Workers Taking Measurements

Top 10 Benefits of Using Field Service Automation Software

Just how much wastage is witnessed in your operations? Each morning your technicians report to work, they receive the day’s schedule, go through the inventory for the parts and tools that will be required, collect and fill the paperwork, before finally hitting the road- translating to hours of manual organisation. What of the information they need when they are at the site? Are they carrying around bulky files on each individual customer? Your field technicians are also responsible for lots of the equipment being handled- and you want to keep a tab on it all- knowing what is being worked on, when it is happening, how long it takes, and the materials that have been used. Dealing with all this on your end through loads of Excel sheets, calculating and updating time logs, and ticking off the inventory- it can be a strain. Field Service Automation Software comes in to handle it all- from the scheduling and tracking, to inventory control and invoicing- all on the same platform.

Eliminating the Paperwork and Optimising Your Operations

There has been a surge in demand for all-in-one Field Service Management (FSM) solutions. They leverage the power of mobile technology, cloud computing and social collaboration to boost the efficiency of field services. In fact, the FSM market is growing at rates never seen before, if the recent statistics are anything to go by. According to the latest estimates, it is worth $3.5 billion and is expected to hit $5.9 billion by 2024.

It’s understandable why this is happening. Technology is advancing, and we all know it’s every entrepreneur’s dream to optimise the use of the available resources while guaranteeing customer satisfaction. If technology can deliver this through automation, why not? Every business now wants to automate things, and the focus is to maximise resource output. You should, therefore, not be surprised to see the FSM software industry booming. If you just considered the field service industry, you’ll realise that there are so many software applications to help with service automation, whether full or partial.

A good example is FieldElite , which helps with the management of field workers. From your desktop or the palm of your hands, on a tablet or smartphone, you can take full control of your field workers, manage scheduled jobs, and use maps to manage work assignments for the already dispatched field workers. Not only does FieldElite help you handle tasks in an accountable manner but also provides options for accounting and reports, all managed in an easy to use dashboard.

10 Benefits Field Service Automation Software Brings On Board

Why would organisations need to invest in a Workforce management app? Below are some of the key benefits of using a Field Service Management software:

1. Cut down the down-time and make every minute count

From scheduling your operations, mapping out preferred routes, dispatching the service team, to staying connected with them throughout the tasks, you get to improve worker efficiency with field service software like FieldElite. 

Most FSM software programs allow the administrator to send tasks directly to the field worker’s mobile. More often than not, the FSM software provides vital information, including service history, optimal route to the site, the tools required, and contact numbers, among other details.

This improves efficiency by ensuring that the client’s needs are taken care of promptly. Where it’s about machine maintenance, the downtime would be as short as possible.

2. Enhance professionalism and boost your brand image

FSM software programs are known for ensuring professionalism in the manner in which business activities are conducted. Of course, professionalism is attained through several factors, including working with a team of professionals. Such a team, using FSM software, results in enhanced efficiency and excellence.

A field service software like FieldElite helps you to consolidate all your business information into a single central database. With different access levels, your employees will access only as much information as is relevant to their respective duties.

An FSM software is ideal because the stored information can be accessed from any location, meaning field workers can pick new tasks while in the field, provided they’ve got the requisite tools. Instead of having to come back to the office, the employee would access all the information and execute the necessary task.

3. Resource Optimisation with Real-time Field Service Automation Software

Resource optimisation is one of the key determinants of a company’s profitability. While businesses vary in size and purpose, they all share one thing in common – the desire to increase productivity while ensuring the optimal usage of resources.

Besides productivity, field service software also allows for efficient utilisation of the available resources to cut down on costs.

4. Stay connected with all your crew- and coordinate them better

FSM software facilitates improved coordination with the workforce. The software streamlines the management of the entire field service life cycle, ranging from labour to work orders, returns, contracts, warranties, and equipment.

The idea is to bring all the company’s field-related operations to a central point. And now, with easy data accessibility from a central platform, improved coordination is easily achievable.

5. Get accurate data and make well-informed decisions every step of the way

Adopting the field service management software is more than just a way to improve efficiency. It goes a long way towards improving a company’s accuracy. When a field service management software is used to trace a company’s activities, all the tasks are tracked on the mobile device, keeping the managers informed of every step.

Besides, the technicians also have a free reign to record the diagnostics, quality information, test results, and the parts consumed. All the information can be captured using text, audio, videos, and still photos. This guarantees minimal to no instances of data manipulation.

6. Improve Customer Satisfaction: Win Their Loyalty

Field service management software improves customer satisfaction. How does that happen? Well, using a field service software like FieldElite allows for quick response to customer queries. If there’s one thing that quickly turns your customers off, it’s delayed response to their requests. With the field service management software, however, you can respond to such requests quickly and effortlessly.

Moreover, your customers can also track the service engineer to ensure they’re well informed of any anticipated delays. With quick response time, customer machines have more reliable uptime, which is the desire of every client.

7. Flexibility – because no one likes being tied down

If there’s one thing that customers like when dealing with a company, it’s flexibility. Instinctively, customers will always want different options to choose from when using a service without appearing to be confined to one provision. Having limited options would also appear boring.

To this extent, it would be wiser to adopt advanced FSM software. Advanced FSM software is compatible with mobile phones, meaning users can easily manage their tasks from isolated locations. FSM software can either be device-agnostic or device-specific. The device-specific type supports Android, Windows, and Apple iOS. This guarantees mobile-friendly tasks where users can easily manage the assignments via mobile application.

8. Store client history in secure cloud-based FSM software

Software like FieldElite stores client history precisely. All the past data, including order history, are stored separately and accurately. In so doing, the field technician gets easy access to the tools, specifications, and technician instructions that aid them in their operations. The result is increased productivity and on-time service delivery.

9. Asset Management and Inventory Control

Naturally, companies offering different repair services have plenty of assets to store. Accordingly, retrieving a specific part out of the large collection would be daunting.

With a field service application like FieldElite, the staff members can track down all the products effortlessly using the GPS. Furthermore, the FSM software ensures excellent maintenance of assets.

10. Improve oversight of field workers – and keep them in the loop

The FSM software comes with many useful tools, including a built-in GPS tracker. The GPS tracker oversees the operations of the on-field workers, providing precise details about their geographical location, actual arrival time, and most importantly, the distance from the job site.

While this might not be useful at all times, it comes in handy when you need to assign an urgent task to the nearby technician. Call it a classic example of dynamic scheduling.

Final Thoughts

With so much at stake, it’s increasingly compelling to include the Field Service Management Software in your business. With every industry moving towards automation, your business cannot afford to lag.

Quick and efficient service delivery through FSM software may be the difference between you and your competitors.

The FSM software is no longer the cherry on the cake but a must-have tool for your survival in the highly competitive market.

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People working in call center

Job & Staff Scheduling with FieldElite Mobile Service Management Software

Field Service Management (FSM) software systems are designed to enable you to manage your mobile workforce from a central point- and do away with the paperwork involved with the process. They connect your technicians on the ground (via app on their phones), to the staff at the head office- who have an interactive dashboard accessed through their browsers. The office team will have access to all the jobs that are to be handled by the company, simplifying the management process and taking away the risks that come with manual data entry. Here, we will walk you through a quick process of scheduling a job for your personnel with FieldElite.

Say you are a HVAC contractor, licensed, bonded and insured. You’ve made quite a name for yourself in the industry, and have a wide range of clients- in both residential and commercial establishments. Consequently, you also have a large workforce to attend to the different situations- from installing to repair and maintenance. One of your clients- let’s call them ABC Computer Supplies, has an issue with their HVAC unit- perhaps a pipe is leaking. It needs to be fixed, and ABC have booked an appointment.  Your goal here is to get one of your personnel to handle the task as soon as possible, and this field service scheduling software comes in handy.

There are two approaches that you can take:

1. Job Scheduling

From your Dashboard, on the left-hand side you will see the menu option. Clicking on Jobs, will take you to all jobs carried out by your company.

FieldElite

The filters will allow you to view different categories of jobs:

  • Complaint– This means that there was an issue with on ground during the task delivery, and the client lodged a complaint.
  • On hold– Here, different aspects can cause a job to be paused- like when spare parts or equipment required for repair jobs have been ordered, and one needs to wait for them to be shipped in from a different location.
  • Pending– This is basically your in-tray, a list of jobs that are to be carried out.
  • In Progress– The technicians are on the ground, attending to the client’s needs, and you’re getting routine updates from them.
  • Incomplete– Though the job had been assigned to the required technician, it was not completed in the set amount of time, thus requiring an additional visit to the site. Given that the FSM solution increases the first-time fix rate, cases of “incomplete tasks” are reduced.
  • Complete– The task is successfully done and the customer has appended their e-signature, and now it can be invoiced.
  • Cancelled Invoice– The head office determines that a particular invoice shouldn’t be paid, and thus cancels it.

Our focus here is the pending tasks, so use this filter. ABC’s HVAC job will be among these.  Clicking on its Job ID will open up the details of the task, with such an “Update Job” window:

FieldElite Job

This section contains all the information of the job- both past and present, which you can update in real-time. Any changes will be recorded by the system and can be viewed on the “Audit” tab.

As you can see here, the HVAC repair job is both “pending” and “urgent”. No one really likes sitting in an office that feels like an oven. Being the headquarters, it’s likely handles lots of foot traffic, and the damaged HVAC unit will make the working conditions really difficult. It’s best not to keep the client waiting, right?

So, head on over to the Supervisor and Workers section (on the same “Details” tab), and select the personnel suited for the task.

FieldElite Job Details

Set the time that the task will take for your technician, and once satisfied with the details of the job, click on Update. Voila! You’re done.

FieldElite Job Update

Immediately this happens, the worker received a notification on their app, telling them that they have been assigned the job.

From the app, the technician will be able to view the specifics of the HVAC job, including notes and attachments that you can add directly from your own dashboard, such as schematics of the building and reports from other technicians who installed the air conditioning system for the facility. You also get to add products that will be required for the task- like the pipe and panel mounted socket shown here. As the system also includes an inventory of the products used, their quantity and costs, you will be able to keep an accurate record of the supplies as they as are used.

As such, the field workers will not have to keep coming back to the central office to get documents and reports of new tasks, or walk around with bulky files. When they are carrying out the job, they will also be able to keep the staff at the office updated about its progress, through the chat feature on the mobile app, taking photos and adding notes as required.

2. Staff Scheduling

With this approach, the perspective is basically: “So I have a couple of jobs- which of my employees has time to handle them?” The FSM allows you to optimise your productivity- by ensuring that you get the most out of the staff work hours, and avoid cases of jobs going into overtime.

Follow these steps:

  1. Select “Scheduler” from the left-hand side of the window. You will have a view of the workers of your company and how their day is planned out, and a summary of the unassigned jobs.

Here, you can tell whose busy, and who can have a new task assigned to them at the click of a button- which is far more effective than keeping on jotting down points in your diary or going through files of documents.

If the job has yet to be added to the system- like for the cases of new clients, simply click on the “Add Job” button and key in its details.

  1. Scroll down, you will see a list of unassigned jobs.
unassigned jobs
  1. Next, click on the edit button under “Actions”. This will take you to the same “Update Job” window described in the first approach, in order to assign the preferred worker to the role.

This real-time dispatching avoids cases of your desk getting cluttered with paper sheets, and prevents duplicate entries as each job has its own ID and task details- from the scheduling to the invoicing. In this case, your HVAC technician will have access to the information needed right at the palm of their hand, to ensure that the task at ABC’s head office goes seamlessly. The optimised schedule will enable the task to be carried out faster- restoring normalcy to your client’s facility.  In case the client’s location is on the route that one of your technicians takes while heading home, you can take advantage of this by giving them the task towards the end of their working day- thus clearing more of your backlog, sorting out your client, and easing your technician’s worries about getting home late.

As you can see, the field service scheduling software enables you to easily and efficiently handle your workflow, avoid the mess that is associated with manual documentation and cases of your employees getting conflicting schedules and overlaps- which would strain them and dampen their morale. Streamlining your workflow and standardising operations ultimately results in increased customer satisfaction.

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Busy skilled maintenance technician repairing brewery equipment

Proactive Preventative Maintenance: How IoT and Field Service Management Software Helps

FieldElite, our mobile workforce management software, has been key to several industries’ return on investment. Whether it’s for plumbing, electrical, property management, cleaning, and maintenance, FieldElite has provided data centralisation for efficient management of these business activities. 

Field service management software is important to utilise current workload, and also helps resolve future issues. We’re talking about a proactive approach to preventative maintenance. 

How exactly do field service managements help in preventative maintenance? 

The answer lies in how field service management is interlinked with IoT in predicting future jobs for the mobile service industry.  

What is IoT? 

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices and sensors connected to the internet. These “things” (e.g. your smartphone or smartwatch) enable data to be sent and be received without human intervention.

Fundamentally, IoT is about devices being connected to the internet to allow remote monitoring

For many years now, remote monitoring for IT infrastructure has been widely used. 

What’s new that we’re experiencing right now is even the smallest devices — individual light bulbs and sensors — can have a network and internet connection, allowing entire systems to be monitored in great detail. 

Implementing IoT and accessing data can be challenging for most service organisations. However, when combined with predictive analytics and field management software, it can have a huge potential impact on individual businesses and the service industry as a whole. 

What is Preventative Maintenance? 

Preventive maintenance refers to regular, routine maintenance to help keep equipment up and running, preventing any unplanned downtime and expensive costs from unanticipated equipment failure. 

The goal of preventative maintenance is to decrease the likelihood of a machine or an equipment’s failure by performing regular maintenance. 

Preventative management can be very complex, especially for companies with a fleet of equipment or customers. It requires careful planning and scheduling of maintenance on equipment before there is an actual problem. 

Also, preventive maintenance is evolving. It’s not just about scheduling the same work every month to prevent failure anymore. Today, working smarter with better information about equipment conditions is critical to ensure maintenance is effective.

That’s where IoT and field service management software, like FieldElite, comes in. Together, they organise and carry out preventive maintenance needs for service industries. 

How IoT and FieldElite Helps in Preventative Maintenance

With FieldElite and IoT technology, you get the best in preventive maintenance management.

  • Evaluation of equipment or machines — the condition of machines or equipment is evaluated in order to predict when maintenance needs to be performed. 
  • Automated work order — automated time-based work order creation
  • Full condition-based plans — allows you to do the following:
    • Right-size your maintenance work
    • Lower costs
    • Extend the life of your or customer’s assets 
  • Quicker reporting — due to its efficient and automated nature, IoT and field service management software can reduce a field technician’s average report time from two weeks to two days, therefore boosting your cash flow! 

That’s the most important result a mobile service management software can produce (in connection with preventative maintenance). It’s cost-saving! This can be achieved over routine or time-based preventive maintenance, as tasks are only performed when they are needed. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and field service management software is changing field service as we know it. 

Companies who adapt and utilise these technologies will benefit the most from the resulting competitive advantage of preventative maintenance. 

Start elevating every field service experience now!  

Our field service software, FieldElite helps you: 
  • Accepts jobs in the field
  • Automate appointment scheduling
  • Manage scheduled jobs 
  • Get real-time visibility into all operations
  • Have a clear and easy viewing of job locations 
  • Resolve field service calls faster 
  • Enable mobile workers to get the job done right
  • Keep customers updated at every step 
  • Create quotations and accept payments 
  • Analyse efficient reports from field technicians
  • Helps in proper preventative maintenance management. 

Learn how to schedule jobs to field workers with ease. Check out FieldElite

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EU Energy Efficiency Directive & UK’s ESOS

Photovoltaic solar panels

In 2012 the European Union passed its EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) into law. This aims to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020. It placed an obligation on member states to pass back-to-back local legislation by June 2014.

EED Guidelines

The EED provides specific guidelines it expects member nations to address. The list is long and here are a few excerpts from it:

  • Large companies must use energy audits to identify ways to cut their energy consumption
  • Small and medium companies must be incentivised to voluntarily take similar steps
  • Public sector bodies must purchase energy-efficient buildings, products and services
  • Private energy-consumers must be empowered with information to help manage demand
  • Energy distributors / resellers must cut their own consumption by 1.5% annually
  • Legislators are free to substitute green building technology e.g. through better insulation
  • Every year, European governments must audit 3% of the buildings they own

Definition of Energy Audit

An energy-consumption audit is a question of measuring demand throughout a supply grid, with particular attention to individual modules and high demand equipment. While this could be an exercise repeated every four years to satisfy ESOS, it makes more sense to incorporate it into the monthly energy billing cycle.

Because energy use is not consistent but varies according to production cycle, this can produce reams of printouts designed to frustrate busy managers. ecoVaro offers an inexpensive, cloud-based analytic service that effortlessly accepts client data and returns it in the form of high-level graphic summaries.

Potential ESOS Beneficiaries

As many as 9,000 UK companies are obligated to do energy audits because they employ more than 250 employees, have a balance sheet total over £36.5m or an annual turnover in excess of £42m. Any smaller enterprise that finds energy a significant input cost, should also consider enlisting Ecovaro to help it to:

  • Obtain a better understanding of the energy side of their business
  • Achieve energy savings and share in a estimated £3bn bonanza to 2030
  • Reduce carbon emissions to help meet their CRC commitments

More About ecoVaro

We offer web-based energy management software that helps you measure and manage energy costs. This strips data from your meters and generates personalised reports on a dashboard you control. This information helps you accurately zoom in on worthwhile opportunities. With Ecovaro on your side, ESOS truly becomes an Energy Saving OPPORTUNITY Scheme.

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A Small External Enterprise Development Team is Cheaper than Your Own

Business colleagues working in team

Time is money in the application development business. We have to get to market sooner so someone else does not gazump us, and pip us at the post. We increase the likelihood of this with every delay. Moreover, the longer your in-house team takes to get you through the swamp, the higher the project cost to you.

Of course, in theory this should not be the case. Why bring in a team from outside, and pay more to support their corporate structure? Even going for a contract micro team ought not to make financial sense, because we have to fund their mark-up and their profit taking. Our common sense tells us that this is crazy. But, hold that thought for a minute. What would you say if a small external enterprise development team was actually cheaper? To achieve that, they would have to work faster too.

The costs of an Enterprise Internal Development Team

Even if you were able to keep your own team fully occupied – which is unlikely in the long term – having your own digital talent pool works out expensive when you factor in the total cost. Your difficulties begin with the hiring process, especially if you do not fully understand the project topic, and have to subcontract the hiring task.

If you decide to attempt this yourself, your learning curve could push out the project completion date. Whichever way you decide to go, you are up for paying advertising, orientation training, technical upskilling, travel expenses, and salaries all of which are going to rob your time. Moreover, a wrong recruitment decision would cost three times the new employee’s annual salary, and there is no sign of that changing.

But that is not all, not all by far. If want your in-house team to keep their work files in the office, then you are going to have to buy them laptops, plus extra screens so they can keep track of what they are doing. Those laptops are going to need desks, and those employees, chairs to sit in. Plus, you are going to need expensive workspace with good security for your team’s base.

If we really wanted to lay it on, we would add software / cloud costs, telephony, internet access, and ongoing technical training to the growing pile. We did a quick scan on PayScale. The median salary of a computer programmer in Ireland is €38,000 per year and that is just the beginning. If you need a program manager for your computer software, their salary will be almost double that at €65,000 annually.

Advantages of R&D outsourcing

The case for a small externally sourced enterprise development team revolves around the opportunity cost – or loss to put in bluntly – of hiring your own specialist staff for projects. If you own a smaller business with up to 100 people, you are going to have to find work for idle digital fingers, after you roll out your in-house enterprise project. If you do not, you head down the road towards owning a dysfunctional team lacking a core, shared objective to drive them forward.

Compared to this potential extravagance, hiring a small external enterprise development team on an as-needed basis makes far more sense. Using a good service provider as a ‘convenience store’ drives enterprise development costs down through the floor, relative to having your own permanent team. Moreover, the major savings that arise are in your hands and free to deploy as opportunities arise. A successful business is quick and nimble, with cash flow on tap for R & D.

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Man holding a CFL energy saving lamp

The Rights of Individuals Under The General Data Protection Regulation

Man holding a CFL energy saving lamp

The General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR is a European Union law reinforcing the rights of citizens concerning the confidentiality of their information, and confirming that they own it. We thought it would be interesting to examine the GDPR effective 25 May 2018 from an Irish citizen’s perspective. This article is a summary of information on the Data Protection Commissioner’s website, but as viewed through a businessperson’s lens.

How the Office Defines Data Protection

The Office believes that organisations receiving personal details have a duty to keep them private and safe. This applies inter alia to information that individuals supply to government, financial institutions, insurance companies, medical providers, telecoms services, and lenders. It also applies to information provided when they open accounts.

This information may be on paper, on computers, or in video, voice, or photographic records. The true owners of this information, the individuals have a right:

  • To make sure that it is factually correct
  • To the assurance that it is shared responsibly
  • That all with access only use it for stated purposes

Any organisation requesting personal information must state who they are, what the information is for, why they need to have it, and to whom else they may provide it.

Consumer Rights to Access Their Personal Information

Private persons have a right under the GDPR to a copy of all their information held or processed by a business. The regulation refers to such businesses as ‘data controllers’ as opposed to owners, which is interesting. They have to provide both paper and digital data, and ‘related information’.

Data controller fees for this are discretionary within limits. The request may be denied under certain circumstances. The data controller may release information about children to parents and guardians, only if it considers a minor too young to understand its significance. Other third parties such as attorneys must prove they have consent.

Consumer Rights to Port Their Data to Different Services

Since the personal information belongs to the individual, they have a right not only to access it, but also to copy or move it from one digital environment to another. The GDPR requires this be ‘in a safe way, without hindrance to usability’. An application could be a banking client that wants to upload their transaction history to a third party price comparison website.

However, the right to data portability only applies to data originally provided by the consumer. Moreover, an automated method must be available for porting. Data controllers must release the information in an open format, and may not charge for the porting service.

Consumer Rights to Complain About Personal Data Abuse

Individuals have a right under the General Data Protection Regulation to have their information rectified if they discover errors. This right extends to an assurance that third parties know about the changes – and who these third party entities are. Data controllers must respond within one month. If they decline the request, they must inform the complainant of their right to further remedial action.

If a data controller refuses to release personal information to the owner, or to correct errors, then the Data Protection Office has legal power to enforce the consumer’s rights. The complainant must make full disclosure of the history of their complaint, and the steps they have taken themselves to attempt to set things right.

Further Advice on Getting Things Ready for 25 May 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation has the full force of law from 25 May 2018 onward, and supersedes all applicable Irish laws, regulations, and policies from that date. We recommend incorporating rights of data owners who are also your customers into your immediate plans. We doubt that forgetting to do so will cut much sway with the Data Commissioner. Remember, you have one month to respond to consumer requests, and only one more month to close things out subject to the matter being complex.

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UK Government Updates ESOS Guidelines

Thermostat, Home Energy Saving

Britain’s Environment Agency has produced an update to the ESOS guidelines previously published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Fortunately for businesses much of it has remained the same. Hence it is only necessary to highlight the changes here.

  1. Participants in joint ventures without a clear majority must assess themselves individually against criteria for participation, and run their own ESOS programs if they comply.
  2. If a party supplying energy to assets held in trust qualifies for ESOS then these assets must be included in its program.
  3. Total energy consumption applies only to assets held on both the 31 December 2014 and 5 December 2015 peg points. This is relevant to the construction industry where sites may exchange hands between the two dates. The definition of ‘held’ includes borrowed, leased, rented and used.
  4. Energy consumption while travelling by plane or ship is only relevant if either (or both) start and end-points are in the UK. Foreign travel may be voluntarily included at company discretion. The guidelines are silent regarding double counting when travelling to fellow EU states.
  5. The choice of sites to sample is at the discretion of the company and lead assessor. The findings of these audits must be applied across the board, and ‘robust explanations’ provided in the evidence pack for selection of specific sites. This is a departure from traditional emphasis on random.

The Environment Agency has provided the following checklist of what to keep in the evidence pack

  1. Contact details of participating and responsible undertakings
  2. Details of directors or equivalents who reviewed the assessment
  3. Written confirmation of this by these persons
  4. Contact details of lead assessor and the register they appear on
  5. Written confirmation by the assessor they signed the ESOS off
  6. Calculation of total energy consumption
  7. List of identified areas of significant consumption
  8. Details of audits and methodologies used
  9. Details of energy saving opportunities identified
  10. Details of methods used to address these opportunities / certificates
  11. Contracts covering aggregation or release of group members
  12. If less than twelve months of data used why this was so
  13. Justification for using this lesser time frame
  14. Reasons for including unverifiable data in assessments
  15. Methodology used for arriving at estimates applied
  16. If applicable, why the lead assessor overlooked a consumption profile

Check out: Ecovaro – energy data analytics specialist 

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Will UK Retailers Skim the Cream with ESOS?

Fashion consultant showing clothes to the client

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) was quick out on the starting blocks with an ambitious plan to cut energy costs by 25% in 5 years. Their ‘25-in-5’ initiative is chasing a target of £4.4 billion savings during the duration. Part of this program involves ’cutting a path through a complex and inaccessible policy landscape’. BRC believes this drawback is making its members think twice about making energy efficiency investments.

The UK’s sprawling network of grocers, department stores and malls is the nation’s second most hungry energy customer, having spent £3.3 billion on it in 2013 when it accounted for almost 20% of carbon released. If you think that sounds bad, it purchased double that amount in 2005. However the consortium believes there is still more to come.

It bases this assumption on the push effect of UK energy rates increasing by a quarter during the duration of the project. ‘So it makes sense to be investing in energy efficiency rather than paying bills,’ Andrew Bolitho (property, energy, and transport policy adviser) told Business Green. The numbers mentioned exclude third party transport and distribution networks not under the British Retail Consortium umbrella.

The ‘complex and inaccessible policy landscape’ is the reflection of UK legislators not tidying up as they go along. BRC cites a ‘vast number of policies … spreading confusion, undermining investment and making it harder to raise capital’. The prime culprits are Britain’s CRC Energy Efficient Scheme (previously Carbon Reduction Commitment) which publishes league tables and ESOS. Andrew Bolitho believes this duality is driving confused investors away.

The British Retail Consortium is at pains to point out that this is not about watering things down, but making it simpler for participating companies to report on energy matters at a single point. It will soon go live with its own information hub providing information for retailers wishing to measure consumption at critical points, assemble the bigger picture and implement best practice.

Ecovaro agrees with Andrew Bolitho that lowering energy demand and cutting carbon is not just about technology. We can do much in terms of changing attitudes and providing refresher training and this does not have to cost that much. Studies have shown repeatedly that there is huge benefit in inviting employees to cross over to our side. In fact, they may already be on board to an extent that may surprise.

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2015 – What’s ahead for UK Business?

light bulb

According to reports just in, the global environment industry is down. Less money is available for what some CEO’s still see as grudge expenditure, and many U.S. agencies are seeking soft budget cuts. The UK is proving to be an exception following the announcement of ESOS, and EcoVaro does not expect the May elections will have much impact in this regard.

ESOS calls for mandatory energy assessments in companies above a certain size, and requires specific proposals to cut consumption. There is no indication of compulsory follow-through, although it is clear the Environment Agency hopes rising electricity prices and the prospect of monetary savings will do the trick.

It is an open question whether the Tory government would have interfered with commerce to this extent, were it not for the European directive that enforced it. The overall goal is to cut EU energy consumption across the board by 20% by 2020. Energy consultants are rubbing their hands in glee. EcoVaro’s response is to provide cloud-based software.

We will be interested to see how many UK companies make the first deadline of 5 December 2015, in the light of reports that half the 9,000 firms affected appear not to even know that ESOS exists. Some will no doubt pay last-minute lip service. Those with an eye on their own sustainability will grasp the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme with both hands.

The initial ESOS deadline was always going to be a challenge. Some big corporates have stolen a march albeit egged on by green stakeholders. The next challenge comes in June 2015 with the implementation of the European Union’s ‘Waste Catalogue’ of hazardous substances, and rules for their disposal. We hope a new ISO 14001 will arrive soon and pull the loose threads together.

The introduction of carbon trading late this year brings further opportunities to increase profits through wise stewardship. Auditable metrics are essential for this.

EcoVaro can assist by processing your raw data. We provide this service on a virtual cloud. In return, you can get advice on optimising the quality of your graphs for presentations. 

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Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive – Orientation

Solar energy panel and trees

Following in-depth discussion of the UK’s ESOS response, we decided to backtrack to the source, especially since every EU member is facing similar challenges. The core purpose of the directive is to place a pair of obligations on member states. These are

  1. To promote the availability of energy audits among final customers in all sectors, and;
  2. To ensure that enterprises that are not SMEs carry out energy audits at least every four years.

Given the ability for business to look twice at every piece of legislation it considers unproductive, the Brussels legislators took care to define what constitutes an enterprise larger than an SME.

Definition of a Large Undertaking

A large undertaking meets one or both of the following conditions:

  1. It employs 250 or more people
  2. Its annual turnover is more than €50 million and its balance sheet total exceeds €43 million

Rules for Energy Audits

If accredited / qualified in-house specialists are unavailable then independent experts should supervise audits. The talent shortage seems common to many EU businesses. In hindsight, the Union could have ramped up slower, especially since the first compliance date of 5 December 2015 does not leave much swing room.

ecoVaro doubts there was a viable alternative, given the urgent imperative to beat back the scourge of carbon that is threatening the viability of our planet. The legislators must have been of a similar mind when laying down the guidelines. Witness for example the requirement that penalties be ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive’.

In order to be compliant, an energy audit must

  1. Be based on twelve months of verifiable data that is
    • over a continuous period beginning no more than 24 months before the beginning of the energy audit, and;
    • identifies energy saving opportunities including paths to their achievement
  2. Analyse the participant’s energy consumption and energy efficiency
  3. Have not been used as the basis for an energy audit in a previous compliance period

Measurement of current status and progress tracing are at the core of energy saving and good governance generally. EcoVaro has a powerhouse of software tools available on the cloud to help project teams save time and money.

CONTACT US

  • We seek to understand your technology and business challenges
  • We tailor a demonstration of our platform and solutions to align to your specific needs
  • We answer any questions and make recommendations based on your feedback for "how to walk before you run"
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