Smart Systems wires them up

Smart Systems are electrical and electronic technicians. It provides installation services for all kinds of electrical and electronic systems in new residential homes. Its installation work includes HVAC systems, home entertainment systems, lighting fixtures, electrical outlets, and all kinds of electrical, electronic and communications wiring. It has more than 30 staff, with 23 field workers operating from around 10 vans.

Manual systems led to errors and lost profits

“We originally did everything by drawing plans on paper,” says Michael Gilbert, operations manager at Smart Systems. “Clients would walk around with us scrawling on the plans where work was required. The plan would be in black ink and our notes were in blue making the whole thing difficult to see and we’d make lots of errors.

“We then started using Microsoft Visio, scanning the plans, cleaning up the plans of anything we don’t need, and leaving the walls and the room names. After that, we’d drag and drop symbols of what the client required directly onto the plan. Once completed, we’d have to count up everything and transfer to a spreadsheet for a quote. Instantly you can see where human error can creep in.

“The biggest issue was the massive holes in the process; if you miss out anything you’d end up undercharging the client. The client looks at the plan and that’s what they think they’re getting. They don’t necessarily look at all the details in the quote. They just look at the final figure on the quote.

“When the client flagged something that wasn’t done, no one could remember what was said weeks before. The only way to correct it was to go with what the client said. We ended up going out doing more work than what we were paid for.”

Gilbert continues, “There was something called PDL Planner that had a drag-and-drop system where you could drop symbols onto a plan and then once done, generate an accurate quote. Unfortunately it didn’t support products outside the PDL family.

“Smart Systems met with the PDL Planner developer from Auckland who quoted a price for a new system of our own. We got a quotation from another software developer and although the prices were similar, we chose the latter one because they were located in Christchurch and had the back up.”

Stratos saves the day

“We were about halfway through and the software developer went into liquidation. Stratos were able to salvage our code for us and saved the day.”

Stratos took over the project and finished the development.

“It went more smoothly after Stratos took it over,” Gilbert continues. “Stratos were straight up, they didn’t sugar coat things, and they just told us the facts. We had meetings, got it back on track, and then all the testing had to happen.

“The guys from Stratos are great. We like that they are very methodical thinkers, they have an ability to think outside the box, to see from different angles the things we did. We just got on really well.”

The new system transformed our business

The solution allows Smarts Systems to manage all the complexities of a modern house. In power switches alone there are many types of switches, face plates, colours, and materials. Smart Systems loads all its suppliers’ products which can be dragged and dropped onto client plans.

“With the new system all the errors are ironed out. What’s on the plan is now what’s on the quote. We were probably undercharging by around 5% on average. In our industry where margins are slim, that’s quite a lot.

“Saving on costs isn’t the only thing. Everything is so much easier now.”
– Michael Gilbert, Smart Systems

“There’s so much more information. We don’t need to read the plan to figure out what materials we need; it’s all done in the background. The system generates a bill of materials, calculates the hours the job will require, and tells us what we need to order for it.

“We haven’t had to hire as many administration staff. Before this system, we had around 4-5 full-time staff. Now we have 31 people on our team and yet our administrative staff is still only one person doing around 30 hours a week.

“We no longer need someone to work out the materials and hours required for the job, and try to track it all financially at the end.”

“It’s probably saved us around two full-time equivalents or at least $60,000 a year, on top of the 5% of revenue it saved a year. The system feeds into our accounting system where billing and payments can be handled.”
– Michael Gilbert, Smart Systems

Stratos also helps with IT infrastructure

Based on its experience using Stratos for software development, Smart Systems were all too happy to call them again when it needed additional IT help.

“We had a networking issue around here, Stratos came around and inside 45 minutes the issue was fixed and it’s been hunky-dory ever since.”

Stratos is straight up, we trust them

“Stratos have shown us that they’re proactive. They are very accessible, which is really important because if the system falls over, we can’t do much at all. We can’t quote, we can’t do our finances, can’t do our tracking, frankly we can’t do squat. We’d have to go back to manual processes,” Gilbert says.

“This is where their responsiveness comes in. Their response times are so fast. They’re on to it quickly. You’re not left waiting.

“They’re very straight up, very good at communicating, they let you know what they think it is.”