Canal and River Trust

Sector: Charitable Trust

About the Trust

Canal and River Trust (CRT), formerly British Waterways, is a Charitable Trust for England & Wales and is the UK’s leading navigation authority with responsibility for managing & maintaining 2,200 miles of canals, rivers and docks.

CRT is required to carry out its statutory responsibilities within a wider context whereby subject to economic and environmental appraisal it aims to promote and accommodate conservation and regeneration; to maintain and enhance leisure, recreation, tourism and educational opportunities for the general public and to facilitate waterway transport.

CRT works in partnership with the public, private and voluntary sectors in order to deliver improvements around its waterways and actively encourages the involvement of the community and local groups to unlock the networks potential.

The challenge

CRT uses SAP ERP as its main business information system, working within the Plant Maintenance module for its asset management data, defect records and work order process. These work orders, SAP Plant Maintenance Orders, are used to plan, scope and schedule works in advance.

As works were completed, the costs of the works were collected on these orders. The internal time element of these costs, are then collected via a timesheet process. This fed actual work information into the PMO for work carried out by CRT’s employed direct labour workforce.

The legacy timesheet process used paper timesheets (generated weekly), which when completed were scanned, passed through Optical Character Recognition and ultimately uploaded into SAP. The Trust recognised that the paper based process was administratively cumbersome, with the information it feeds into their SAP system being neither, accurate, complete nor timely.

The solution

The Trust’s expectation was for a new system to be developed by a successful candidate and as a result of ITT, in conjunction with related improvement in the planning and scheduling of the PMOs themselves, would support a rapid improvement in the quality of time recording.

The Trust also took health and safety for its staff very seriously. As a result the Trust wished to make it as easy as possible for employees to raise ‘near miss’ reports. All ‘near miss’ reporting was undertaken using SAP Notifications. A further extension of the IIT was that an app would be made available for use on all smartphones across the business, which would automate the capture of key information and the raising of subsequent notifications in SAP.

Results

mxData produced a Time Recording Application specifically targeted at the Trusts preferred Android handsets, allowing all data capture to be performed by the relevant member of staff at the completion tasks. It was designed to allow users, at all levels, an intuitive way to see all of their tasks, input their times and add new tasks as required, as well as capturing specific health and safety information that was key to their employees. The app was designed specifically for use in the field with light levels and poor connectivity being key constraining factors. All data entered was carefully mapped back to the source SAP data fields ensuring integrity with existing systems whilst not over complicating the user interface.

mxData also produced a Near Miss Application for both Android and iOS devices that allowed staff to record a number of incidents directly on their handsets at the time of the incident. The user interface was designed to allow this to be simple yet still making sure the data produced would reconcile into the very specific SAP data structures. The application also made use of the devices positional awareness to ensure incidents were logged at the nearest Trust defined location.

Both applications made extensive use of caching, to ensure all data entry could be inputted outside of network coverage but still ensuring the latest possible data was stored on the devices and updated records uploaded as soon as network connectivity was restored.

To support both Time Recording and Near Miss applications, mxData also produced a custom middleware tier. This provides a range of client and server API’s as well as a management interface, all utilising secure and compressed communications. This allows all of the data sets imported from SAP to be stored and optimised ready for client downloads. It manages the process for importing and exporting of data sets and mapping these to the SAP data structures as well as the timing of the imports and exports to be aligned with the daily scheduling runs performed in SAP. It also provides a single point for all of the user management, data management and auditing activities from both the applications and the middleware allowing CRT to fully manage the solution.

CRT recognised that this investment in mobile technology for field workers (Operatives) was perceived as an enabler and is expected to bring continual soft benefits in terms of engagement and motivation.