Reducing Human Error & Reactive Call Outs Through Automated Systems

Episode 17

Maintenance Management Podcast


About this episode

Lee Dorman, Director at Precise Fire & Security Ltd, details the success of switching from pen and paper and spreadsheets to introducing an automated CRM system that has helped to eliminate human error and reduce reactive maintenance call outs.


Matt (Host): Hi everyone, welcome back to the Compare Soft podcast. Great to have you here as it always is. Today our guest is Lee [Dorman] and Lee is the Director at Precise Fire and Security Limited. Lee has over 25 years of experience in the fire and security sector and has worked his way up from being an apprentice to now a director. And so, it’ll be really interesting to get his take on maintenance management.

So, welcome to the show, Lee. Thanks for being on. Great to have you here.

Lee Dorman: Thanks for having me.

Matt: You are welcome. Pleasure is all us, so let’s jump straight into it then. Can you tell us what you do and give us a little bit more background information on your role?

Lee: No problem at all. I am the commercial director for size, fire and security and we are a mechanical and electrical fire security company. So, we combined, electrical mechanical for our maintenance services. So, we would do fire alarms in Tudor access control, go through gates, barriers and we would do dampeners and AOV. So, we combine the services for our customers.

Matt: Alright. And so then heading into our first question about maintenance, how do you set a good maintenance culture?

Lee: So besides we like to maintain the system correctly but thoroughly. So, if you maintain a system thoroughly and correctly you would have less reactive call outs which frustrate customers. So, if we maintain we can plan ahead, we can do big plan works and planned upgrade works. And if the maintenance isn’t done correctly then there is more reactive calls which unfortunately costs more money and the customer gets frustrated.

Matt: Okay. Well then, what about How do you recommend to plan maintenance activities?

Lee: So, at the size, we like to plan a year in advance. So, when a contract is mobilized, there would be some mobilization steps, for example, dilapidation reports, and we were planning the diary for a year, and then we would set the engineers’ goals and targets and KPIs through the SLA, but a year in advance. Perhaps 25% times four, and then produce a report at the end for the client to digest and plan for their next couple of years maintenance spend.

Matt: Then how do you recommend to implement an effective maintenance plan?

Lee: So first of all, you need to engage with the customer, communicate with the customer, see their needs, and obviously their legal and safety responsibilities, and discuss costings, discuss if there’s anything that’s been passed problematic, such as false alarms and on the fire alarm, for example. And we would then create a full asset list and then generate that from a dilapidation report and then maintain that throughout the year.

So, at the end of the year, they’re over 100% over maintenance. So, we would issue a full asset list. We have a green and a red. Red is non-compliant, amber is, you need to look at this for the next two or three years and green is still good to go and working as it should.

Matt: All right. And then so moving into the tech conversation, I’m not sure how much tech you guys are using over there, but what’s your take on software tools? And do you think they’re useful for managing maintenance activities?

Lee: Absolutely. We have embedded a CRM system the last 18 months, and it has changed my company twofold. And we’ve embedded lots of automatic sequencing. So, for example, invoices, job reports are automatically sent to customers. We have customer portals and I say it’s absolutely dramatically changed the business from planning ahead from a year.

So, you plan for the year’s diary and it gives you reminders, it tells the customer reminders, sends out letters all automatically and I’ve saved on one to two staff just having the software.

Matt: And so, what’s your take on connected technologies and do you think they’re going to change the way we work in the future as well?

Lee: Absolutely and we’re not a big fan of connected software. For example, I can see the industry going a live CRM and a live testing. For example, a fire alarm be connected from the cloud and you test a device and it will actively live see through the customer portal what the engine is doing and if it passes fail live and I think if I’m honest I think that’s probably the way to go. Smart buildings obviously, is coming into our industry as well. So smart buildings, CRMs to be integrated, I think it is the way the sector is gonna go.

Matt: Yeah, a hundred percent. And so, looking back then, going a little bit backwards on the technology conversation, do you still use spreadsheets and do you think they’ve still got their place? And how do you go about using those in the business?

Lee: I mean, we don’t use a lot of spreadsheets anymore due to our CRM system. We do some data feeds, which use the spreadsheet to data entry into the CRM. But going backwards, I think we couldn’t have done our business without the spreadsheets, but I think it gets you a certain growth point.

And from a growth to a bigger growth spurt to take on more customers, I think a CRM is necessary. But like I said, the spreadsheet is a start, it’s a beginning, but it definitely most certainly isn’t the end.

Matt: All right, interesting take on this. So, moving on from that then, how do you use maintenance in business as a competitive advantage?

Lee: So, the last 18 months, we’ve used maintenance as our accelerant in our industry. So again, we offer three-year budget planning. So, we would do our dilapidation report on asset list and plan throughout the year. What our customers really like is it’s very live, very transparent, so they can see what’s going on then, what’s failed, and if they want to push the button on some spend on a major fail, they can do immediately without any delay from NG spreadsheets or revenue there, paperwork.

And we like to sit the customer down, do a review, and if you’re maintaining it correctly, there’s less reactive work, the customer starts saving money. And I’m confident to say after three years, and if it’s maintained correctly, the maintenance costs should go down as well, because if you maintain it correctly, and you’re doing upgrades as and when you need them, newer equipment needs less reactive work, less maintenance.

So, in the long run, if it’s planned correctly, then the customer saves money. And in the long run.

Matt: Okay, and then so moving into our next round of the show, what are your top three tips on effective maintenance?

Lee: Robust mobilization, thorough maintenance, communication and transparency.

Matt: Okay, anymore? Are you going to drop some extra ones?

Lee: I think the big one is transparency and communication. So, if your mobilization is correct, your asset list is correct, then I think the three-year plan is bang on.

Matt: All right. And then so you’ve given us some fantastic advice and some insights here. So, thank you very much for that. So then wrapping up, what’s your favourite saying or quote on maintenance?

Lee: So, this is my personal saying and I try to impress it and advertise it throughout the company is own it, keep it simple and get it done. So, I think the biggest one is own it. I see lots of companies pass blame from left to right. They blame the past company, they blame the company they’re working for, but own it, it’s as simple as that. Is you own your own industry, own your systems, own your maintenance. Keep it simple and get it done.

Matt: All right, wham-bam, thank you, ma’am. There it is. And so, what were you using before your CRM system?

Lee: Very manual, very paid work, and spreadsheets like it was on one of the points. And we did lots of invoicing through spreadsheets. We did lots of planning through spreadsheets, using Outlook and using the Microsoft tools they give you. But then I say the CRM is just literally, it’s a game changer.

Matt: And were you running into kind of issues using spreadsheets? Like how did that, how was that working for you?

Lee: It was human error, as in somebody forget to do something or we got very busy and there’s lots of maintenance to plan. And it’s very, very time consuming where the CRM would take us two minutes to do something, the spreadsheet could take us half an hour. And then I was employing more and more people to more and more spreadsheets. And every client has a slight different ideas of how they want it presented as well. And then we found we were doing grass through Excel spreadsheet and et cetera, just very, very labour intensive.

Matt: All right, Lee, well, thank you very much for being on the show. You’ve given us some real bullet tips there and some real great information. Thanks so much for coming on.

Lee: You’re very welcome. Good to have you, nice to see you guys and good to be on the podcast.