The London Borough of Lewisham is rolling out mobile computing devices to speed up maintenance and repairs on homes in the area.
More than 120 council plumbers, carpenters and electricians will receive handheld GPRS-connected devices to automate work allocation and cut down on wasted travel time and administration.
The borough is rolling out O2 XDAs running TaskMaster, an application that delivers information to field workers.
The devices and TaskMaster application, developed by systems integrator TBS, operate on a Windows Mobile platform and link with the council's customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Field workers responsible for maintaining and repairing 30,000 homes in the area will be allocated new tasks when they switch on their XDAs in the morning.
The council said this would add at least 45 minutes' more productive time to each worker's day by cutting down time spent travelling to the council depot to collect manual work sheets.
Lewisham claims the deal will save it £5,500 in annual fuel costs and £6,000 a year through a reduction in paperwork and printing.
"There are real savings and productivity gains arising from the introduction of this system, including reduced travelling and paperwork for the craft workers," said Mark Warren, head of building services at the London Borough of Lewisham.
The handheld technology has also contributed to a saving of £60,000 by reducing accommodation needs, said the council.
As workers complete certain stages of a job, information will be added into the XDA using electronic forms with predefined menu-driven selection lists designed to make it simpler for non-IT trained employees to use.
Using O2's GPRS network, the TaskMaster application will automatically send back updates to the CRM system, including an electronic signature from the tenant, which will then be stored in an SQL Server database.
Workers will then be sent new jobs and updates on materials needed for them.
By freeing office workers from manually inputting information, the council said it would be able to focus on providing better customer service to tenants.
"Information held on our computer systems is now in 'real time', enabling accurate responses to tenant enquiries and better control of work allocation," said Warren.
Through more effective time control and automated job allocation the council also hopes to make savings by cutting work subcontracted out to third-party organisations.
Switching from a GSM to fixed-rate GPRS network will also help the council better manage its overheads.
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