WhiteWater was looking for a way to better track service-related items for approximately 75 small decentralized wastewater treatment facilities, 300 small public water systems and an assortment of water and wastewater pumping stations.
“We have our operations group of water and wastewater facilities, our compliance and operations support staff in the office, and a full-service maintenance group with about 13 employees,” said Eric Smith, Project Executive who oversees water, wastewater and maintenance groups at WhiteWater. “We were using a really antiquated system that consisted of Excel spreadsheets, phone calls, and an embarrassing amount of emails. We needed to find a better way to manage it all.”
After exploring several different technologies, WhiteWater chose UpKeep’s mobile-first solution. The company looked at three to five technologies in-depth with vendor presentations.
“We sort of stumbled upon UpKeep,” Eric said. “However, UpKeep seemed to meet our initial needs and do it in a fashion that offered us some customization ability but not too many options. It checked a lot of the boxes for our immediate needs.”
Chris Astephen, Operations Coordinator at WhiteWater, added, “UpKeep had the combination of initial simplicity of meeting our immediate needs and the potential to grow and add new features for us.” The ability that UpKeep exhibited for growing with WhiteWater into the future was appealing.
WhiteWater has been using UpKeep for about three years, and the management team attributes the successful implementation to establishing champions early in the process.
“I think we’ve been successful because we got a good team together and really created some buy-in and engagement,” Eric said. “We showed them what we were thinking and why we were thinking of making the changes. We included an array of different team members, including selecting some of our more challenging team members. We knew if we could get buy-in from those folks early on, we had a better chance of success.”
WhiteWater held some round-tables to talk through the technology. Although those initial conversations generated a certain level of buy-in, the company worked to keep the group engaged throughout the whole process. The group was consulted through updates and new ways the company might use the technology.
“It was really about engaging the group, working through the tool, and setting expectations on both sides of the fence,” Eric said. “That includes the users within our maintenance group that are executing work as well as the requesters.”
WhiteWater created a one-page expectation document, which started at the beginning with the requester piece and moved through the whole process. Management added sub notes on different things throughout the process, working to encapsulate and communicate as completely as possible. This helped WhiteWater hold team members accountable.
Chris served as the bridge between the management team and the operators. “I would take the ideas from our management team and share it with the employees in the field,” Chris explained. “They can bring their ideas about how the technology is used, what the interface looks like, and the effects it’s having upstream or downstream, and we can make changes to improve the process.”
WhiteWater places a high priority on employee safety, and part of the company’s culture involves looking at potential safety challenges at the start and throughout each day.
“Each employee has a daily safety plan, which helps them set up for a particular body of work,” Eric said. “It involves a pre-planning process, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job, and safe driving issues. We also discuss fall protection, rigging procedures to move equipment safety, excavation safety, and chemical handling safety.”
Since WhiteWater’s employees are spread out over a large geographic area and frequently work alone, finding a way to encourage and remind employees of safety protocols was a challenge.
“We want to communicate those safety plans, review them, and have good discussions
related to them with our employees,” Eric said. “We also wanted to be able to capture data and analytics related to safety. UpKeep helps us capture those important and impactful items that are within our daily safety plans.”
WhiteWater has a daily safety plan kickstarter, which includes a series of questions and an opportunity for employees to enter safety information before they start their day.
“We try to start simple with weather in their areas, if any accidents are reported en route, or if any other changes to their daily routine need to be considered,” Eric said. “All those different alerts actually come to my phone each morning so I can see that the team’s getting going for the day, engaging in the process and whether there are any issues to review.”
In addition, every work order requested from the operations group automatically has a daily safety plan assigned to it. “Team members who may have completed one task and be going out to another would have the ability to pause and take the time to complete a daily safety plan and make sure it aligns with their next body of work,” Eric said.
WhiteWater customized the recurring work order feature in UpKeep to implement its safety kickstarter program. Each employee starts his or her day with a safety plan kickstarter, which includes answering a few specific questions related to their day and safety. They are even encouraged to do a stretch-and-flex exercise specific to their job duties to help prevent sprains and strains.
“We’re at zero incidents and zero lost time for the year so far,” Eric said. “I believe we had only injury last year, not counting minor incidents like tick bites. One is still too many, so I absolutely think that by rolling in our daily safety plan process into UpKeep and having our team members take a minute to pause puts everybody in a better position to be safe and successful.”
One of WhiteWater’s challenges was working less tech savvy employee team members.,” Eric said. “We have a very blue-collar, hardworking, great team out there, but technology savviness is inconsistent across our team.”
Although everyone has smartphones, getting employees up to speed on new technology is always a bit of a challenge. Typically, new employees are paired with a more experienced team member or a supervisor for a while so they can learn UpKeep as well as other job responsibilities.
“UpKeep has a relatively easy, intuitive feel about it, yet it was a little bit of a challenge to get it downloaded properly across more than 60 operators out in the field,” Eric said. “We wanted to get it done right, establish alerts and the set points, and all the other details. When someone’s phone breaks, you’re doing it all over again. It can be easy for team members to get frustrated with the technology. Chris and other supporting team members have been incredibly compassionate and patient in working with our diverse workforce in terms of implementing the technology.”
Chris prioritized establishing a trusted relationship with his team so they could better work together throughout the process.
“They know they can come to me, and I will help champion their ideas,” Chris said. In addition, Chris helps those a little less tech savvy navigate and learn UpKeep to collect the needed information to establish preventive maintenance procedures or capture asset information.
“I have one technician who’s not tech-savvy but has such a great attitude,” Chris said. “He pushes me to do a little more and helps me spread a learning spirit to the rest of the team. We’ve actually gotten to the point where he’s actually showing me stuff in UpKeep that I haven’t tried or seen before. So that’s really exciting.
“It takes a lot of patience,” Chris continued. “I’m fairly young, and I love technology. I can dive into most smartphone things pretty quick and pick up on it. However, I’m trying to take a step back and remember that not everyone is like me, not everyone will be able to jump into the UpKeep app as easily.”
Chris admits if he’s not explaining something properly, his team will let him know. “It’s really just taking the time to make sure that they get it, they understand it, and they’re not going to walk away still being frustrated. It’s a matter of slowly building up those relationships, working with people and really understanding where they’re coming from on the tech piece. It’s been a long process, but it’s been well worth it.”