Time To Make A Difference For Electricity North West

“I think the care, attention to detail, and time that triOpsis has dedicated to our project have all been invaluable.”
Deb Bentham, IT Project Manager
Electricity North West

As one of the UK’s 14 electricity distribution network operators, Electricity North West takes pride in the work it does and the region it serves. Describing its team members as ‘champions of the north west’, the organisation keeps electricity flowing across a huge area, from the rural splendour of Cumbria and the Lake District down to the densely populated towns and cities of Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

With around 13,000km of overhead power lines and over 44,000km of underground cables – not to mention an ongoing £1.9 billion investment programme – Electricity North West’s teams are out in the field every day, maintaining and upgrading its network. Keeping on top of the hours these teams work – and the basic pay and overtime they are entitled to – is a constant challenge, but triOpsis is proud to deliver a digital timesheet solution that is transforming working time practices across Electricity North West.

Keeping on top of the hours these teams work – and the basic pay and overtime they are entitled to – is a constant challenge, but triOpsis is proud to deliver a digital timesheet solution that is transforming working time practices across Electricity North West.

The challenge

Although Electricity North West is a leader in innovation, its paper-based timesheet system was hardly at the cutting edge of workforce management. According to Deb Bentham, the IT Project Manager running the timesheet project, the paper timesheets went on a considerable journey before they could even be processed – a journey dogged by inefficiencies and the potential for errors.

“We had around 520 field staff who filled in a paper timesheet in order for their hours to be logged and overtime to be paid,” says Bentham. “Some were scanned in and sent across to our business support teams, and some were handed in directly – the users had to travel to sites just to get their overtime paid. So obviously, that was an old and archaic system that we wanted to improve.”

Electricity North West started a tender process that involved taking a detailed look at a number of potential solutions, but ultimately it was triOpsis that won their business.

“It was really easy to decide to use triOpsis,” explains Bentham.

“From an operations perspective, we wanted to know if we could work with the supplier’s team. That was a big factor.

“Then there was the technology side of it, because we’ve got field users in difficult working conditions having to fill in quite a lot of information. We were impressed by the look and feel of the triOpsis system, its flexibility, and how much it can be changed to meet our needs.

“The third factor was costs. I think considering what triOpsis provides in terms of service, the cost is really favourable.”

Our solution

Although the wide-ranging reach of Electricity North West’s network means its workforce challenges are complex – “There are currently around 97 different work patterns in the business,” says Bentham – triOpsis was still able to develop a solution that worked from day one. This ‘first-cut’ system was far from being the finished article, but it did mean that selected Electricity North West users were able to use the new timesheet system and give their feedback, with their responses helping triOpsis to refine the software.

The triOpsis system allows users to fill in their timesheets quickly, efficiently and in detail, with all information entered on a mobile device. Rather than scribbling away on a piece of paper and then potentially having to drive miles to deliver it to the business support team, the data is now instantly available to anyone in the business who needs it.

This real-time data capture means that Electricity North West has immediate access to information about working hours and, just as importantly, it means the workforce teams get paid for the hours they work – accurately and efficiently, every time.

The triOpsis difference

Not that triOpsis solutions are solely reliant on the powerful technology platform. triOpsis is a company with deep knowledge of the utilities sector, and its teams take a problem-solving, people-first approach. This means that listening and engaging with each client are equally important parts of the equation. With many years of utilities sector expertise at its disposal, triOpsis uses its software to solve real workforce issues – and the benefits are ones that Bentham clearly recognises.

“In terms of direct benefits, a lot of it is to do with productivity,” she says. “Previously, the field users used to write their time into a diary, which they then transferred to paper timesheets, then those timesheets had to be delivered to the admin support team who had to manually key the information into SAP. Now all that manual element is gone, so that’s a definite productivity improvement.

“There are some less obvious benefits too. For instance, we need to try and reduce our paper usage – for environmental as well as cost reasons – so that was something that formed part of the business case. We’ve also removed the requirement for teams to travel to hand in their timesheets, so that’s much more efficient – plus it cuts out the travel costs.”

And then there’s the benefit of working with a team of experts that has each client’s interests at heart.

“triOpsis does things because it’s the right thing to do,” says Bentham. “They want to make the solution work for us, and I think that absolutely shines through.”

Facing the future

The Electricity North West timesheet project remains a work in progress, with the solution continuing to be rolled out steadily across the business. And because triOpsis is committed to helping deliver continuous business improvement, Bentham is confident that the relationship will bring even more benefits in future.

“We have 55 users who are live on the triOpsis system at the moment, and the magic number is 520 users in total, so we’ll be supporting them and giving them as much time as they need to adapt to the new process,” she says.

“Then at some point in the future, we’ll look at improving work patterns and reducing the number of them – we’ll have a conversation with triOpsis about how we go about improving this.”

Clearly, this is a relationship built on trust and understanding as well as sector expertise – a partnership, you might say.

“We threw an awful lot at triOpsis at the start,” says Bentham, “and we’ve been quite demanding, but I think the word partnership is spot on. That’s exactly what has been built up over the last 12 months or so.”

It’s a partnership that both businesses seem proud of, and the successful project is surely worthy of the self-styled ‘champions of the north west’.

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