Industry Blogs

In partnership with our friends at OLFA, the Japanese maker of high quality utility knives and rotary cutters, we invite you to take advantage of a limited time offer of a free model LA-X 18mm Snap Blade Utility Knife. All you have to do to get your knife is CLICK HERE to enter your shipping Read More

In partnership with our friends at OLFA, the Japanese maker of high quality utility knives and rotary cutters, we invite you to take advantage of a limited time offer of a free model LA-X 18mm Snap Blade Utility Knife.

All you have to do to get your knife is CLICK HERE to enter your shipping information and you’ll be all set to receive your free knife loaded with OLFA’s ultra-sharp black snap-off blade.

With more and more homeowners looking to smart technologies to automate their homes, people can now automate almost anything — lights, garage doors, windows, blinds, appliances, clocks, speakers, door bells, surveillance cameras, home security systems, climate control systems, cleaning systems, sprinkler systems, lawnmowers — even food preparation. So, what about their plumbing systems? If you Read More

With more and more homeowners looking to smart technologies to automate their homes, people can now automate almost anything — lights, garage doors, windows, blinds, appliances, clocks, speakers, door bells, surveillance cameras, home security systems, climate control systems, cleaning systems, sprinkler systems, lawnmowers — even food preparation.

Phyn Plus installed with Pro Squad installer

So, what about their plumbing systems? If you think about it, homeowners would love to be connected to their plumbing systems. What if a pipe bursts when they’re away? Or, there’s a tiny leak that’s been quietly wasting water (and money) for months (think: toilet flappers, dripping faucets or pinhole leaks in corroded metal plumbing systems). For those that only get their water bill on a quarterly basis, that little leak could add up to quite a big cost over time (not to mention a tragic waste of water, our precious natural resource).

And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a leak. There are those forgetful homeowners (or their children) who leave a faucet running and leave the house with the water going continuously. I’ve even heard of pets (typically cats) that accidentally turn on faucets and leave them running for hours until the homeowner returns to find little Fluffy has just wasted hundreds of dollars down the drain. Certain smart water detection systems can even alert homeowners of abnormal water events such as these.

Water leaks and water misuse are real, and every homeowner has experienced a water incident at one time or another. If you’re still not convinced, here are some interesting stats that might make you think differently.

  • According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage accounts for almost half of all property damage claims.
  • About one in 50 insured homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year, and water damage ranks as the second most common home insurance claim.
  • Of homeowners who have experienced a water leak claim in the past two years, 57% spent more than $5,000 on clean-up costs, and 15% spent $20,000 or more.
  • 41% of homeowners say a device that alerts them to water leaks is highly

If you haven’t thought about it, now’s the time. Intelligent water is the next frontier in the connected home, and plumbers can benefit greatly from this new technology. Adding a smart water technology offering to your plumbing business is a great way to gain new business and offer a valuable new benefit to existing customers.

How do you get started? First, you need to do your research. Certain manufacturers now offer smart water systems that are designed specifically with the professional plumber in mind. The Phyn Plus smart water assistant + shutoff, for example, is a connected plumbing device that is installed by a plumber in the Pro Squad nationwide network.

It’s helpful if you’re familiar with the internet and have some tech savvy in your background. But, for products that are installed through a professional, exclusive network, you can get the training you need right from the manufacturer. All that’s required from you is a willingness to learn.

Think about it. Homeowners are craving new ways to get connected to the things in their homes, and they are willing to pay for it. They will pay you for it! Plus, when there is a leak detected in their home, guess who they’ll call?

These smart water technology systems are a wonderful revenue generator for anyone in the plumbing industry — from the established contractor to someone just breaking into the industry. They can apply to any type of application from new construction to remodels to re-pipes. Essentially anywhere there’s residential plumbing, these systems will work.

And think about how great it would be to have your customers calling you straight from their connected device’s app whenever they need service due to a leak. It takes the guesswork out of the equation for homeowners regarding the best professional to call for the job, and it ensures a faithful client base for you. Win-win.

So, if you’re ready to up the ante in your business to offer a smart water leak detection system, think about all the positives it can offer and how easy it can be to get trained and up and running on a technology that is going to be in demand in the very near future.

You could be one of the first in your area to offer it, opening doors to customers you might never have the opportunity to encounter otherwise.

 

Kim Bliss is the content development manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

Drain cleaning is in full-swing and if you’ve been thinking about ways you can add services to your business – diagnostics, inspection and locating – may be the perfect addition. Not only can it add an additional revenue stream year-round, but it’s a particularly beneficial service this time of year when home buying tends to Read More

Drain cleaning is in full-swing and if you’ve been thinking about ways you can add services to your business – diagnostics, inspection and locating – may be the perfect addition. Not only can it add an additional revenue stream year-round, but it’s a particularly beneficial service this time of year when home buying tends to pick up across the country.

While most homebuyers opt to have a home inspection completed as part of the home buying process, sewer inspection is not typically included. Many don’t know to ask for it and realtors aren’t always suggesting it as a necessary inspection.

Drain Mob, a camera, jetting and drain cleaning company in San Diego regularly provides camera inspection and drain cleaning services for clients after they’ve purchased a home and are experiencing issues, something they and other professionals think could be avoided if homebuyers and their realtors took the time to inspect the lines as part of the home inspection.

“Every day we see a lot of clients that did not have a realtor that would actually camera their sewer lines, they would always go on the inspection report from the inspector,” said Billy Teeter, Drain Mob Owner in a recent Instagram video talking to realtors. “It’s two to three hundred dollars, it’s worth the money. Hire a professional and you’ll be a hero with your client.  Protect your clients investment.”

How to Get Started

To begin offering services to this market, you don’t need to buy equipment all at once. Invest in equipment you’ll initially need most and then add-on as needed once you recoup your initial investment. For example, a RIDGID® SeeSnake® Compact2 Camera System paired with the CS6xPak Digital Recording Monitor is a good initial investment for residential jobs. All RIDGID digital monitors come standard with Wi-Fi allowing for easy capturing and sharing of images and video through the HQx Live App on your phone or tablet. This lets buyers and sellers quickly see any potential issues.

 

After your initial equipment purchase, marketing your new service becomes a priority. A few ideas as you get started are:

  • National Association of Realtors – Connect with your local National Association of Realtors chapter. The association represents 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries and has over 1,200 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations.
  • American Society of Home Inspectors – Reach out to local home inspectors about partnering to offer drain and sewer inspection as part of their services. The American Society of Home Inspectors, a professional organization for inspectors across the country, offers a searchable database of local inspectors on their website.

Additional Business Benefits

Incorporating diagnostic, inspection and locating services into your business provides additional benefits for a company. These include:

  • Expanded Capabilities Diagnostics is an investment that quickly pays for itself and continues to drive incremental income by letting contractors offer additional plumbing services. It also allows plumbers to take on more complex and difficult projects they previously would have had to decline.
  • The Added Value of Certainty – Clearly seeing the problem means being able to offer the right fix, no more and no less. For customers, seeing the problem that backs the estimate increases their trust in a contractor and the necessity of work being completed.
  • Find it. Clear it. – Contractors can serve more customers in less time with diagnostics, inspection and locating equipment because they can locate and repair problems faster. Many tools come standard with Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing for findings to be shared immediately with clients and co-workers, which leads to faster decisions and shorter projects.

In closing, regardless of whether you decide to target your diagnostic, inspection and locating services to homebuyers and realtors, these services and type of equipment can be a beneficial addition for your business and clients.

Article by Gina Hartman

Gina is Senior Global Marketing Manager of Underground Technologies, including inspection and diagnostic products, at RIDGID®. The company is a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at RIDGID.com.

For residential plumbers, there have been two schools of thought for plumbing a house: home run and trunk and branch. Both have their positives and negatives, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with the plumbing system. However, you may not know there’s a new (and smarter) way to design and install a residential plumbing Read More

For residential plumbers, there have been two schools of thought for plumbing a house: home run and trunk and branch. Both have their positives and negatives, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with the plumbing system.

However, you may not know there’s a new (and smarter) way to design and install a residential plumbing system that installs faster, uses less materials, requires fewer connections, minimizes your liability and operates more efficiently.

It’s called Logic plumbing.

A Logic plumbing design can only be used with PEX piping, but since PEX is now used in more new-home construction than copper and CPVC combined, you’re most likely already using it. (And if you’re not, you need to check it out. PEX is highly durable, flexible and more cost-effective compared to copper and CPVC.)

The Logic approach leverages the flexibility of PEX pipe to minimize connections and reduce potential leak points while also incorporating multiport tees located near fixture groupings to both limit the amount of pipe and connections needed while also improving installation efficiencies and system performance.

What’s a multiport tee?

I’m sure right now you’re wondering, “What’s a multiport tee?” It’s essentially a bunch of tees all molded together to create one long tee with multiple outlets. This innovative product minimizes connections and is the heart and soul of a Logic design.

For example, six regular tees will have 18 connections, but a flow-through multiport tee with six outlets will only have eight connections (six connections for the ports, a main flow-through inlet and a main flow-through outlet). Think about how much faster you could install a system when you’re making half the number of connections.

And get this — while multiport tees may resemble a manifold, they have the benefit of being hidden behind walls without the need for an access panel. Yes, you heard that right. No need for an access panel, minimizing costs and labor to help keep your projects on schedule and on budget.

Multiport tees are made of engineered polymer (EP), a thermoplastic material that has been used in plumbing applications for more than 20 years. EP has superior mechanical, chemical and thermal properties that provide dimensional stability in demanding applications, including areas of high stress, heat and moisture.

And, like PEX, the EP material in multiport tees resists corrosion, pitting and scaling, so it creates a highly durable system that’s engineered to last. Best of all, multiport tees (as well as all EP fittings) are approved for direct burial in the soil or concrete slab, so they are ideal for in-slab plumbing applications.

The Logic layout

So what exactly is a Logic plumbing layout? It’s quite simple: a main line connects to a multiport tee with distribution lines going out from the tee. These individual lines extending from the single multiport tee provide water to all fixtures in a single or adjacent grouping.

This design uses significantly less pipe than a home-run layout, with just a few more connections. Plus, it requires considerably fewer connections compared to a trunk-and-branch installation.

For example, a 2,300-square-foot, two-story home using a Logic design requires only 637 feet of pipe while a home-run system uses 1,515 feet of pipe. That’s more than twice the amount of piping necessary.

In addition to the added costs required to install all that extra pipe, the system performance is also greatly reduced due to added pressure loss and longer wait times for hot water. Plus, all the extra pipe can lead to issues isolating hot and cold water lines. This increases heat transfer and energy inefficiencies within the plumbing system.

And, while it’s true a Logic installation uses slightly more connections than a home-run layout (59 vs. 48 in the 2,300-square-foot, two-story home example above), the amount of pipe savings is significantly more beneficial with the labor and material savings you get with less pipe to install (not to mention the efficiency of the system).

A Logic layout also installs much faster compared to a trunk-and-branch system due to the vast reduction in connections. With the two-story home example above, a Logic layout uses a mere 16 fittings and 59 connections compared to a whopping 96 fittings and 165 connections for trunk and branch. That’s six times the number of fittings and nearly three times the amount of connections!

All those added connections greatly increase your liability with more potential for leaks, plus it also limits the performance of the system with increased pressure loss.

So there you have it! Just a few “logical” reasons why you should consider a smarter approach to plumbing a home that will improve your installation times, limit your liability and offer an all-around better-performing system for the end user.

Kim Bliss is the content development manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

Field service management (FSM) and customer relationship management (CRM) are best-of-breed solutions that are essential to the work of field technicians. Both tools manage different aspects of client needs, but if they’re not working together, businesses will miss out on new opportunities and more productive work processes. So how do you synch the two? FSM Read More

Field service management (FSM) and customer relationship management (CRM) are best-of-breed solutions that are essential to the work of field technicians. Both tools manage different aspects of client needs, but if they’re not working together, businesses will miss out on new opportunities and more productive work processes. So how do you synch the two?

FSM and CRM are usually integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to eliminate duplicate data entry, avoid costly mistakes due to lack of data, and share customer information in real-time. FSM software vendors and others offering best-of-breed solutions generally offer standard integration approaches, but in most environments it also makes sense to integrate FSM software with CRM software. This ensures a consistent customer experience regardless of whether a customer is interacting with a CRM user or a field service technician. It is for this reason that some software vendors have created standard integration models with ERP products.

A deeper dive into FSM
While CRM is designed to manage the customer experience, field service management software helps companies go deep into their data to ensure customers can be served profitably and successfully in the field. Good FSM software has a vast detail of built-in functionality, but here is a topline list of what it covers:

  • Dispatch and service scheduling, appointment setting, calendar-based scheduling from maintenance plans and automated scheduling optimization
  • The ability to issue and record completion of work orders
  • Contract management to ensure service agreements are adhered to, even when terms are customer-specific
  • Service inventory, including inventory on each technician’s vehicle
  • Warranty management, so technicians in the field can determine which work is covered by warranty and which carries an additional charge
  • Tools to enable technicians to upsell new services, issue quotes and secure approval on quotes
  • Reverse logistics to take parts and subcomponents back into inventory, repair or scrap them, track ownership of the part and whether the customers or subcontractors are entitled to a replacement
  • Service billing, used to collect details of billable service, pass it to ERP for invoicing, and provide customers visibility into billing activity in the field

This takes us to the heart of the issue because even when a CRM package has field service capabilities, it alone cannot enable a company to deliver all these functions – especially if competitors have a more advanced service offering. So, comprehensive FSM software is the key, but if run as a standalone entity, even the most advanced field service product will leave gaps in the ability to address the entire customer lifecycle, maximize revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

When two become one: 360-degree view

So, how does this combined view of the customer across both CRM and field service improve customer service and increase revenue? If a field technician can see in the CRM solution what service has been performed on a customer’s equipment in the field, then that technician can – based on frequency of service, cost of service and parts, and even predictive analytics – record a sales opportunity to potentially replace the equipment and make that business case directly to the customer.

In this scenario, a field service technician may learn that the customer site they are working on will be expanding and can quickly create a sales opportunity for additional equipment that might be sold. Combining these solutions is essential, as a company delivers a better experience when their employees across the organization know about recent customer conversations, transactions, service calls, open issues, customer-specific requirements and correspondence.

Identify the two-way streets
There is also specific information that should be subject to a bi-directional integration with FSM and CRM, ensuring data is created, synched and updated in both systems. Recording service history and ongoing sales activity is a must to allow sales, customer service and field service personnel to get a 360-degree view of the customer and better understand the facts on the ground. As is sales history information, which gives field service technicians better visibility into products or equipment at a customer site that may not yet be covered by a service agreement and which may represent additional revenue opportunities.

Warranty information and contract management is another important consideration, as it can provide CRM users with a better idea of warranty renewal sales opportunities for each customer and show how well the field organization is performing against contractual requirements. Current sales promotions can also be included in both systems to allow field technicians to see opportunities that are relevant to the customer and use that to upsell or provide appropriate discounts.

Open architecture means you can tailor-make your solution

Some enterprise software integrations are associated with high costs and risks, but not all systems are built the same. To avoid this, businesses should look to solutions built on an open integration architecture, creating standard but configurable implementations to CRM offerings. No two implementations of either of these CRM products is truly the same, which means that each integration will be somewhat unique. That is why the integration needs to be configurable and user-friendly – for example, using a drag-and-drop tool to add fields, repurpose fields and add tables.

This streamlined approach to integration also increases enterprise agility. As the way you do business changes and those changes are reflected in a Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution, the integration can change with you, without custom programming or external consulting fees – the result is quick, cost-effective and simple onboarding.

There are still some decisions to be made

In planning your integration, there are a few decisions to make about how you want to handle transactions as they are passed between systems. Some database fields are typically integrated synchronously, which means before a transaction relating to a particular field is recorded in one system, it must be confirmed by and recorded in the other. Others are handled asynchronously, which means the transaction is recorded in the system immediately, without any acknowledgement that it has been received and approved by the other system.

Some fields that are typically handled synchronously include quotes and estimates, which need to tie back to current pricing in CRM or ERP, inventory commitments to ensure available-to-promise status of parts, and credit approvals, which need to be checked against payment history and credit limits in CRM or ERP.

Asynchronous integration is typically used to make the full customer list from CRM available in field service. This is valuable to a field service technician so they can see all contacts at a company and have an idea of their role in the organization. The service history can also be made available in a periodic update to CRM to keep customer service and sales people informed of the nature of the total service relationship.

Better together
It is critical for the various software products you rely on to share data where it makes sense, but integration can only be considered with a sound business case. In identifying that business case, ask yourself how you want the integration to enable your business to beat the competition and how an integration can help increase customer satisfaction and revenue.

Field service management software should not be an island unto itself – it should extend into other enterprise software, including CRM and ERP. Integrations can increase solution expense and complexity, so standard integrations that easily accommodate your unique solution set are extremely valuable. When considering integration, make sure to identify the barriers you want to overcome, so you can reap the rewards of a high-quality enterprise solution.

Andrew Lichey, Product Manager, North America, IFS Andrew is responsible for developing and evolving the IFS Field Service Management software product. He has been leading field service management software development projects since 1996. Prior to that, he served as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army. He holds a degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Andrew can be reached at Andrew.lichey@ifsworld.com.