Michael O'Grodnik is one of the few people at Time Warner Cable in Rochester, N.Y., who can read a paper work order.
"The technicians that have been here two or three years have never used paper," says O'Grodnik, field operations support manager for Time Warner Cable. Five years ago, electronic work orders were inconceivable at Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable operator. Its Rochester division has 330,000 subscribers and 1,043 employees, including 270 service and installation technicians. Ironically, it was the company's dependence on paper that prompted it to turn to MDSI (now called Ventyx, since its merger with Indus earlier this year) for an automated workforce management system. Time Warner's Rochester division chose MDSI's Advantex r7.5 solution to streamline operations and make better use of its technicians' time.
"We were constantly overbooking our technicians, running them right by each other," O'Grodnik explains. "Sometimes we'd have two of them on the same street at the same time."
Before the mobile solution was implemented, Time Warner technicians would make two daily trips to the office: one at the start of their day to pick up work orders and another at the end of the day to drop off those work orders. Now, technicians are spared both trips--their work orders are wirelessly sent to their Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 computers over the Verizon Wireless network.
Scheduling and routing the technicians' workdays used to fall to three dispatchers who worked overnight shifts, mapping out routes and scheduling the next day's service and installation calls. The process took each dispatcher 10 hours to complete.
"It was very time-consuming, tedious work. The manual system took hours to do, it was a very specialized area," O'Grodnik notes. "The dispatchers had to be very familiar with the area."
Dispatchers still have to know the area, but now with Advantex their shifts start at 5:30 a.m. and are limited to what O'Grodnik calls "the oddball stuff," such as reshuffling routes when a technician calls in sick. "Now scheduling only takes two hours a day," he says.
Working More Efficiently
With a better scheduling and routing system in place, Time Warner cable technicians now spend less time on the road and more time filling customer requests for cable and broadband services. Technicians drive directly from their homes to their first jobs of the day, and they stay in constant contact with the office through their Toughbooks. Technicians no longer need to discuss modifications with the office; Advantex gives them that capability. "If the customer wants HBO, [technicians] can make that modification right from their laptops. They can communicate any of the needs that previously required a phone call," said O'Grodnik.
With mobile thermal printers from Citizen, technicians can now provide customers with hard-copy receipts. All completed work orders are saved electronically in both technicians' laptops and in a central database at the Rochester office. The Advantex solution communicates with ICOMS, the company's billing and customer care solution from Convergys, giving both field technicians and dispatchers access to customer information.
Time Warner officials chose the Panasonic Toughbooks for a number of reasons, including the Toughbooks' long battery life, considerable screen size, easy to use touchscreens and, naturally, their ability to function in extreme weather conditions. "We're in Upstate New York. We get a lot of rain, a lot of snow and these things are in the truck all day," O'Grodnik explains. "They need to be rugged. We did a lot of test work on them. I put one in the freezer for six hours and threw it across the floor. Of the original laptops that we rolled out, [in 2004], half are still in the field and work great."
Time for an Upgrade?
Since implementing the Advantex-based solution in January 2004, Time Warner officials have consistantly met with technicians to ensure the solution is running smoothly. The meetings--which involve technicians, IT staff and management--help the company stay apprised of possible improvements. O'Grodnik said Time Warner is looking to update to the Ventyx Service Suite 8.0, which would make scheduling easier by managing sub-areas in the company's coverage areas. For example, a dispatcher could type in an address and then see all of the job sites within a certain radius.
In addition to simplifying scheduling, Service Suite 8.0 allows dispatchers to see an overview of shifts worked by mobile users and the orders assigned to those shifts. It also helps schedule complex, long-lasting orders and shares information with more mobile devices and applications.
O'Grodnik said the Advantex solution originally allowed Time Warner to reduce its dispatch staff by five and enabled technicians to pick up one or two additional service calls a day. "The biggest bang for the buck, though, is the additional trouble-shooting calls technicians can do," he says. "They're not coming into the office anymore to pick up paperwork, they're not coming in to do paperwork and standing around talking to Fred or John, wasting 45 minutes of their day. By far, that is the greatest ROI for us--the additional field work they are able to do." //