Articles & Case Studies

Keeping field work flowing: Why Thames Water chose Getac to supply a fleet of fully rugged devices, improving efficiency and customer service

Posted: Friday 19th August 2016

"For those of our engineers out on the front line dealing with customers and maintaining our infrastructure, having a reliable, robust and always-on device for reporting and accessing key data at the touch of a button is essential. The implementation of a fleet of rugged devices from Getac has already demonstrated improvements. And, it has also not escaped the notice of customers, one of whom commented on our advanced technology!" - Satpal Hayre, Thames Water, Technical Project Manager.

Thames Water is under constant pressure from regulators and customers to reduce bills while having to maintain some truly challenging infrastructure, especially in the City of London.

To keep the taps running for nearly 30% of the UK's population, Thames Water makes heavy demands on its technology, requiring reliability in tough conditions, the best connection available, high processing speed, large memory for files stored offline and the capability to run the latest operating systems. The hardware needs to be easy to use, durable and perform seamlessly, allowing operatives uninterrupted service.

With a 2,000-strong field force as well as contractors, Thames Water employees find themselves in
extremely challenging conditions; often working below the ground, in difficult weather conditions, frequently with dark, or even very bright lighting, and even at non-typical angles, in which they need to access and input data onto their devices.

Technology naturally needs replacing as devices reach the end of life, and when this time came for computing devices at Thames Water, the challenge was to find a new solution that would meet these stringent requirements and provide a robust, intuitive platform for a variety of staff.

Thames Water prioritised its requirements for a water resistant, drop-proof rugged device that would be able to stand the test of time. It carried out exhaustive trials with three competitive devices involving 200 Thames Water engineers. The competitive devices were tested in the field against important criteria such as: battery life (over six hours), GPS signal, 3G+ and 4G capabilities, speed, durability and scored each from one to 10.

Other hardware features, such as 10 to 12 inch screen, physical keyboard and sensitive touch screen were also important assessment criteria. It was important that the device would be compatible and work well with ClickMobile, a solution Thames Water uses to better manage and optimise its workforce.

Getac performed exceptionally in the field, with around 90% of users rating it by far the standout device across the board.

Pilot testing and implementation
On selection of the Getac convertible notebook - the V110, Getac and Thames Water worked closely to define the spec for a pilot test with 54 users. Feedback was encouraged and Getac rapidly addressed any suggested tweaks that were raised. Getac also customised the device to include building and optimising necessary applications and software, as well as installing 4G mobile SIMs, securing asset tags - all necessary for staff to be able to do their jobs effectively.

Following the pilot, the full deployment of the V110 ran smoothly, with Getac building all the devices at its European Customer Support Centre in Telford and, in just six weeks shipped complete machines to site. This meant that Thames Water could quickly configure the machines and train staff before rapidly getting them out into the field.

Field staff have now had their outdated Windows devices replaced with the Getac V110, which provides a reliable, robust device to support their day-to-day activities. Thames Water purchased 480 customised V110 devices, 350 are now fully deployed in the field.

Chris Bye, President Getac, UK commented: "We are delighted that after an extensive technical and end-user evaluation, the Getac V110 was selected as the device of choice. In addition, we're really pleased to be working with Thames Water, the UK's largest water and wastewater services provider."

Thames Water staff using the V110 have praised the device for important features such as how lightweight it is, its highly sensitive touchscreen and digitised stylus, as well as its superior processing power - especially noticeable when using the GPS functionality to bring up large, detailed Map/GIS software, critical to productivity in the field. Other features highlighted as beneficial include the backlit keyboard which is essential for night-time work and the longer battery life that allows a full day out in the field. The feedback from engineers in the field using the V110 has been extremely positive and the device has helped improve efficiencies in their day to day jobs.

Thames Water has also been impressed by Getac's value added support and after sales care. The ongoing relationship sees Getac supporting Thames Water throughout the project life, working with the project management team and end users to understand how it can continue to improve the experience. If any issues occur, Getac has been able to respond quickly and efficiently, working with Thames Water to further improve the engineer experiences with the technology.

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