Three technologies that can save gas safety engineers time
Alastair Thorpe, Commercial Director, Switchee
Many of the innovations that have been seen in other areas of housing construction and maintenance have yet to trickle down to their respective maintenance departments but there is hope that this is changing. Several innovative technologies are now starting to emerge that are designed specifically to help improve the systems that dictate a gas safety engineer’s life.
Remote boiler failure detection
Emergency boiler callouts are a huge part of any maintenance organisation in the social housing sector but a huge number of those callouts could have been handled months before they became time-sensitive. The summer months are some of the quietest for gas breakdown engineers because so few boilers are in use. Boiler failures are happening consistently throughout the year but because of disuse problems are never identified. Remote boiler failure detection technology is the answer to this problem. Remotely firing a boiler up to conduct an efficiency test quickly identifies boilers that are either failing or about to fail, thereby alerting maintenance departments of the need for a site visit. Utilising this technology across an entire portfolio helps to reduce emergency callouts by better distributing boiler maintenance visits over a longer period. This also has the added benefit of improving the user experience as they now no longer have to worry about turning their boiler on when it first gets cold and it failing to start.
Remotely detecting failing or soon-to-fail boilers is crucial to improving efficiency
Fault Code Transmission
One of the most common frustrations for any engineer is having a job scheduled in, driving over to the property, spending 5 minutes looking at the boiler only to realise that the required part isn’t in the van. Now a further appointment has to be made, parts have to be ordered and then additional appointments have to be pushed back to make room for the follow-up visit. Not only does this add enormous overhead to gas maintenance visits, but it also agitates the resident who is now left with a non-functioning boiler and another appointment to fit in. All of this can be fixed with simple fault code transmission. Most modern boilers have already established the root cause of the fault by the time a gas safety engineer has arrived. Technologies are now starting to emerge for boilers to remotely send fault codes alongside appointment scheduling requests. This information allows for a fully automated process of appointment scheduling – with the boiler sending a request for a new part, an automatic part ordering process then taking place with an appointment being raised in the housing provider’s property management system. This ensures that gas safety engineers are always present with the right part to fix a boiler on the spot. Residents are happier, engineers are happier and maintenance departments reduce unnecessary parts overhead.
Automatic appointment scheduling and confirmation
Another area that requires significant improvement is in the scheduling and confirmation of appointments. There is no standard approach across all social housing providers but most attempt to contact residents through several different mediums (primarily post, phone and text). Most housing providers expect between 2 and 3 attempts to gain access before a gas safety visit can be conducted. This is a huge area of time wastage – reducing the time engineers are doing what they are best at, and on some days simply relegating them to the role of van driver. Automated occupancy-based appointment scheduling and confirmation holds the key to solving this issue through standardised communication and increased visibility. Switchee, for example, allows maintenance teams to request appointments with input from our occupancy-based availability metric – helping improve at-home rates. As a smart thermostat, the device also does not require the use of a telephone or letter which massively improves acceptance rates (in some cases with access rates reaching 100% after appointment confirmation). This ensures engineers are given the flexibility they need to fix problems – without wasting their time driving to unnecessary appointments.
Technology is improving efficiency
All of these technologies and more are coming to market specifically to help gas safety engineers reduce time-wasting and improve resident satisfaction. This should help to relieve a lot of the stress added to departments over the last few years with increased demand and reduced budgets.
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