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09 Mar 2021

The social housing sector is steadily increasing the level of investment in property repairs and maintenance, according to figures published last week by Inside Housing.

With pre-Covid spending up year-on-year since 2017/18, in the last financial year the average annual spend on repairs and maintenance was £1,579 per home. Combined annual spend across English housing associations reached a whopping £5.51bn.

But what do these figures really tell us? On the face of it, a higher spend per home could indicate that properties are being maintained to better standards. Nevertheless, scratch below the surface and the figures don’t tell us anything about the outcomes - about what value the spend delivered to housing association residents.

Why? Because thanks to new approaches and technologies, cost has become a lagging measure. It is simply a consequence of the systems and processes that underpin the service. 

A case in point is Portsmouth Council’s redesign of its repairs and maintenance service*. Originally designed using a cost-driven approach, redesigning the service enabled the organisation to: 

  • reduce repairs time from 24 days (to fix only the reported problem) to 11 days (to fix the reported problem plus the root cause and any other issues identified)
  • increase customer satisfaction from 60% to 99%
  • reduce costs by at least 10%, with year-on-year reduction
  • increase organisational capacity from 85 to 225 jobs per day
  • reduce failure demand (calls into the contact centre to request follow-up appointments etc) to free up almost half of contact centre capacity

How did they do it? Using a systems thinking approach and focusing on quality-driven measures.

Having identified that solving only the reported repair was a false economy, the new aims of the service were to maximise first-time fixes and to commit to solving both the reported repair plus its root cause and any other issues identified during the visit. 

For Portsmouth, this meant merging reactive and planned maintenance functions and allocating skilled staff to intervene at the diagnostic stage (rather than guarding them and allocating them only to significant challenges). Repairs operatives were also given greater stocks of tools and spares, empowering them to achieve more in less time. 

Supporting systems thinking with the right technology can extend these benefits - enabling ever speedier resolution times, and further enhancing the customer experience whilst continuing to reduce costs. Which arguably will become more important than ever, now that housing associations must deal with the backlog of repairs and maintenance that has been put on hold during lockdown. 

Solutions like ActiveH Mobile Working enable housing associations to streamline and optimise processes that underpin tasks and projects carried out in the field. It gives mobile workers, maintenance workers and contractors, the ability to access and update information from the main system at any time, from any location and any device. 

With the power to trigger workflows, access full visibility of tasks and their progress, order parts, schedule appointments and much more without visiting the office or having to dock their device, repairs operatives can easily attend to the reported issue, plus any others identified during their time at the property. Whether that be within the same appointment or by triggering a workflow, creating a task, ordering the part(s) and setting a follow up with the resident at a mutually convenient time.

Using these tools in combination with systems thinking enables housing associations to achieve much more without increasing their spend - resulting in healthier assets and happier residents. 

With feature-rich functionality, ActiveH Mobile Solution optimises repairs and maintenance processes across your internal teams and contractors, adding value across your housing operations. 

If you’d like to learn more about our Mobile Working Solution, download our datasheet, here.

And if you’d like to speak with a member of our team, get in touch

 

*Ref: https://www.apm.org.uk/blog/how-portsmouth-council-used-systems-thinking-to-deliver-a-better-service-and-reduce-costs/

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