Contractor Uses Digital Framework to Reduce Costs

One of the biggest challenges for any business is ensuring that files and data are located where they need to be at any given moment. For Brandt Companies, a Dallas, Texas-based mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractor that handles both new construction and large-scale renovation and modernization projects—such as the the AT&T Center in San Antonio—keeping crews in sync is critical for managing costs and meeting customer schedules.

The company, with five offices spread across Texas, typically has about 125 service technicians in the field on any given day. Many of them visit two or three sites within a day, handling service calls, repair work, preventative maintenance and other tasks, said Steve Hayes, senior vice president of Brandt Companies. In the past, the company was mired in paperwork and emails. Many technicians spent several hours per week filling out paperwork. However, as digital technology moved into the mainstream, the company turned to Dropbox Business to provide a framework for file sharing—but also to take the company’s workflows to a more advanced state.

Brandt Companies went live with the file-sharing platform in May 2015. At the same time, it issued smartphones and tablets to employees in the field.

“We set out to eliminate paper. Dropbox allows us to use folders to create workflows that drive far greater efficiency,” Hayes said.

For example, a technician in the field might view a work ticket and enter notes about temperature, voltage or other criteria. When the technician has completed the job, he simply moves the updated file to a different folder, where a supervisor can approve it. The supervisor can then move the file to a billing folder, where a billing clerk can generate an invoice for the customer.

The system allows Brandt to consolidate numerous files—from PDFs and JPGs to Word and Excel files—into a specific folder and push tasks through a series of folders to completion. Employees can also annotate files. Brandt technicians now submit time sheets, work tickets and receipts electronically rather than relying on paper. This eliminates the need to stop by the Brandt office or mail hard copies. It also provides versioning history that aids in disaster recovery or accidental deletion.

“The latest version of the file is always available,” Hayes said.

The results have been nothing short of remarkable. Faster technician turnaround times with clients along with improvements in internal workflows have saved Brandt more than $400,000 a year. This translates into a return on investment approaching 300 percent over three years. The system also has accelerated billing and payments. In the past, it could take two or three weeks to generate a bill. Today, the process typically occurs within 48 hours. Hayes says that the next phase of the project involves sharing files with customers. The company plans to build a customer portal in 2017. That will lead to additional time and cost savings—as well as improved communication and collaboration.

“Today, customers expect faster and better service, and more efficient systems for managing paperwork,” Hayes said. “We now have a system in place that delivers results and it’s flexible enough to fit the company as we continue to move toward a digital framework.”


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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