Software improves efficiency
A Kiwi firm's electronic building consent software is improving building inspector productivity and providing valuable data identifying council consent logjams.
Feilding-based Master Business Systems (MBS) recently beat out multinational competitors to secure the country's second-largest council consent software contract with Christchurch City Council (CCC).
MBS's GoGet software does away with paperwork. Building inspectors take a tablet device pre-loaded with their jobs for the day to the building site and use it to record notes, reports, photos and work requests.
The tablet reads the inspector's handwriting and translates it into text.
This data is pushed back to GoGet's server, automatically generating emails, events, notices and tasks for the consent team, and other council staff, to follow up on.
MBS is not a new kid on the block. The company was founded by Laurence Bevan 18 years ago and GoGet has been on the market for seven, with Tauranga and Manukau councils early adopters.
The Christchurch deal brings MBS's number of contracted councils to 14, boosting its $2 million annual turnover by 50 per cent.
Bevan said GoGet allows building inspectors to complete as many as four more inspections per day.
Inspectors no longer need to pull paperwork for each site which can take over an hour, instead loading the tablet in five minutes, he says.
But they can be resistant to the system at the beginning. Many say there is no way the tablet will be able to read their handwriting, Bevan said. MBS's training focuses on handwriting and within a few days on the job 98 per cent of what inspectors input is recognised, he said.
"We have had guys adamant they couldn't operate it; then you can't get the tablet out of their hands."
Efficiencies are also gained by doing away with manual inputting of the inspector's notes by administrative staff, Bevan said.
Data mined from GoGet is also identifying blockages in consent processing. One of its council clients found a "gobsmacking" 60 per cent of consents lodged were going back to the applicant for further information.
"All the public hears about is that councils have 20 working days, but actually some other document may be needed so the consent sat on someone's desk for a month," Bevan said.
Councils will be able to use the data to help people lodging consents make sure they don't fall into common traps or miss vital information.
An area of development it has focused on with GoGet is to assist councils to meet their accreditation obligations and to date the feedback from auditors has been positive.
Christchurch City Council's 40 or so inspectors will start using GoGet this week. The Christchurch contract caps six months of rapid growth for the 17-strong firm.
MBS has signed up five councils in the past six months including Wellington City Council and it has 15 proposals out with councils at the moment, Bevan said.
"Now we have Wellington and Christchurch we think we must be doing something right," he said.
"The key focus for us was making sure we are helping the councils and making a difference. We believe we are doing that with this software."
MBS provides a number of councils with IT support including web and intranet development and desktop support.
Now that GoGet is proving it can be scaled up, MBS is looking to add processes in the next 18 months including liquor licensing, food premises and dog inspections, Bevan said.
It has considered trying to expand offshore, particularly Australia as its local government functions and legislation are similar to that in New Zealand.
"However we decided to focus on building a reasonable base of councils in New Zealand and expanding the product range which we think are necessary before taking the product offshore. Councils would be more likely to take up the product if we "covered all the bases" for them, which is what we are working towards over the next year or so," Bevan said.
Sunday Star Times