Mobile app replaces paper in portable-toilet management: Onsite

The equipment rentals company has attributed AU$200,000 in annual savings to an app it implemented to assign and track portable-toilet rental jobs to drivers.

A mobile application that helps manage 10,000 portable toilets is saving Onsite Rental Group AU$200,000 per year, according to the company's IT manager Anthony Bolack.

The Australian company has over 500 staff across 40 branches throughout metropolitan and regional Australia. Around 60 percent of workers spend the majority of their time outside the office.

While Onsite deals in a range of building equipment, the cornerstone of its business is portable toilets. The company has over 10,000 portable toilets to manage, deploy, and empty out.

"When you have 10,000 of them, things can get tricky, and it gets even trickier when you have to empty 10,000 of those on customer sites," Bolack said at IDC's Enterprise Mobility Conference in Sydney, Australia.

Onsite had previously used a paper-based system to assign and track jobs for these portable toilets, but found it tedious and unreliable. Forms often contained incorrect details or were not legible, and drivers often handed in the papers several days late.

The company craved a paperless approach, and had tried using off-the-shelf software and web apps created by its small development team, both of which proved fruitless. It was keen to try something new and settled with BlinkMobile's mobile enterprise application platform, which was implemented by IT service provider Acresta.

Through BlinkMobile, Onsite rolled out a new portable app over a four day period to replace the old paper-based system. The company gave its drivers either Apple iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 devices to log and track jobs, as well as to retrieve customer information. The new hybrid mobile app, which uses a mix of HTML and native coding, allowed Onsite to allocate portable-loo jobs to drivers, and the company can now use geolocation to track where drivers are in real-time.

Data can also be stored on the mobile device itself if the driver is in a low reception area, which is something the company highly valued, as regional workers often have poor access to mobile internet.

"More importantly, now drivers are connected to our network, to HR, and company news — they are really engaged," Bolack said.

So far, Onsite has saved AU$200,000 per year in overtime and contractor hours, he said.

BlinkMobile's mobile enterprise application platform also allowed Onsite to roll the app across multiple platforms.

"This was very important for us," Bolack said. "Yesterday's BlackBerry is today's iPhone and tomorrow's Android."

Bolack extolled the hybrid apps approach as it allowed the portable app to interact with device features such as the GPS and the camera, but changes in the backend are able to be made on the fly, something that cannot be easily done with a pure native app.

"The barcodes for the toilets are actually inside the toilet itself, and it's hard to see in low light or at night-time," he said. "The app turns on the device light automatically and when a barcode needs to be scanned; and if the scan is successful, it vibrates.

"That's not something a web app can do, not even with HTML5."

Bolack advised companies to give hybrid apps a go, and not be tempted to put enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems onto mobile devices.

"Hybrid is awesome, and can get a real native feel without the pain," he said.

So far, no drivers have dropped their mobile phones into the portable toilets while on the job, according to Bolack.


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