The acid test for the transformation that Stephen Goodson engineered for NQ Cranes came when he walked away from the company—and nothing happened.
In the past, taking a break had been near impossible; if the computer system failed, Goodson, the company’s systems manager, was the only one to call.
“Migrating NQ Cranes’s systems to the cloud meant that I took a week off and everything got handled while I was away. That couldn’t happen previously, so there’s a benefit straight up,” says Goodson.
There are plenty of small and midsized companies that recognize the sort of high-wire act that their systems managers are often called on to perform. They are the ones who keep the systems running, keep the data secure, tackle management’s reporting expectations, support the field operations team, and try to act as the catalyst for business transformation. The list goes on.
Goodson knew that the best way to approach NQ Cranes’s current and future requirements was to rethink the underpinning technology and migrate to the cloud.
NQ Cranes had been using Dynamics NAV as its ERP, but it was an older implementation and highly customized, making updates and upgrades tricky. Transitioning to the cloud-based Dynamics 365 Business Central and Field Service meant the core would be continuously updated, but there was still opportunity for some degree of tailoring, “and that was necessary,” says Goodson.
“One of the main pain points for us is that we have service technicians that we may not see for three, four, five weeks at a time. So, we needed the ability to be able to give them work and have them interact with the ERP system in a controlled manner. So, when they use a part, when they’re servicing, and when they put hours on a job, all those sorts of things are captured and recorded.
It was done with a fairly manual process before, where technicians would send in a document that that would then get typed into the ERP system to record that transaction, so we could then bill our customers.”
NQ Cranes wanted to streamline that process further so that when a technician entered the data into the system, client invoices would automatically be generated.
The company was able to tweak the integration between Field Service and Business Central in Dynamics 365 to get a perfect fit for its needs. It has also extended the interaction with field workers using Microsoft Power Automate so that a work order is created live in Business Central.
Because all of NQ Cranes’s personnel use Office 365, all records and documents are now resident in SharePoint. Additionally, since the company is using Power BI for analytics and decision support, there has been a streamlining effect across the business.
Security, meanwhile, has been enhanced through proactive features embedded in the Microsoft SaaS suite of products, including Office 365 and Dynamics 365, which provide security hints and a reminder list of tasks in order to boost security.
This means that admin staff are no longer locked to their desk. Senior executives now have the flexibility to run the business from where it makes most sense for them. For example, one works from Townsville, Australia, even though his business responsibilities are in Mackay.
No one is shackled to a desktop computer because all the data and applications needed to manage and run the business can be accessed through the cloud.
NQ Cranes plan to extend Connected Field Service to infuse IoT, machine learning, and AI into the entire platform. The end goal is to improve occupational health and safety for the operators and impacted employees of the hoists while extending the CAPEX lifecycle in addition to the safety and reliability of the hoists. From measuring the number of lifts to monitoring the hoist equipment for key performance criteria, an optimum operation of equipment will be possible.
Automated predictive maintenance, break fix scheduling, and self-healing suggestions will help achieve the desired outcomes while the automated work order creation will ensure no jobs go unscheduled, as happens with manual processes on so many pieces of equipment.