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Features - Cover Story, Industry News

A California tree company takes 600 employees to the cloud.

Lindsey Getz | September 4, 2012

West Coast Arborists, (WCA), headquartered in Anaheim, Calif., has found a way to vastly improve its efficiencies. With the implementation of some new technology, company vice president Christopher Crippen says he’s seen some “tremendous changes.”

With 600 field employees, Crippen says in the past it was easy to get bogged down by paperwork. Crews would turn in paperwork on a daily and weekly basis and it then needed to be keyed into the systems by the company’s data entry department. “Sometimes it would take over a week before we could identify errors and anomalies,” he says.

But since implementing Xora to automate administrative reporting, Crippen says it’s made a big impact on day-to-day operations. “Changes are now instant and accurate as opposed to the latency of creating new paperwork and submitting it to data entry, which results in more documents being pushed right back into the field,” he says. “Our ultimate goal is to become completely paperless. On a day-to-day basis we can track if we have a crew who is driving too far to dump a load of green waste or if a crew is driving too far to a particular job site. We can re-route crews when a customer calls with an emergency to get the crew closest to the problem there as quick as possible. We now have the ability to see everything ‘live’ in the field as it’s happening whereas before we would have to make several calls just to determine the status of nearby crews.”

The Xora solution includes a mobile app that can be downloaded on to mobile phones or tablets and a secure cloud-based management application that can be accessed by any device with a browser connected to the Internet. WCA has installed the Xora mobile app onto tablets carried by each of the company’s 200 group supervisors. “Now that our supervisors and field crew employees have become comfortable with the tablets, they have become a driving force in the direction of our technology roadmap,” Crippen says.

But it wasn’t always that way. Crippen admits that one of the biggest challenges was getting crews more tech-savvy. “Our biggest hurdle was getting field crews over their fear of technology,” he says. “They are most familiar with their tools of the trade and today’s mobile technology almost seems supernatural. But it didn’t take long for them to realize it’s not magic and it’s just another tool like their chainsaws and rope.”

Crippen says that in six months of using Xora, the company is now beginning to see many of the efficiencies really come to light.

The company’s primary goals were to increase efficiency and accuracy and to find a way to more quickly evaluate what’s happening in the field in order to make smarter business decisions and deliver better customer service. Crippen feels that the use of this technology is achieving those goals. While it wasn’t a key goal, it’s also helping save money. “Saving money by not needing data entry happens to be a nice byproduct of our implementation of Xora,” Crippen says. “The responsibilities of our data entry employees have been adjusted to more of an auditor’s role than that of someone keying in information.”

And because Xora transmits location data from its mobile app in near-real time, Crippen also says that WCA has plans to phase out the use of expensive, fleet-tracking devices currently hard-wired into company work vehicles. This will save the company even more money down the road.

“Having embraced technology for so long, it was only a matter of time before we found out how to best put it into use for our supervisors,” Crippen says. “I can guarantee you that mobile technology is the future of West Coast Arborists.”