SAP Mobile Infrastructure helps facilities management group gain control of 500+ field agents, completing 50 000 work orders a month

JohannesburgThe Total Facilities Management Company (TFMC), a provider of fully-integrated property and facilities management services, has streamlined its operations and realised significant cost savings after implementing a mobile asset management solution from SAP.

“This installation is a classic example of how SAP’s business process management is no longer restricted to physical enterprise infrastructure, but has embraced the mobile enterprise environment,” says Alvin Paules, Chief Technology Architect at SAP South Africa.

“A first of its kind in South Africa, TFMC implemented the SAP Mobile Infrastructure that allows them to centrally manage their hundreds of work teams in the field, with the ability to feed and be fed real-time information,” he adds.

TFMC manages about 24 000 buildings across the country, completing up to 50 000 work orders per month. Its current and past client list includes giants such as Telkom, South African Airways, Mercedes Benz SA, the DTI, Cell C, and the SABS.

Implementation of the project was eased to a large degree by the fact that TFMC had implemented a comprehensive SAP ERP system about three years previously. Integration between SAP Mobile Infrastructure and the company’s back-end was therefore seamless. It was important for TFMC to deploy an off-line system, due to the remote areas where technicians operate.

The mobile device sychronises the information both ways when connection to the mobile network is established. This way, the field technician receives new orders while confirming work done. TFMC is also considering certain online applications to further enhance the capability of the solution. It is the intention to stay current with the technology to enable even more functionality.

“SAP is a tried-and-tested platform that could solve our challenge of having literally hundreds of agents in the field attending to a range of different facilities-related jobs,” explains Rob Redaelli, TFMC’s IT director.

The company will have 530 of its field staff connected via the new system by the end of 2009, with more than 300 already connected in the first phase of the project.

Redaelli says communication and management with work teams has been improved immeasurably, with numerous cost and operational efficiencies already evident.

Field agents have been issued with Symbol handheld computing devices through which they remain in touch with the central SAP system. All orders are now issued via these devices, while progress and completion are captured via the device and immediately fed into the back-end SAP system.

The Symbol devices were chosen for their rugged design as well as user-friendliness and the ability to work offline when in areas outside of network coverage.

SAP Mobile Infrastructure is designed to work with any mobile device running Windows Mobile or the Java-based J2EE engine.

The system is based on SAP NetWeaver and uses open industry standards Java. SAP Mobile Infrastructure can be deployed on mobile devices, such as PDAs, laptop computers, and smartphones, and can connect via wireless LANs, Bluetooth, and GPRS networks.

Redaelli says the system has introduced a level of efficiency and responsiveness that was never possible before, with its largely manual system. “These improvements reflect our strategy of efficiency and effectiveness and getting closer to our customers’ requirements,” he adds.

This has been made possible through the seamless integration of SAP Mobile Infrastructure with TFMC’s existing SAP Business Suite Modules. According to Dewald Smit, TFMC Technology Manager, the amount of data posed a real challenge with the synchronisation process, and special filters and SYNCBO cascading were required to optimise the data flow.

Redaelli recounts that quantifiable benefits and cost savings have been realised since the system was rolled out, with the most immediate benefit being a 30% reduction in administrative costs, as all work and time sheets had previously been captured manually.

Other direct cost savings were achieved on stationery, improved time management and enhanced integrity due to speedier capturing of new and completed jobs. SLA reporting was improved in that the data was available sooner throughout the feedback process.

Paules says these direct and indirect cost savings demonstrate the advantage of having a fully integrated system that generates and captures information accurately throughout the process.

“For us, it’s about closing the loop,” says Redaelli, who is relying on the new system to make TFMC even more efficient and effective, thereby helping TFMC entrench its market leadership, and ultimately contribute to the continued success of the company.


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