Post-AHR Report Software Pavillion
AHR was established 86 years ago as a heating and ventilation show and has become “the world’s largest HVACR marketplace” for the industry. New products, technologies and ideas from different parts of the world came to the surface in a forum that provides an opportunity for customers to test equipment, software, automation tools and services and gather and exchange information. The world’s largest showcase of HVAC and refrigeration products and technologies attracted more than 70,000 visitors from around the world, a six per cent jump over last year, according to newly released ASHRAE figures.
In this report we will be focusing on observations and trends in the software center —talking specifically about HVACR-related software for project and field service management, including quoting and estimates, inventory control, telematics, system integrations and subcontractor management. The AHR Expo offered insight into the latest information and technology that HVAC and refrigeration companies are relying on to work towards growth and analyze trends that have a direct impact on success.
HVACR Industry Trends
The economic environment for HVACR demand is very promising. New innovations are opening doors, creating opportunities for new markets to conquer and promote business growth. The HVACR systems market was an $81.1 billion market as of 2015. The market is expected to grow by 5.5 percent each year through 2020, leading to opportunities worth $130.7 billion by that time, according to the News. One of the anticipated major players in the equation is refrigeration, which is expected to be a major player in this growth, as the demand for food processing and cold storage expands. Construction markets are growing and adding demand for contractors, while economic activity in the residential construction market is improving, expanding the need for residential and commercial HVAC services.
Growth in the HVACR space is taking a shift compared to previous years where the focus was only on maintenance and replacements, the largest driver of the industry just a year ago. But at the 2018 AHR Expo, the annual Economic Outlook Survey of HVACR manufacturers identified that new construction was the largest market driver heading into 2018, with 45 percent of respondents citing that specifically as the growth engine for the future.
New construction projects provide many challenges for HVACR organizations who want to take advantage of the market shifting towards the rollout of new heating and air conditioning units. Another large driver of opportunity is recurring maintenance contracts and daily break/fix repairs, and generally, HVAC organizations who are also installing new units are sharing a labor pool alongside their regular service department. So, a workforce management issue could arise from taking on large installation projects that require significant hours to complete, pulling time and technicians away from their daily service tasks.
Where Does Service Management Software Come in?
The past decade has seen a leap in technology advancement not only on the equipment side but also on the business side. Various software platforms now allow enterprises to monitor fleet management, field service management, inventory, invoices, payroll, customer service, and improve sales and customer experiences digitally as opposed to previous manual and paper management. With all these solutions in the market now, we can safely say that service management software is the top choice. Service management software allows enterprises to manage and oversee service delivery to its customers, including work order management, scheduling, dispatch, diagnostics, maintenance activities, contract management, quoting for additional business and more. You can also track KPI’s and performance with advanced business intelligence capabilities, run reports, identify problem areas and overall, improve the business performance and establish whether business goals are being met or not. The main advantage of investing in a service management software is that you can manage all your HVACR operations on one platform and in real time. From scheduling the right technician to quoting additional work to billing your customer, it’s all under one umbrella.
What is Fieldpoint?
Fieldpoint is designed for HVACR service contracting firms seeking to track and improve performance, reliability, and scalability. Its features include service dispatch, mobile solutions, project job costing, business intelligence, subcontractor management integrations to multiple systems, KPI reporting, contract management and more.
As an all-in-one field service solution, Fieldpoint can manage every aspect of your service delivery, empowering your technicians with mobile app capabilities with advanced checklisting, giving your dispatchers scheduling and dispatching tools, and offering managers powerful analytical tools that allow them to make real-time business decisions with accurate information, straight from the field.
Catering to Larger Installations with Project & Job Costing by Fieldpoint
Fieldpoint can help you meet the high demands of your customers when performing new construction, as our project and job costing module gives HVACR organizations all the tools needed to plan the resources, budgets, and personnel needed for a complex installation. It allows you to schedule each task needed, with the parts and equipment required, for a fully transparent estimate in the number of hours it will take to complete the install, the cost of equipment and parts, and the labor needed to complete the project.
With out-of-box integrations to ERP, accounting and CRM systems, and built-in pricing schedules, you can hand your customer a budget that is accurate with previously built-in costs, while also having the visibility to see your profit margins on the project, so you are not eating away at your profits. Coordination of the purchasing of materials and equipment and requisitioning out-of-stock inventory is handled within Fieldpoint, with all purchases ending up in the invoice for the customer for an accurate invoice.
Fieldpoint’s project module automates the billing cycle, offering billing triggers that initiate an invoice based on different billing types. Selections can include fixed amounts on any kind of calendar schedule, the percentage of completion based, or billing for time worked and material used as you work, along with many other options to ensure cash flow throughout the project remains solid, and your budgets are being met.
Fieldpoint offers standard out-of-the-box financial integrations to many popular ERP and CRM systems. Fieldpoint’s open API (FPDTS) can be used to provide additional integrations to any systems that our customers may have. This tool can be used to provide simple or complex transfers of data efficiently, accurately, and with scalability.
Trends Observed at AHR 2018
Comprehensive Software Modules Designed to Provide an All in One Solution
Visitors to the software pavilion were exposed to a variety of software, all geared towards offering solutions that can help HVACR companies with efficiency, growth, and profitability. A challenge that has been highlighted in the past, is companies working on multiple systems for their operations. We can see a need arising to cater to HVAC companies that manage all aspects of the sales and service lifecycle, from quoting to projects to work orders to preventative maintenance contracts to mobile apps to billing. More than an optional luxury, we can see more HVAC enterprises willing to make that extra investment to work off a single integrated unified platform, with the view to keep up with the competition, keep their customers happy and ultimately become more profitable.
Project and Job Costing for Larger Installations
There is also the job costing aspect of new construction projects that factor into an HVACR organizations ability to take on such a large installation, as alongside labor and time from technicians that must be budgeted for, so too does purchasing the new unit, as well as additional parts, expenses, and other costs associated with a large project to install the HVAC unit. It’s no small task to offer construction services, and the demands to keep projects on-time and on-budget are exceptionally high from customers, who want an organization that can be detailed in their estimated budget and timelines, and deliver on those when they are awarded the new construction job.
Built-in Subcontractor Management Systems and Integrations to Existing Workforce Management Portals
There are various reasons that field service companies are turning to subcontractor management systems. There is the aging workforce factor that contributes to a field service talent shortage, as well as newer business models that suggest that subcontracting can be easier and faster than direct hiring. There is also the upcoming theory that subcontracting can offer you some warranties, whereas hiring someone directly will require additional efforts from you, not to mention the long-term costs associated with hiring a new in-house technician. All this, along with the obvious assumption that employing subcontractors or third-party vendors can be a great way to expand your company’s number of technicians, or spread your presence geographically without hiring dozens of new technicians, it looks like enterprises are starting to require subcontractor management as part of their field service software. Whether the subcontractor system is part of their service management system, or offers an integration with an external workforce management software, depends on
Supporting Latest Business Models with Fieldpoint Subcontractor Management
Should you need to be expanding your workforce to increase your ability to take on new construction projects, Fieldpoint’s subcontractor management portals give your organization the ability to expand beyond your geographical location and skill sets of your current technicians, by accessing a greater work pool through third-party vendors. Fieldpoint’s field service management software is the all-in-one option for subcontractor on-boarding, accepting their bids and quotes on jobs, and pushing work orders to them in the filed using the same mobile apps as your in-house technician’s use. This allows them to close out calls faster, which speeds up, not only the invoice to the customer, but to the payment voucher to the subcontractor. In cases where your enterprise already has an external system to manage subcontractor on-boarding, such as WorkMarket or Service Channel, or you have an internal portal that your subcontractor’s log into when completing work orders, Fieldpoint can integrate with those system, so your service department can live within Fieldpoint, while having communication with the additional systems.
With many in the HVACR industry looking to add more service calls to their schedule, without having to increase the expenses of full-time technicians, subcontractors are being utilized more often, with some HVACR organizations using an entire subcontractor workforce in the operation of their service department. Fieldpoint’s platform allows service managers to stay inside one service platform to access the extended workforce, as built-in integrations provide the needed connection to third-party portals, limiting the amount of time needed to get work orders out to available subcontractors.
Best of Breed Native Mobile Apps with Advanced Checklisting Capabilities
Mobility has been a supporting application for the HVACR industry and in the software pavilion at the AHR Expo, there were plenty of mobile apps that were being offered that could assist HVACR technicians. Standalone mobile apps that measured Freon levels, efficiency calculators, and programming apps were prevalent, as solutions are being designed on mobile phones to avoid the need for technicians to be carrying multiple handheld devices and placing them all in easily downloadable apps for iPhone and Android devices. In the field service industry, integrated mobile apps that improve communication between technicians and office staff were also of high interest, as the industry continues to turn to a paperless based work order system that is fully integrated with a back-office field service management software. Lacking on the software floor was enterprise-wide accessibility to a field service software from mobile apps and devices. Technicians quoting, checking stock levels on inventory, and having access to financial information from the field is now being discussed as a must have for HVAC organizations who want to embrace a full solution for their field service software that is partnered with a mobile app, as opposed to having just a standalone app for individual tasks. Meanwhile, for compliance and inspections, advanced checklisting capabilities on mobile apps are ensuring quality control, offering an electronic way for field technicians to complete inspections, and submit them quickly back to office administration and to the customer, straight from a mobile device.
A Better Mobile Solution with Fieldpoint
Fieldpoint’s mobile app can be utilized by in-house technicians or subcontractors, offering them a simple application that provides all the details of a service call in the palm of their hand. With routing tools, expense and time capturing, and advanced checklists that manage workflow through the creation of smart and recurring answers, the Fieldpoint mobile app is a tool that works along with your field service software, as opposed to a standalone application, and feeds real-time data into your software. From the field, the entire field service management software can be accessed, as a responsive layout configures the look of the software to the size of your device, giving complete enterprise-wide accessibility to your technicians.
Fieldpoint’s advanced checklisting functionality allows you to build and design your own checklist templates for any type of compliance inspection, report or service repair on a piece of equipment. Those checklists can be attached to specific work orders and used with the Fieldpoint mobile app to control workflow for your technicians. Smart questions and required answers respond to the technician’s input on their device, and changes their workflow based on their answers, requiring the technician to complete the entire checklist before closing out a work order.
Advanced Integrations Out of the Box and Open API’s to Build Integrations to Existing Systems
When it comes to integrated software, the pace of change has significantly accelerated, driven first by mobile and next by IoT, and will likely require more frequent, ongoing improvements and integrations. It might seem overwhelming to integrate different systems for each of your business needs: service management, accounting, ERP, subcontractor management, etc. However, with today’s flexible software options, it’s easier (and smarter) to look for best-of-breed solutions that can integrate and talk to other systems. One of the most vital integrations is the financial one. In an industry like HVAC, there are many different types of billing and cycles, costs, inventory needs and payroll. To manage all these individually would be an administrative nightmare. In this digital age, pending payments and delayed cash flows are becoming a thing of the past.
Fieldpoint – An Integrated Software for Enterprise Service Delivery
Fieldpoint also helps to build a complete enterprise with our built-in integrations to multiple systems that HVACR organizations are using. From accounting software, such as Microsoft GP, NetSuite, and QuickBooks, to tax software, CRM and ERP systems, and workforce management systems such as WorkMarket and Service Channel, Fieldpoint comes prepared to work along with any piece of software you use through Fieldpoint’s open API and data transfer service. The ability is available to connect any software your organization utilizes, and have it communicated with Fieldpoint’s field service software for a complete end-to-end solution.
IoT (Internet of Things) and Telematics
IoT or machine to machine communication is promising to be the most disruptive technology to hit us in a long time. The idea of devices and equipment having sensors that are connected, being able to send alerts with minimal or no human intervention, is not a far-fetched notion anymore. We can look forward to improved productivity, remote access, and a reduction in the need for on-site visits.
The idea behind IoT driven automation is to:
- Shift from a reactive business model to a proactive one
- Manage inspections, diagnostics and reporting remotely
- Maintain adequate stock and inventory levels
As equipment sensors and data intelligence become more sophisticated, insights, triggers, and alerts from connected equipment and devices through the IoT are looking like they will become a standard of service. Another upcoming trend at the AHR 2018 show was around customized telematics tracking devices and systems management technology for field service management. We can anticipate seeing further advanced GPS tracking that improves field service response time by tracking vehicle and equipment location to efficiently deploy service technicians. The end goal is to deliver a complete solution to transform work processes and efficiency for customers.
The Future of Field Service is Here with Fieldpoint
Internet of Things (IoT) integration is available for machine to machine communication, which can take HVAC organizations into the realm of predictive maintenance, as opposed to preventative and emergency repair. With IoT, sensor technology can alert the Fieldpoint field service software of a possible failure in a piece of equipment before it happens, giving the service team a chance to repair any issue before it results in expensive downtime. An automated alert will be sent to the field service software and can create a work order automatically, ensuring the problem is resolved before any downtime occurs.