In April, we announced that we would be working with Jewson to deliver a ground-breaking repairs and maintenance initiative. Starting with a pilot project in Wiltshire, we installed smart containers which enable operatives to get the materials they need to the right place and at the right time, so repairs are completed for customers on the first visit.
Now, six months later, we look at what the partnership has delivered so far and how we can continue to improve our maintenance service.
Our smart containers work in a very similar way to Amazon Hub Lockers or Inpost machines. When operatives need parts, they order them to the locker via an app which alerts them when they are ready to collect along with a code to gain access. The app empowers operatives to manage their own supply of materials and brings specific non-van stock items to the operative - this helps to streamline our repairs process.
We currently have smart containers in Swindon, Chippenham and now another in the Midlands region.
From the outset of this initiative, we had our customers front and centre. We know our repairs service is the single most valued service we deliver, and customer voice insight tells us there are certain things that can cause friction in the course of getting a repair done. For this initiative, we set out four objectives, which seek to smooth the process:
- Reduce the time operatives spend sourcing parts
- Increase the number of first-time fixes thus removing the need for follow-on appointments
- Cut the amount of time operatives spend travelling in their vans
- Improve customer satisfaction with our repairs service.
Data captured since launching smart containers indicates significant progress has been made against each of these objectives. Here are some of the results as we reach the six-month milestone:
- Hours spent collecting materials has steadily decreased from 110 hours in April to 61 hours in August
- The percentage of appointments categorised as ‘follow-ons’ as a result of parts/materials being needed, have steadily reduced from 3.8% in April to 3.4% in August
- An extra 200 jobs were completed first time in August compared to April.
Our Executive Director of Operations, Rachel Crownshaw says: “Our close collaboration with Jewson and our shared motivation to challenge the status quo in the sector, has been a major factor in the progress made to date.
“When something gets broken or damaged, our customers, quite rightly, want a repair or replacement promptly.
“It’s far from ideal to have two visits to complete the same job, not least because customers often need to take time off work or from other commitments to be at home for the repair.
“Our smart containers are reducing the instances of follow-on appointments by ensuring our operatives have all the parts they need to make a repair there and then. We anticipate our partnership will make a big difference based on the improvements it is producing.
“We have made a promising start, but it will take more time to gain a fuller understanding of how our smart containers partnership is impacting on our service - this will become much clearer as we scale up and get more smart containers in our communities.
“We believe that smart containers are going to be a game changer for housing providers, and we’re very proud to be leading the way.”
Our pioneering approach to repairs and maintenance has been recognised at the UK Housing Awards 2022 in the ‘Innovator of the Year’ (housing association or local authority) category. The winner will be announced on Friday 25 November.
With a successful first six months, the next stage of this project will see another smart container placed in either the Midlands or South region with a roll out to all our localities to follow.