Commercial enterprises today are barraged with products, solutions and services to help them in their digitalisation effort and while these offerings are generally good products, companies are often left with numerous solutions that do one or some things well, but don’t help the company to manage important aspects of their operations from the much-vaunted ‘single pane of glass’.
As an example, almost every company, business park or estate has some form of access control to manage staff access as well as visitors and contractors (and the like) that come and go randomly. They may also have a workforce management solution to ensure people are where they are meant to be and doing what they are meant to be doing – which is especially important as remote working conditions become more common and accepted. Logistics companies may have systems to track vehicles on the move, as well as collections or deliveries, or asset management solutions that track the use and possibly even the location of tools or equipment used in everyday operations.
Managing all of these systems is rarely integrated and it is even more unusual for the same system to have the ability for management to manage their departments as part of an integrated whole, even when using mobile devices.
Skycom, along with its mobile solutions partner, Nimbus Solutions, has developed a platform that incorporates all of the above into a single cloud-based system, supporting in-house operations management, as well as mobile visibility and reporting in real-time.
A variety of mobility solutions are modularised, allowing customers to choose different functionality as they require it, all integrated and managed from the same interface. Offered as a cloud service, the customer always has the latest version to work from and adding new modules is simple – everything is already integrated. In addition, integration to existing payroll or other business applications can be easily accomplished via APIs (application programming interfaces), or by custom development as and when required.
Complete access management
Starting with logging visitors and contractors, the system offers solutions from basic logging of visitors, through to integrating deliveries and collections with business systems. Johan van Heerde, GM of Skycom, comments that mobile devices at an access point can be used to identify and collect information about the driver and vehicle, automatically checking if the vehicle is stolen or on a suspect vehicle list. It can also check if the driver is on a restricted list resulting from a previous infraction or criminal record, for example. This is all done via the cloud in real-time.
Depending on the policy of the organisation and if everything is verified, the vehicle can then be granted access and instructed where to go, or which loading bay to use. Using technology deployed on site, the vehicle can be tracked to ensure that it proceeds to the correct location. The time spent at the location is monitored and an alert may be raised if the vehicle spends too much time at a loading bay, thus causing a potential bottleneck for other collections or deliveries. Remedial action reduces turn-round time, in turn improving efficiency, optimum utilisation and profitability.
Should a problem arise with the initial data collected, the company’s standard operating procedure will determine whether the vehicle will be granted discretionary access, or in risky situations, whether the vehicle will strictly be denied access. Additionally, a tactical response team may be alerted to intercept the vehicle.
For companies with vehicles on the road doing transportation, or where technicians use vehicles to visit client sites, the system is integrated with mapping and GPS tracking technologies. This allows Skycom’s control room, the company, or its security service provider to determine the routes drivers should take and receive alerts when something is amiss, for example, a wrong turn, or stopping when the vehicle should be moving as opposed to moving when it should be stationary. In-cab monitoring is also a common feature, as is direct one-to-one communication with drivers.
The mobile modules mentioned above have been developed over a number of years, ensuring that the bulk of customer requirements have been catered for. Van Heerde says, “Deploying the solution to a new customer is usually 90% configuration and only 10% customisation”.
An example of this is deploying the solution at a university with over 60 000 students and staff members, where the normal access control processes had to be hastily enhanced to deal with Covid-19 lock-down requirements. This included a pre-authorisation questionnaire which students and staff were required to complete on their mobile devices or computers prior to arrival on campus. Once the questionnaire is successfully completed, these individuals receive a QR code via email, SMS or Android app to speed up entrance procedures at entrances to relevant campuses.
Temporary workers engaged in a refurbishment or new building project can also be scanned and cleared before being granted access to the site for a pre-determined period and their time on site is monitored for verification of time spent and payroll purposes.
Asset management integrated
The system includes workflow functionality for asset management. Van Heerde explains, “This is not a replacement for existing inventory management, but enables companies to mobilise their workflow in real-time to manage where equipment is, who has it and for how long.” It includes processes for checking returned equipment for damage, recalibration and other alerts. When equipment is returned, the system ensures that the equipment is quarantined until such time as it can be sanitised, before being issued to the next person.
In a security company, for example, the issuing of firearms and ammunition can be streamlined using mobile devices. Upon return, the system ensures that supervisors check the weapons for damage and also that the correct amount of ammunition has been returned. This can naturally be extended to any operation, such as the issuing of welding equipment, tools or even vehicles.
As an integrated system, once a driver has been assigned and accepted responsibility for a vehicle via his mobile device, the system then tracks all movements of the vehicle as mentioned above. New orders or routes can be communicated to the driver via the mobile app and at the same time any existing or new collections or deliveries are confirmed using the same device. Once again, integration ensures that collections and deliveries are linked to purchase orders and ensure that invoices are issued as soon as proof of delivery has been confirmed.
In addition, a number of alerts may be set up to warn the customer as soon as an issue, or an exception, is identified. By way of example, Van Heerde says, “If a driver is transporting valuable goods and if the journey is expected to take a certain time, any delays in arrival will trigger an alert, as will any deviations from the assigned route”.
All of the above is accomplished through barcode, QR code and/or RFID scanning using the mobile device or using on-site readers and scanners. Assets required by staff can be checked out or in using this method, ensuring the company is always aware as to who is in possession of equipment and when it has been returned.
Once a workforce management system is in place, the company will know exactly to what project or task the equipment has been assigned, as well as for how long. Using the app, a person or team can be assigned tasks remotely and can keep the company informed of progress directly from their devices, even if out of cellular range; the data is stored locally on the device and immediately synchronised once restored to a network.
Cloud control room
As a modular system, clients can select any number of mobile modules they require, assured of seamless integration. In addition, Skycom monitors any of the above-mentioned functionality from its control centre and alerts clients or their security service providers when something unexpected occurs or when an alert is raised. As a cloud-based system, clients may also elect to monitor and manage the system on-site and depending on the authorisations permitted, supervisors are able to manage their areas of concern via mobile devices in real-time.
As the system has numerous modules and integrations into existing business applications already in operation, getting it up and running for a new customer does not generally require new development, but simply understanding what the client needs and thereafter configuring the solution to satisfy their specific requirements. Naturally, development for new integrations or bespoke modules may be scoped should this become a requirement.
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