Magazine Article | November 1, 2001

Stop Faxing And Start Profiting

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A large real estate service company implements a wireless mobile computing solution and saves over $5,000 per month in faxing fees and even more in labor costs.

Integrated Solutions, November 2001

Just about every homeowner can attest to the fact that home repairs are a never-ending process. From leaky sinks and pipes, to electrical problems and roofing issues, home repairs can become a second, full-time job. But, for those who have ever successfully made a much needed home improvement, you know about the sense of satisfaction that comes with using your hands and mind to troubleshoot a problem. Some understand it so well that they can make a good living at it.

Take CB Richard Ellis (Carlsbad, CA) (CBRE), for instance. CBRE ( is the largest real estate service company the world. The company has 10,000 employees in nearly 250 offices across 44 countries. It performs such services as brokerage, asset, financial, and facilities management. CBRE's largest customer, FleetBoston Financial, is the seventh largest domestic bank in the United States. CBRE manages more than 22 million square feet of FleetBoston Financial's facilities including a call center in Hartford, CT.

Faxing: Yesterday's Technology Solution
CBRE was receiving 16,000 calls per month from its real estate accounts. Clients were requesting everything from new light bulbs and adjustments to the heating or air conditioning to landscaping changes and desks to be rearranged for a special meeting. "After the requests were phoned in we would enter the information into our MAXIMO CMMS (computer maintenance management system) and send the request via fax to one of our remote technicians," recalls Leonard DeLosh, operations manager for CB Richard Ellis. CBRE was sending out 20,000 faxes per month to its field service technicians and to its clients, which were mainly long-distance calls. "The faxes would stack up, and the technicians would have to sort through them and do their best to prioritize them." Some of the frustrations with the manual requisitioning system were: 1.) It took the technicians almost as much time trying to figure out the best logistics for servicing their 30 properties per day as it did servicing their customers. 2.) Often, a technician would leave for his daily route at 7:00 a.m., but at 7:30 a.m. he would receive a fax at his office that one of his customers needed him to stop by right away. "Typically the technician would not find out about the work order until after he had already passed the customer's office," says DeLosh. "Either the job would get put off until the next day, or the technician would have to drive back to the office, pick up the fax, and then drive to the customer's site - wasting an hour in the process."

Mobile Wireless Computing: Today's Solution
CBRE looked into a wireless mobile computing solution to solve its dilemma. After researching several options it chose Syclo's (Barrington, IL) SMART solution. "We chose the SMART solution because it could be integrated with our MAXIMO CMMS application without any extra programming required," says DeLosh. The SMART solution enabled CBRE to send work orders from its CMMS directly to its field technicians via handheld devices. "We use HP Jornada 720 pocket PCs equipped with Sierra Wireless AirCard 300 wireless network cards," says DeLosh. "Using the wireless solution, our field technicians are alerted within seconds after a work order is keyed into the CMMS," says DeLosh. "Besides eliminating the hassle of sorting through faxes, the handhelds help us better track all the 'special requests' our technicians receive while servicing customers. Previously, all those requests would have either been written on scrap paper with incomplete information or forgotten about altogether." Using the handheld devices, the field technicians can set up their own work orders for on-the-spot requests, which arise while fixing/servicing another job. Besides the aforementioned benefits, CBRE is using its wireless solution to implement a preventive maintenance program. "If you know that a fluorescent bulb is good for 'x' hours, for example, and all the bulbs in a particular office use the same kind of bulb, you can schedule a time to change all the bulbs in the office," says DeLosh. "The other, more expensive option is to wait for each bulb to burn out, call a maintenance worker in for each incident, and schedule a time to have him change the bulb."

Since implementing the wireless solution, CBRE predicts that it has saved more than $5,000 per month in long-distance costs ($.25 per fax to send long distance multiplied by 20,000 faxes per month) and much more in monthly labor costs. "Since implementing the wireless solution we have been able to accommodate a 239% increase in work orders without needing to add additional staffing or overtime," says DeLosh. "Additionally, we can now do a much better job of tracking the time it takes to perform routing services, which helps us more accurately determine appropriate costs for our services as well as helping us judge which employees are being the most productive versus others who are not as productive." Using the handheld devices, CBRE field technicians record the time they begin a job and when they are finished, which gives the company an accurate metric to judge overall productivity.

What Will Be Tomorrow's Solution?
Even though CBRE is pleased with the results of its recent wireless initiatives, it realizes that it has not yet fully tapped into all the business benefits available via this technology. "Our next goal is to set up strategic relationships with our key suppliers, like Home Depot, for example, to enable our field service technicians to place orders from their handheld devices," says DeLosh. "Rather than walking around trying to find the right parts, they would place an order to the supplier and have the supplies waiting for them when they arrived." Other benefits to ordering electronically would include more detailed billing and order tracking. Instead of paying 100 small bills, CBRE could pay one, summary bill via electronic transfer, thus impacting its bottom line even further.

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