Salt Lake City’s building services and civil enforcement divisions implemented a mobile business solution to help managers determine the locations of inspectors working in the field. Since then, the solution has grown into a valuable management tool for both divisions that helps improve employee efficiency and service to citizens.
The solution, Field Force Manager, is a mobile application that consists of a downloadable mobile phone app for near real-time data collection and a secure, cloud-based management application for monitoring and reporting.
Loaded onto each inspector’s Motorola mobile phone, the Field Force Manager mobile app automatically collects location data and transmits it to the Field Force Manager app where managers can access it through any computer or device with a browser. Not only can managers see where inspectors are in near real time, they can produce reports showing where each inspector has stopped, for how long, at what time and on which date.
The decision to purchase Field Force Manager was made by Director of Building Services and Zoning Enforcement Orion Goff, who oversees both building services and civil enforcement; Craig Weinheimer, a legal investigator working for Goff and Craig Spangenberg and Les Koch, who serve as managers of civil enforcement and construction inspection.
In the beginning, all four agreed that knowing the locations of inspectors working in the field was valuable information as a management tool. Weinheimer was also drawn to the app because it is a cloud-based solution. “I liked that we could use Field Force Manager from the web on any computer,” he says.
As for the team’s key requirement, Spangenberg says his primary interest in knowing the locations of his civil enforcement inspectors was to remind them to “stay focused on the task.”
In the construction inspection department, however, inspectors didn’t need prodding to keep their schedules full, says Koch. The group typically logs “100 or more stops” in any given day and instead, the problem was finding them quickly so they could be deployed to late-breaking assignments.
Before implementing the solution, Koch would have to call the building inspectors on their mobile phones to locate them. Most often, he would end up leaving a voicemail. “They might be in the middle of an inspection and unable to return my call for 10, 15 or even 20 minutes,” he says.
This was too long to wait to get an answer to whether a particular inspector was available and close enough to a location to make it practical for him to get there in a timely way.
So, Koch started using the Google Maps feature in the Field app, which allows him to see in near real time exactly where inspectors are. Over time, Koch says he began to rely on the map to deploy inspectors to new assignments in ways that ended up reducing travel time and minimizing mileage.
The map capability has proven especially valuable to Koch when a fire or building accident occurs. In those situations – “when minutes count” — Koch uses the map to locate an inspector and redirect him to the scene of an emergency, dramatically accelerating response times.
In addition to locating and redeploying inspectors on the fly, the team has evolved into using the app’s historical reporting feature in new ways. Originally, it was used for internal accountability. Now, it can also be used to get to the bottom of specific complaints from citizens.
According to Koch, sometimes people complain that an inspector failed to show up for an appointment. With Field Force Manager, this type of accusation can be “proved or disproved with 100% accuracy.”
More often than not, says Koch, “We find out that a homeowner or contractor stepped away from the property and missed the building inspector, who’d been there and then had to go on to his next stop.”
Goff also has found historical reports are valuable because they allow him to demonstrate to the Salt Lake City Council — whose members authorize his annual budget — that employees are doing “more work, more quickly.”