As NatGas began to grow several years ago, maintenance efforts were being handled by individual technicians in a non-centralized manner. When Ricardo Andre Carmona, Director of Engineering at NatGas, arrived in 2016, he found many disparate systems.
“Nothing was working in one specific manner,” Ricardo explained. “Some technicians were actually doing work orders and putting them in binders. Others were trying to work with Excel, and I had some technicians who were really tech savvy, and they were working with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that was kind of in the development.”
Ricardo knew he needed to bring all these pieces together and also be able to connect a centralized maintenance system to the company’s other software systems.
Ricardo began looking at different applications. He selected UpKeep because it came with the APIs required in order for NatGas to be able to integrate different platforms into one.
“The other thing that I was looking for was a mobile-first application,” Ricardo said. “I needed my technicians to be able to pull up their work orders in the field. I think that I was missing about 50% of the work orders back then because they were not getting uploaded. The old CMMS system was only a desktop application that was not friendly to use.
“And finally, I wanted to be able to opt out anytime that I wanted to,” Ricardo added. “If I decided the solution wasn’t working, I needed to be able to export all my data quickly.”
NatGas found all three of these requirements met by UpKeep. Because UpKeep allows companies to upload and download data easily, it makes migration to and from the platform simple. “That openness was a sign of confidence that the company has in its own product,” Ricardo said.
NatGas worked closely with its technicians during the onboarding and training process, and the response from the maintenance team was very positive. Team members quickly jumped on board and started coming up with ideas of how to better use the tool to improve their work processes.
“In the beginning we were missing a lot of data,” Ricardo said. “Now, I can assure you that there is not a single work that gets done that our technicians are not uploading to UpKeep. In fact, the technicians who work in operations at the stations are faithful requesters. If they see something is wrong, they have the protocol and they report it. As a result, we get all the data we need. The cool thing is that nothing is getting past UpKeep.”
The ability to connect disparate systems into UpKeep’s platform helped to jump start NatGas’ ability to dive deep into existing data.
“I have a database where I keep all my electrical and gas supplier bills in a transactional and sales system,” Ricardo said. “I have them in silos, and when we started with UpKeep, I connected them to maintenance. By doing that, I was actually getting ahead on the reporting piece for the whole maintenance unit. We need to report how our maintenance operation is related to our sales. For example, what level of corrective maintenance is required per served vehicle.”
In addition, the connection between systems helps the team spot other inefficiencies. “Our dashboard allows us to see how our electrical consumption is tied to maintenance efforts,” Ricardo said. “We had one situation where I noticed that we had a sudden increase in electrical consumption, and I could see that we happened to have maintenance work done by a contractor during that same period. I asked my manager to check into that immediately, and we discovered there was some modification that one of our contractors had made on our equipment that caused the increase. It was spotted so quickly, and that incident alone saved us 20% of our electrical bill per month.”
One of NatGas’ goals was to reduce the amount of its corrective maintenance, which was sitting at around 50% before UpKeep. As the company collected more data, technicians had what they needed to be able to make smarter decisions, and the management team could get a better overview of all its stations and what was happening in terms of equipment and components.
“For example, we could see data down to the tiniest parts,” Ricardo said. “Let’s say we had a valve that was malfunctioning. We could see that this particular valve had to be replaced at every single station. Having that data allows us to put preventive maintenance procedures in place to replace that valve before it fails.”
Currently, NatGas has reduced its corrective maintenance to 20%.
One unexpected benefit of using UpKeep was the increase in maintenance technicians’ productivity. “Our technical team could get together proactively to check all the metres as well as the graphs of pressures and temperatures in different locations,” Ricardo said. “They could say ‘all right, we’re good here’ and move to the next location, or identify something as a team that needed more attention.
“One of the things that surprised me is I had technicians that were doing a lot more work orders than before,” Ricardo continued. “We figured out that was because each technician was spending maybe one day per week uploading information from Excel into our old software. I was spending almost a full day putting together data. Now, we can spend the time on additional work orders and analysis.”
Beyond using work order data to achieve typical efficiencies, NatGas used UpKeep to create a motivational, competitive game for its employees. Not only did technicians see how they compared with colleagues, but they had an opportunity to earn extra vacation days for good performance.
Ricardo explained that he extracted work order data and began sharing it on a daily basis by posting pictures of the technicians on company televisions along with how many work orders they had opened and closed over the last week as well as how many work orders they had active.
“Beyond that, I could start grabbing the data from UpKeep and create a really interesting scoring system,” Ricardo said. “If technicians completed work orders on time, they got 100 points. As the deadline passed, the points earned would drop. They could see their scores in progress, and the person who had the highest score received an extra day off the next month. The whole team was really into it.”
Although being able to opt out of UpKeep was a requirement in the beginning, NatGas has instead experienced a great deal of success by implementing UpKeep’s mobile-first solution. Increasing preventive maintenance, decreasing corrective maintenance, boosting productivity and employee morale, and reducing costs have already been achieved. NatGas and UpKeep’s partnership has become a win-win situation thus far, and both companies are excited to see what the future will bring.