"Today, in literally 30 seconds I can find the relevant documentation on the system and send it to the customer at a click of a button. "

BL Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Ltd has been in the business for over 40 years, specializing in commercial and industrial refrigeration and process cooling. With the focus on customer excellence, the business provides 24/7 service giving clients confidence in the continuous operation of critical systems.

David Bailie is the Managing Director of BL Group. He explains, “I started as an apprentice in 1985 and have worked my way up. Having worked across each area of the business, I know all the nooks and crannies and customers and suppliers, which has helped me learn what really makes the company tick.”

“As a business, we provide the full package to the customers, from design and installation to service and maintenance. We pride ourselves in providing a service that is second to none, with focus on loyalty and retention. Many clients have been with us for over 20 years.”

Watch the podcast below.

Manual and paper-based processes – a defining challenge for BL Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

Many businesses, including BL Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, have been relying on manual and paper-based processes causing inefficiencies, traceability issues and ultimately impacting communication and customer service levels. There are processes where a paper-based form must be completed, and then taken across multiple departments to be actioned. This process is extremely time-consuming and limits collaboration.

David explained, “What we struggled with was managing the service and maintenance part of the business due to its complex nature. Our engineers were producing manual reports, which were then signed by a customer and returned to the office. Someone then had to read it to determine the next steps in terms of service or maintenance needs. Additionally, reports had to be created for customers which were also handwritten, and ultimately, we had to rely on engineers to produce something that was legible, easily understood and met customer needs. On top of that, we had to manually raise purchase orders and create invoices, and all that was hugely administrative and took time and effort. “

David continued, “Our engineers probably spent more time in the office as opposed to being out with clients. We felt like we were living in the 1980s in terms of our paper-based processes. Therefore, in 2018 we started looking for a solution. Our aim was a paperless office, and something to automate the service and maintenance parts of our business. “

“We wanted to equip the engineers with personal digital devices (PDA) so the service and maintenance records are kept digitally. And secondly, we wanted this information running smoothly through the business, right through to the accounts. “

“We engaged with 3 providers and made a decision based on their proposals and the level of understanding of our needs.  A couple of solutions suggested would have automated our service and maintenance processes, however the accounts package had to sit outside that, therefore still creating manual work. We aim was transforming business processes from an incoming call from a client to a client getting his invoice at the other end.”

The importance of scoping in project success

Very few projects are ever completed in line with original plans and budgets, but defining a project scope that is specific, clear, and attainable is key to project success.

David commented, “On the basis that we could automate the entire process from end-to-end, we chose Xperience. They understood our needs and their solution Unite365 met our needs 100%. The scoping helped us realize that we had a number of other manual processes we hadn’t really considered. Xperience was great taking everything onboard to ensure we automate all our processes.  It was probably an extra 30% more than we ever planned to do, but it was the right thing to do. On top of that now, we undertook additional development. Now, we are nearly two years down the road and still working on transforming business processes even more. It’s a continual process of upgrading improvement.”

The importance of driving adoption and buy-in

Embarking on the journey to digital transformation relies on a number of key factors, with people and culture being key to success.

David explains, “I have to be honest with you, when we started down this road, it was painful. We have a lot of people who have been with the company for a long time. This meant they were used to doing things a certain way. And a change of this magnitude for our business was a big shock to everybody.”

“Once they started to see the benefits, their mindset shifted. And if you are to ask any of them now, they don’t know how we ever managed without it. I’m delighted to say they all turned into advocates – it just made their lives so much easier.”

“To manage this change, I set aside six months to work on the project, drive adoption and keep building on it. You can hand the project to departmental managers, and they’ll get the system to do what they want, but that might not be what you need for the business holistically.”

Watch the podcast here >

Unlocking business potential with digital transformation

Digital transformation is transforming business processes and providing organisations with the ability to sustain new levels of speed, agility and efficiency. For BL Refrigeration and Air Conditioning this was exactly the case.

David explained, “It’s biggest benefit is the workflow process, allowing us to automate everything right from the initial conversation with the customer, through to the invoice. It made us more efficient and productive. Everyone has access to same information. I have all the information available, even before the engineer returns to the office, including the worksheets and risk reports. “

“Additionally, we are able to look at jobs we did months ago. In the past we had to trawl through hundreds of handwritten job cards. Today, in literally 30 seconds I can find the relevant documentation on the system and send it to the customer at a click of a button. “

“In terms of tangible benefits, I know we’ve saved money, including fuel costs because our guys are visiting sites straight from home, instead of having to visit the office constantly with relevant documents.”

“The biggest benefit is the efficiencies we’ve gained, which increased our service level dramatically. For example, we have a client we do an awful lot of service work with which meant small jobs, lots of invoices, and ultimately lots of paper. Now this all is automated.  I can sit down for half an hour to run through jobs that have been finished that day, and basically push them through the system for the accounts department to deal with the next day. And if I see something that I know the client needs to know, he’ll get an email almost instantly. This definitely increases our retention levels.”

Managing digital transformation in business – tips for success

Like any change efforts, digital transformation is rarely straight forward as there are a multitude of variables that must be accounted for.

David continues, “The first piece of advice is to have a clear-cut plan with a single point of contact to manage the deliverables. Second, always plan for contingencies. As I mentioned, only during the scoping exercise did we realise there are a number of processes we didn’t even think of. Additionally, working on the project sparks new ideas that can bring even more value and efficiencies. “

“I also think a lot of businesses believe it’s only the Amazons of this world that can have slick systems. If you don’t invest in systems, you have to work harder, not smarter. This means over-time and luck of work-life balance. Besides, even when I can work in the evenings at home, nobody’s going to come and copy a worksheet for me. What is more, your customers may start to perceive you as slow, lethargic, not quick to react. You’re not agile enough. “

Remote working and digital workplace

As a response to pandemic, many companies implemented remote working solutions to continue to operate during those challenging times. Moreover, the investment in digital technologies has enabled consistent employee productivity and customer experience.

David explained, “When the first lockdown hit, it was pretty much panic stations due to the unknown. What we did was to ensure everyone that will get through it but have to keep going. And to be fair, after around six weeks of lockdown things gradually started ramping up.”

“In terms of remote working, we were able to work from home and have everything accessible. Calls coming in were logged from home. Engineers’ reports could were processed from home, and sent through to the accounts. It really helped us keep the business running.”

“Using manual systems would have been a whole lot more difficult, and putting everyone at risk. We were able to work from home easily, limiting the amount of contact and ensuring we were COVID safe.

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