The city gas distribution (CGD) sector has witnessed an increased uptake of mobility solutions over the past few years. CGD operators are actively using mobiles and tablets for meter reading and spot billing, and for developing apps to make the gas supply process more customer friendly and transparent. They are also adopting mobility solutions to ensure remote workforce management. Mobility solutions are being deployed at the last point of connection that is on the customer premises, in order to ease the documentation and approval process. This in turn reduces inefficiencies and helps avoid unnecessary expenses of the CGD operators.
Need for mobility solutions
Earlier, CGD operators used physical documents for customer verification. Thus, the entire process of document generation and subsequent approvals consumed significant time. With the evolution of mobile technologies, a growing number of CGD operators are using mobiles/tablets to capture field data at the customer site itself. This data is then directly uploaded from the customer premises to the back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The data can be tracked and accessed by the approving authorities on a real-time basis.
Transition to mobility solutions: A case study of MGL
Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) is one of the major CGD companies in India which supplies natural gas to customers in and around Mumbai. MGL is using mobility solutions to ensure remote workforce management of its field force that collects data from the customer premises. The company’s transition to mobility solutions is described below:
- Before the adoption of mobile technologies, MGL’s field personnel used to manually generate a meter job card (MJC), which was used to provide a piped natural gas connection to a liquefied petroleum gas customer. The entire data set related to the generation of the MJC was maintained manually at the customer site.
- This MJC data was then scanned manually by the MGL personnel and uploaded on the company’s website.
- With the adoption of a web-based ERP system, the work of scanning the MJC data was handed over to MGL’s contractors who used to scan the data at the customer site and upload it on the interim web-based system. Subsequently, the MGL personnel used to download the data from this interim site and upload it on the MGL ERP system (SAP ERP). However, this process was time consuming and caused significant delays in the delivery of services to customers.
- MGL adopted mobility solutions to remove this gap between capturing of data and uploading it on SAP. MGL started to capture the data in a digital format at the customer site itself using mobility applications. The field personnel carried an internet-enabled tablet for this purpose. Once the planning activity on the SAP system was completed, this data was provided to the field personnel. Field personnel entered the required data including the materials consumed at the customer site on the interim server from the consumer premises itself. This data was then directly picked up by the SAP system.
- The MJC was provided to the system with all details already filled in and stock update was made every hour from the back-end SAP system, thus reducing delays.
- To ensure the security of the application and the data being provided, MGL provides an STC (safety, technical and competency) number to the field personnel. Both the supervisor and field personnel have to be present while logging in to the system. Once the system has been logged in, the data is uploaded on the interim server whenever the system is refreshed at the field personnel’s end and subsequently made available to the SAP ERP system.
Advantages of mobility solutions
Mobility solutions bring in more efficiency and reduce redundancy in manual tasks, resulting in significant time and cost savings for the CGD operator. Broadly, the three main advantages of mobility solutions are:
- Significant cost savings: Earlier, papers were scanned and uploaded on the system manually, resulting in a significant cost burden for the CGD operator. The adoption of mobility solutions eliminates significant paperwork.
- Reduction in processing time: Before the adoption of mobility solutions, there was a considerable redundancy in the system. The entire process of scanning and uploading the information on the ERP system consumed a lot of time. With the adoption of ERP systems, this time has been reduced to under a day.
- Increased transparency: The adoption of mobility solutions reduces the manual intervention needed for transferring information as the entire data processing is done on the back-end ERP system itself. This increases the transparency in the process and reduces the probability of error due to manual intervention.
The adoption of mobility solutions for remote workforce management is also expected to grow with advancements in mobility technologies and the increasing penetration of mobile devices across India. Further, CGD players must develop mobility applications and integrate these with their ERP systems. An integrated platform will help them manage their workforce in an efficient manner.