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Efficiency drives future-focused electrical business

Jeff and Sarah Pierce have used technology to drive business growth since taking over Timaru-based Sullivan and Spillane Electrical four years ago.

Jeff says they embraced technology from day one due to their strong focus on efficiency.

The carbon-copy paper system with hand-written notes, stand-alone accounting system, and DOS-based stock management programme were all quickly replaced with an integrated system.

“You need to have everything online in one place and we can’t afford for things to get lost or for people to have trouble reading other people’s writing.”

The business uses AroFlo; a software application used by the trades industry for job management, compliance and asset life monitoring. Jeff values the deep, real time insights it provides for both staff and customers.

“It saves time and we’ve got everything at our fingertips. We use it for compliance monitoring checks which means that our clients have up to date records. It’s also useful for measuring the life of an asset such as a heat pump or pump shed. The service history and compliance checks are right there on our phones and tablets.”

Costly, time-consuming administration tasks have been replaced with more productive work, and cloud-based web tools are used to enhance efficiency.

“We can better measure the gross profit on jobs, right down to the smallest detail because we’re able to monitor so much more accurately,” Jeff says.

“We’re at the level where we can make changes as things happen if we wanted to.”

Electronic job sheets are filled in on-the-job, using tablets. Jobs are updated in real time, with notes and photographs uploaded to the customer’s file.

Electricians can order parts while still with the client and leave for the next job having filled in everything required to generate an invoice.

The system also uses GPS to show where people are, which means jobs can be efficiently allocated according to location.

All job files are stored online. They can be referred to when further maintenance is needed, and this provides personalised customer service.

“We know exactly where we’re at with each customer. We like to show our team how their work contributes to the success of our business and how teamwork is at the heart of everything we do.”

The adoption of cutting-edge technology and focus on new sectors, such as agricultural work has boosted productivity.

Staff whose work areas generated between 55% and 65% productive time are now consistently at 80%, while other areas generate 90%.

The switch from less-productive areas has contributed to the growth of agricultural work, which now represents nearly half of Sullivan and Spillane’s turnover.

“On-farm monitoring and compliance, along with agricultural asset management is a huge growth area for us. Real-time live data is extremely important and we’re constantly upskilling as technology evolves so we can provide the exact information required by farmers to enable them to comply with new rules and regulations.”

The work of the eight-person team is underpinned by a fibre broadband connection. Jeff describes the change from copper two years ago as “night and day”.

“Upload and download speeds have really improved and we now have scope to use video training for health and safety, and video conferences and meetings with consultants and clients.”

Jeff encourages other businesses to investigate cloud-based systems to boost efficiency and productivity.

“Everything works smoothly, and you avoid delays and mistakes by having all the information stored online where everyone is working with the same information. The productivity improvements are immense when you start using new technology.”

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