Transition from islands of information to oasis of data results in streamlined operations and improved cash flow
Pipeline Equipment Resources Company (PERC) has served the natural gas distribution industry in the eastern United States for more than two decades.
In addition to selling innovative products, PERC also offers field services. Their highly-trained technicians travel the country, visiting customer sites and providing services such as testing, maintenance, repair, and consulting.
PERC’s business system had worked for them for a while, but cracks started to show when they found keeping the system up to date to be difficult and expensive. In addition, manual processes caused delays in operations and inaccuracies in inventory tracking.
Islands of information
PERC has a main office in New Jersey, and some employees work remotely. They liked their business system, but it was only accessible at the main office; remote employees had to cobble together solutions and processes to make up for the lack of access to the business system.
Unfortunately, these mini-solutions couldn’t communicate with each other, creating what PERC director of operations Tom Foley calls “islands of information”.
Without easily accessible information in one place, remote employees found it challenging to get the data they need when they need it, causing delays in getting work completed.
Manual, error-prone inventory tracking
An important component of PERC’s business system is tracking customer, site, and equipment information for inventory purposes.
“We go back to the same customers over and over again,” says Foley, “so we need the ability to track sites, along with specific equipment on each site. We need the history of the equipment.”
In addition, they needed a replacement for their manual inventory process. “When guys pulled inventory off the trucks, it didn’t communicate with our old system,” says Foley. “We had to manually look up what they used and have someone key it in our system.”
Manual data entry tends to result in increased errors, meaning their inventory was likely inaccurate.
Complicated, time-consuming invoicing process
The nature of PERC’s service calls complicates their invoicing process. They provide customers with initial quotes, but the final cost may change after the visit based on the services and equipment required at the site. After the visit, a reconciliation team compares the original quote to the services and equipment provided during the visit to determine the final invoice amount.
With their old system, the whole process—getting information from technicians, keying it into the system, and then going through the reconciliation process—generally took about two weeks.
And that was a problem, says Foley. “When you’re looking at an invoice for $100,000 and you’re taking two weeks to get it out, and you’re asking to get paid in 30 days, and that 30 days becomes 45 days, then you might not be getting paid for 60 days.”
PERC wanted a new business system solution that supports efficiency in the main office and in the field. “We have about 15 technicians that travel the northeast doing service work,” says Foley, “so we looked for a business system that could handle our distribution business and our service business.”
They soon chose NetSuite, which provides a web-based system, thus eliminating the restraint of hosting at their main office.
For their service business, they investigated options available through NetSuite and decided on MSI’s Service Pro, which provides exactly what they need for their service personnel.
“MSI’s solution just seemed to be tailored to how our business works,” says Foley. “When we had a question, they responded quite well. We kind of clicked.”
Since implementing Service Pro and NetSuite, PERC has already seen vast improvements in their scheduling and tracking of appointments, as well as a 50% decrease in the time required to prepare and send invoices.
Unified information with Service Pro and NetSuite integration
Foley loves Service Pro’s integration with NetSuite, which means information entered in NetSuite immediately syncs with Service Pro, and vice versa. “That’s probably the biggest advantage: to have seamless integration with all of the information that used to be in islands all in one spot.”
Foley says, “As soon as we enter the order in NetSuite and we hit the button, it’s over to Service Pro and it’s being scheduled. I can look at the order in either place and see what’s going on. It’s almost live. I know what the guy did yesterday, or an hour ago.”
Comprehensive customer information for technicians on-the-go
PERC’s site visits now run more smoothly by allowing technicians to see more than just where they need to be. Using Service Pro, technicians can record information about visits and review historical information about the customer, site, and equipment, including previous maintenance work.
The ability to track inventory used during visits has been especially useful as well. “That is a big, big advantage that we didn’t have with our other system,” says Foley. “Now when technicians pull inventory off the truck, it goes right to the order and automatically syncs with NetSuite.”
Streamlined invoicing process takes days, not weeks
Previously, PERC’s turnaround time for invoices was up to two weeks, causing delays in cash flow. All that has changed with Service Pro and NetSuite.
Now technicians can enter notes about what happened during a visit and what equipment was pulled from the inventory, and that information automatically syncs across the system. The reconciliation team has all the information they need at their fingertips to create invoices almost immediately after the visit.
The result? Invoices are now completed within days – not weeks – which has greatly improved PERC’s cash flow.
“When I introduced this process to the accounting group,” jokes Foley, “I said to them, this is so easy that it almost makes you ask, ‘What’s wrong?'”