BigChange automation drives huge efficiency gains at gritters Saltworks

Martin port

By Martin Port

25 January 2021

BigChange’s bespoke automation for gritting company Saltworks, part of the Works Services group of companies, uses Met Office data to drive efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The Irish weather is notoriously unpredictable. For Saltworks, which is responsible for gritting client sites across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, this is not just an inconvenience but a critical business problem.

Every time freezing temperatures are forecast, Saltworks must identify the sites requiring treatment and advise customers that it is coming. Before BigChange, that was a laborious manual process. The firm had to download Met Office forecasts for temperatures in different locations, and cross reference the locations expecting freezing temperatures against its database of client sites.

It had to manually create each individual job and assign them its mobile workforce. During this work, valuable time when sites could be prepared for cold weather was being wasted. And if forecasts changed, it was cumbersome to amend job lists to include additional jobs.

For clients, Saltworks could only send generic emails advising that gritting would take place, often requiring further telephone calls to confirm crucial details that differed from job to job.

“This administrative work took up more than three quarters of someone’s day, every day” says General Manager, Nuala Scott, “and it provided information to the clients that was ambiguous.”

That changed when Saltworks deployed BigChange’s mobile-workforce-management technology JobWatch, and developed a bespoke automation within the system that has proven to be a game changer.

What was once a manual process is now a slick automated process. Met Office data is fed into JobWatch, which automatically identifies cold weather locations and matches them to relevant client sites requiring treatment that day.

JobWatch then creates and allocates each job automatically to the best placed mobile resource, ensuring that routes are optimised for efficiency. Email notifications that gritting will take place are automatically populated with relevant information and sent – ensuring clients are kept fully in the loop and slashing the amount of time wasted on back-office administration.

Saltworks trialled BigChange in 2018, rolling out JobWatch to the rest of its operations in 2019. It is now used to manage 15 gritting teams, and has been so successful it is also used by five teams on the other side of the business.

There has been a measurable improvement in back-office efficiency. Nuala says “BigChange has streamlined our operation – saving us the equivalent of two extra administrative staff. Automation has boosted the service we are delivering to clients and given us a unique competitive edge.”

“The communication flow has really stepped up a level thanks to BigChange and clients appreciate that,” says Nuala. “Other companies I speak to are really impressed with what we’ve been able to achieve working with BigChange. No other gritting companies in Northern Ireland can come close to delivering what we do.”

BigChange automation drives huge efficiency gains at gritters Saltworks

Read Next