CAPS is a full-service HVAC company that specializes in the design, construction, installation, modification, and servicing of air-conditioning equipment in both the industrial and commercial segments of the HVAC industry. CAPS adopted Microsoft Power Platform for numerous use cases (currently more than 30) across the business.
The company uses Microsoft Power Platform (including Microsoft Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power BI) to create apps for tracking sign-offs during the manufacturing process, managing sales quotes, tracking and sending notifications about root-cause analyses, and so much more. The data for these apps is stored in SharePoint Online or in the company’s accounting software, Microsoft Dynamics GP. The apps primarily have been built by Rebecca Sackett, who was a Data Analyst Assistant with no prior app development experience. The Microsoft Power Platform solution has completely replaced the old paper-based sign-off process, and it has been live in production since December 2018.
Every HVAC system manufactured and installed by CAPS is custom built. However, as a 200-person organization, CAPS does not have a large IT budget to spend on custom software development. The CAPS team of Project Managers (PMs) needed a customized solution to track the entire lifecycle of HVAC units from “cradle to crate” as the units passed through the manufacturing process, with a focus on quality construction. The solution needed to be customized to meet the needs of each department—Engineering, Testing, Fabrication, Project Management, and Executive Leadership. CAPS needed to track quality checks and allow for respective owners to sign off on each stage in the process. Moreover, the company wanted to empower anyone in the organization to report on issues via mobile devices.
Prior to the Power Apps and Power Automate solution, several disparate systems were used to capture project information:
There were several challenges with this process:
The PMs approached Sackett about the problem they faced with traveler documents often getting lost or damaged. (Go to Downloads in the left-hand sidebar to see a diagram of the process flow that was required to complete a job.) She had experience with operations and accounting from having run her own small business, and she had worked with Microsoft Access but did not have any formal coding experience. She found Power Apps in her Office 365 subscription and began experimenting with creating apps against SharePoint lists to replace manual paper processes. At the start, she found Power Apps somewhat confusing, but once she had gotten her feet wet and adjusted to the differences between Power Apps and Access, she was off to the races.
Sackett created a Power Apps solution to digitize the traveler document. In keeping with the name of the document that traveled with each unit, the app was called “CAPS Traveler.” Using the main Traveler management app, PMs and stakeholders can view all active projects, view a set of key statistics, and manage the testing and shipping calendars.
PMs initiate projects and add details for each required step, such as Fab, Paint, Electrical, and Testing. Personnel from each department then use a companion mobile app that is custom built with specific questions for their department. They answer several questions in a checklist and for any that they mark “No,” they need to provide a reason. Later, the central team collates the data and uses the reports to identify common reasons why a particular step wasn’t done—for example, they might discover they were missing fans and need to stock up on more.
There are 10 such sign-off apps in addition to the main Traveler management app, which all read and write data to the same set of SharePoint lists. As part of the sign-off process, the completion date for each step is recorded, which makes it easy to view any bottlenecks in the process and improve lead times. Once all the steps are completed, someone on the Quality Control (QC) team performs a final sign-off. A flow is then automatically triggered to generate a PDF report.
Every unit must be scheduled to go through final testing. A Testing Calendar shows the list of tests scheduled for a given day, and a 10-day calendar is used to view which days have available slots to schedule testing. A similar approach is taken to view and schedule shipments.
By using Microsoft Power Platform, Custom Air Products & Services digitized several operations without requiring expensive custom software. Some of the key benefits include: