, local government agencies and the public.
Nechako wanted a mobile form and business process solution to replace the existing system in use. The software needed features for building highly customized workflows to accommodate the various steps required when a road issue is reported, planned for repair and followed up.
The solution also needed integration capabilities, an easy-to-use tool for building apps, and full offline functionality.
“We wanted to be able to do all of our data entry on mobile devices and have it sync up with a central data repository,” said Davidson. “We have teams working out on highways and roads out of cellular range, so we needed apps to be fully functional while offline.”
It was important for mobile forms to work on different mobile devices such as iPad, iPhone, or Android.
“We needed cross-platform support so that we could transition away from using BlackBerry phones, and have the flexibility to switch devices in the future,” said Davidson.
Using Flowfinity software, Nechako first created a stakeholder communications app that allows admin staff at the office to log calls from local government agencies and the public to report road issues, forward the issues to management and field staff, and follow up on the repair work.
“We receive calls from the general public, the police, school districts, the Ministry of Transportation and other local government agencies whenever there’s an issue with roads or bridges,” said Davidson. “We use the Flowfinity web client to enter that data at the office. From there we will develop an action plan and a timeline to follow up on it, and eventually add that the issue was dealt with, what the follow up was, and whether we contacted the stakeholder.”
Next, Nechako built “Quality Problem Report” and “Inspection Report” apps, which are used to collect data and initiate follow-up workflows and email notifications from the field. Road foreman supervisors use the software on mobile devices in the field to log completed work, so that it can be immediately and accurately reported back to the office.
“If we find a problem in a highway inspection, we notify a handful of supervisors and trigger a quality problem report where we investigate how the mistake happened, report how we plan to fix it and follow-up when it’s fixed,” said Davidson.
The software has improved customer service levels for Nechako’s stakeholders, since communication is now more accurate, pro-active, and quick. Workflows that are built into the solution notify the right people to follow up at each step of the process, from the field to the office.
“Flowfinity is an indispensible tool for our stakeholder communications,” said Davidson. “A lot of people spend a good majority of their day doing this work in Flowfinity. It’s a critical part of our workflow, and it’s been very reliable.”
Nechako used Flowfinity’s data capture options such as drop-down menus to standardize responses from staff in the field. With easy-to-use apps, standardized responses and less paperwork, the data entered is more accurate.
Since adopting the software, Nechako has expanded its use of the software to other functions in the business.