Customize Your Mobile Devices With Bridges To Other Software
Originally published: 12.01.10 by
How Alpine Mechanical Services worked with technology partners to extend the
Each year, Alpine Mechanical
Services invests between
$50,000 and $100,000 in
technology to stay one step ahead
of our competitors in the hvacr industry
while changing and setting new standards
for our industry. We are always looking for
new technology to better serve our retail
customers. We don’t think about the cost
as an expense. Rather, it’s an investment in
our company’s future and the future of our
In the Sept. 2010 issue of in HVACR
Business, I described how Alpine uses the
BlackBerry smart phone to connect information
gathered by our technicians with
our office and ultimately the retail client.
That simple communication is really not
so simple. It involves merging off-the-shelf
technology with the BlackBerry. Here’s the
story of how we did it.
Getting the BlackBerry ready to do what
we wanted took two projects because technicians
use the BlackBerry in two different
ways. For daily activities, we performed
an integration of the BlackBerry and our
work-order management system. We use
Data Basics to enter service calls, dispatch
technicians, track work-order histories,
generate PM work orders — all the things
hvacr companies do on a day-to-day basis.
We recognized the potential of sending
e-mails to field technicians to communicate
daily schedules, freeing the technician
from calling the office or logging into a
computer to check an e-mail account.
this task, we hired a thirdparty
company called Mirefex to write a
software bridge between the BlackBerry
and Data Basics. We relied on Data Basics
to identify Mirefex for the project, and the
two companies worked together. The implementation
took about two-and-a-half
months, and we were able to do all of the
This implementation allows work orders,
hvacr service histories, and other
information to be sent directly to the
technician’s BlackBerry — wherever they
might be located. They also get their
next day’s schedule on their computers
and BlackBerries. Then, as they maneuver
through their work day, work orders
are automatically updated. The software
bridge also enables the technician to see
the history of the unit they are servicing
from every technician who may have performed
work on that specific unit.
Another Integration: Mapping
System and Work Orders
Using Microsoft MapPoint, we created
a system that takes open work orders from
Data Basics and inputs them into the mapping
system. For this, our company worked
directly with Data Basics.
Now, with a simple glance, we can
see every open work order that exists
throughout our organization. Using the
BlackBerry’s global positioning system, we
see where every technician is on the map
for instantaneous tracking. This creates
two major advantages for the customer.
Because we can see every work order location
and technician, we dispatch the nearest
technician to handle the order. Plus, we
can see if there is any other work in that
area that needs to be done for greater efficiency
and economies of scale both for our
company and the retail customer.
But What Should I Do?
Right now you are probably asking,
“How do I know what technology to select?
Where do I find the technology? Should I
do the same thing for my company?” The
best advice I can give is to determine what
you want to do and then, through research,
find a company or companies to do it. Ask
your current technology providers what
their capabilities are. Do online research.
Ask around at association and peer-group
meetings what others are doing. The needs
of each business are unique, and the providers
are numerous and varied, so every
company should go for whatever will make
them most competitive.
Another piece of advice — keep up on
technology trends from the major players.
When they upgrade their operating
systems or devices, it tends to cause
a wave of innovation throughout the
technology spectrum. For example, RIM,
the developer of the BlackBerry, is coming
out with a new BlackBerry. Is it possible
this is the technology rollout that will take
the hvacr industry to the next level? What
are the advantages in the next generation
of BlackBerrys that may be useful? As
industry and company leaders, these are
questions we must ask.
A Final Word On Consultants
Do you need to hire a consultant to help
your company embrace or discover these
new technologies? It really comes down
to the business owner. If an owner knows
exactly what he wants to accomplish, a
consultant may not be necessary. If, on the
other hand, you are just seeking solutions,
a consultant could be useful.
If you decide to hire a consultant, here
are some helpful tips:
What is the consultant’s special area
of expertise? Does the consultant’s area
of expertise match what you want them
to do for you? Ask if the consultant has
done similar work in the hvacr or similar
Ask for a sample of the consultant’s
work and references. Request reports,
case studies, and other materials to review.
Ask for the names and contact information
for other clients that relate to what you are
Ask the reference if they were satisfied
with the consultant’s work. If not,
Specify what you want. Outline what
you want from the consultant so there is no
room for confusion over what you will be
getting for your investment.
Set a reasonable timeline. Make sure
the consultant can deliver the results you
want in a timely manner.
Negotiate the price. The price quoted
by the consultant is usually subject to
negotiation. Be aggressive. Do comparison-
shopping with other consultants.
Consulting fees often vary considerably
from consultant to consultant.
Does investing in new technology pay
off? Yes. It’s not a question of whether the
industry should invest in new technology
— it’s a matter of how quickly our industry
can change to serve our customers, grow
our businesses, and stay competitive. n
Mark Barraclough is the owner and
president of Alpine Mechanical Services.
Mark has been involved in the business
operations side of the hvac industry for
more than 28 years. Mark has made the list
of Philadelphia’s Top 100 Fastest Growing
Companies 12 times, was inducted into the
Philadelphia 100 Hall of Fame and, just this
year, was listed in the Inc. 5000 National
Fast Growing Companies.
Mark Barraclough is the owner and president of Alpine Mechanical Services. Mark has been involved in the business operations side of the hvac industry for more than 28 years. Mark has made the list of Philadelphia’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies 12 times, was inducted into the Philadelphia 100 Hall of Fame and, just this year, was listed in the Inc. 5000 National Fast Growing Companies.
Articles by Mark Barraclough
Customize Your Mobile Devices With Bridges To Other Software
Alpine Mechanical Services uses the BlackBerry smart phone to connect information gathered by our technicians with our office and ultimately the retail client. This simple communication is really not simple. It involves off-the-shelf technology with the BlackBerry. Here's how we do it.
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