STREETS & HIGHWAYS/Tech-based management aids workflow
The San Diego Street Division employs a staff of about 370 workers, who are responsible for city streets as well as streetlights, storm drains, fences, bridges, trees and electrical repairs. Until last year, a paper trail followed all maintenance requests, and operations bottlenecked. Additionally, duplicate work orders were sometimes issued, resulting in confusion and inefficiency. The city needed a better way to manage work orders, employees and records.
A year ago, San Diego began implementing the first phase of a service request system that would reorganize the Street Division’s work orders and operations. The system, which will require five to six phases for full implementation, uses management tools from SAP, Washington, D.C., and GIS software from ESRI, Redlands, Calif. “The whole project has been very business-driven,” says Liz Mueller, project manager for the Street Division. “We need better business practices.”
With the previous setup, when complaints from residents were recorded, dispatchers typed work orders that were sorted by supervisors and distributed to work crews. That process could take days, and orders were not distributed in an organized way. In addition, crews sometimes could not locate the job because of invalid addresses.
Now in its last installation phase, the new system allows dispatchers to pinpoint addresses on GIS maps and review all previous, pending and completed work orders. It also keeps a one-year record of all work orders so that supervisors can determine if there are repeated repairs for the same area, perhaps indicating a more serious problem than a pothole.
“The system has [allowed us to take] a grand step in customer service,” says Fay Faulker, principal utility supervisor and information systems analyst for the Street Division. “We have a lot more accountability.”
It also has eliminated much of the paperwork — crews are the only workers who carry a physical work order, while dispatchers and supervisors manage jobs via computer. Over the next few months, San Diego will be cleaning up the service request system to make sure all the datasets are accurate and employees are managing the work orders properly. The city also plans to distribute work orders geographically so that one work crew can complete multiple jobs in the same area, instead of driving all over the city to complete one job at a time.
Supervisors also can use the system’s record-keeping function to compare repair methods and time needed to complete a job. “We worried about the ‘big brother’ mentality, but [the system] allows us to plan jobs much better,” Mueller says. “Work is more efficient now.”
End-users such as supervisors and dispatchers need less than a week of training to learn how to work the service request system, which is expected to be fully implemented by June, Mueller says. Startup costs totaled about $2 million, plus an additional $1 million per phase.