How GPS Builds Benefits For The City Of Chicago

By Kassandra Kani — June 05, 2008

The City of Chicago's Department of Buildings was buried in mountains of paperwork from the more than 350,000 building inspections it completes every year.

"Building inspectors were given assignments by paper, and inspections were traced by paper," says Bill McCaffrey, a department spokesman. "A large volume of paper was produced on a regular basis."

To reduce a portion of that paper, and to help inspectors schedule their time more efficiently, the department implemented Xora's GPS TimeTrack mobile resource management solution on Sprint Nextel mobile phones. The department's 190 inspectors use the program to note when they begin and end a shift, when they take breaks, and when they arrive at or leave a job site. They also use the phones to record whether or not an inspection is completed.

Prior to using TimeTrack, inspectors recorded this information on paper and entered it into the system when they returned to the office.

Supervisors use TimeTrack's Web-based maps and reports to dispatch inspectors to new jobs. "There are times when the department has to respond to emergencies," says McCaffrey. "We need to adjust inspectors' schedules and get them to a new job site quickly. We've often relied on this tool to determine which inspector is the closest and can get there the fastest so we can reassign him. Before, supervisors had to research the paper trail and start calling people to find out where they were."

Inspectors still rely on paper forms to record features that are checked during an inspection, as well as potential violations. When they return to the office, these forms are given to supervisors, who in turn submit them for data entry. 

"With the volume of data we have, and the computer systems we have, we're not able to transmit the forms at this time," says McCaffrey. The department is looking at issuing laptops to inspectors so that they can transmit inspection forms wirelessly.

Since implementing the TimeTrack solution in 2003, McCaffrey says the Department of Buildings has increased its daily inspections and reduced the amount of time it takes to respond to emergency inspection requests. Because a large volume of the work is still paper-based, he was unable to provide ROI numbers, or details on how many more inspections were completed daily or how much time was saved responding to emergencies. However, McCaffrey says the number of inspections completed increases every year. "We expected to complete 370,000 inspections in 2007, and we anticipate an increase to at least 388,000 in 2008," he says.

The ability to monitor employees is another important aspect of using GPS TimeTrack. Not only does it help reduce payroll errors by recording inspectors' hours and authenticating them with a location stamp, but the system also helps confirm that employees are at job sites when they're supposed to be. The tool isn't only an aid for management, notes McCaffrey. "On the reverse side, it works as an exonerating tool for employees," he says. "They know that when they arrive at a job site they check in on their phones before they start. If there's ever a question about work being done at that building, the GPS can help prove that they were at that building, at this time, and on this day."

Other city departments are benefiting from GPS TimeTrack; most recently, the Chicago Fire Department started using it for their inspectors.


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