Contel over a digital transformation focusing on 5G
The Field Service App has automated and standardized the procedures for technical visits to telecommunications towers, improving quality and reducing report delivery times.
Brazil has about one hundred thousand antennas and eighty thousand telecommunications towers installed throughout the country, but with 5G arrival they should quadruple, according to Telebrasil 2020 Panel revealed.
According to Luciano Stutz, president of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Brazilian Association (Abrintel), the sector expects investments around R$ 5 billion by the end of 2023. These excellent prospects promise to shake up the entire ICT world, including towers manufacturing and maintenance.
Contel is a good example of how this market will have to prepare to compete and get more involved.
The company experienced a profound digital transformation, especially in the management of its field resources. This led to an increase in their efficiency and service capacity, enabling managers to see their entire external operation without leaving the office.
Challenges in the inspection of five thousand towers
Contel’s O&M (maintenance) area is responsible for the inspection of more than five thousand towers throughout the country. This service includes activities such as: cleaning the land, closing the site, technical assistance for the metallic structure and the equipment installed on the base, among others.
Since inclement weather, vandals, birds and other animals are always a threat to the proper functioning of telecommunications in the country, preventive maintenance is essential. Without automation, managing maintenance processes became increasingly challenging.
“Our field technicians inspect towers in the most remote parts of Brazil, such as Porto Valter and Marechal Taumaturgo, cities in the state of Acre, which can only be reached by plane. Each visit is crucial for the proper functioning of the network” Gustavo Henrique Borges Alencar, Contel ‘s Chief Operating Officer, pointed out .
He also commented that the towers receive a technical visit every four months, and that the inspections must generate very complete reports for clients.
To carry out this mission, field personnel went out with a camera, a mobile phone, and a pre-printed paper form.
“At night, upon arrival at the hotel, the technicians download the photos and send them along with the report to the company offices where they would create an Excel report.
“This whole process used to take between two to three days, which delayed the arrival of information to customers,” he described.
Another problem prior to the digital transformation was the breach of the checklist required by the customer.
“Sometimes a technician would forget to take a picture in a predefined and mandatory sequence and when he remembered, he was already in another city. So he had to redo the job. This led to increased costs and more delays,” he said.
Gustavo Alencar comments that the technological evolution experienced by the company was produced thanks to an external demand.
“We knew we needed to automate our processes, but the catalyst was a large customer who told us that their partners would have to adopt an application to do the reports. We looked for suppliers and even started to develop an application, but it was that same client who recommended us to use OfficeTrack, an Israeli application for field resource management, which had been chosen as the standard by the company all over the world,” he remembered .
OfficeTrack, a Field Service application, marketed in Brazil by 3CON consulting, arrived at Contel and began to be used by around fifty field technicians. However, its use went beyond reporting.
The application automated the inspection processes of the towers and the management of external resources, including controlling the entry and exit times of employees, accountability and even aspects such as occupational safety. It also helped verify if the technicians were wearing uniforms and personal protective equipment.
The Director recalls that initially there was some resistance from some employees to adopt the new technology, but the ease of use and the advantages of the electronic form showed that the evolution was good for everyone.
“The application reduced the problems in visits, cost, deadlines and guaranteed the traceability of each resource in the field. Today we can see our entire operation, we know everything that happens outside the office with precision,” he described.
Alencar highlights the transformations technical visit reports have taken, an essential activity: “Our tower maintenance business requires a large number of reports. There are more than fifteen thousand a year, that is, about forty a day. Without automation this activity used to be time consuming, a lot of people had to be dedicated to it, and it was more likely to cause failures and delays. Now, reports are standardized and virtually error-proof, because the application itself prevents inspection and completion failures. The technician is obligated to obey the sequence established in the electronic form. If you do not perform a task, such as taking a certain photo, you cannot finish and send the report,” he celebrated.
The new document is filled out from the mobile phone, and with a few clicks the technician completes it. In addition to facilitating field work, OfficeTrack is very intuitive when formatting these forms according to the routines and needs of the company.
“Even without IT knowledge, it is possible to customize the forms so that the application fits our reality and that of each client,” he said.
Return of investment (ROI)
For the Director, the cost of the application is amortized by avoiding rework.
According to his statements, errors in the field have been greatly reduced, favoring the optimization of human resources, improving the perception of modernity and efficiency of the processes by customers.
Delivery times have been reduced from days to hours. “As we got to know and understand all the advantages of the app, we decided to implement it in most of our clients,” he said.
When the issue is digital transformation, many companies are not motivated because they fear traumatic processes that can stifle the operation or because of the lack of after-sales support.
Gustavo Alencar attests that Contel has not had any of these issues.
“Deploying OfficeTrack in the field and back office went smoothly. 3CON provided us with the technical support we needed at each stage, from implementation to day-to-day; that made a big difference,” he concluded.