Blaze Neon is one of the most successful sign companies in the UK today, working with a number of blue chip companies and high street retailers. The group is comprised of Blaze Neon - a high-end manufacturing and installation business for retail signage – and Cygnia Maintenance, a wholly owned subsidiary specialising in sign maintenance and repair.
Operating from factories in Broadstairs and Birmingham, they are able to accommodate all sign specifications for either high volume rebrands or individual complex projects. The factory operations are complimented with 50 engineer teams based across the UK performing installation and maintenance services.
Blaze Neon have a bespoke ERP system for both companies in the group, into which the PODFather system has been integrated. Prior to this integration, paper job sheets were printed out from the ERP system and given to the engineers at the beginning of each week. For engineers based outwith the factories, there jobs were instructed over the phone and then rewritten by the engineers.
Once jobs were completed, the paperwork was returned and entered back into the ERP system along with photos of completed works taken from digital cameras.
The administration overheads and potential for human error in processing large numbers of paper job sheets and copying photo image files meant a more integrated approach was desired.
Ian Banks, IT Manager of Blaze Neon, takes up the story, “Blaze have carried out the integration with the PODFather system in-house using the standard PODFather API. We've had bespoke templates created for both Cygnia and Blaze engineers to ensure the same information is captured as compared to the outgoing paper job sheets.
“The integrated solution allows jobs to be sent to the engineer's PDA over mobile networks straight from our office. All job details are displayed and a report can be completed with high-resolution photos automatically attached. The customer signs the PDA electronically to confirm the works have been completed to satisfaction and we've got the signed job sheet back in our ERP system within minutes of the job being completed.
“This is a massive improvement in the speed of data processing through the business and means we can deal with snags on-site quicker by referring to the photos which come back from the PDAs, and also raise invoices faster if the job has been marked as complete.”
Blaze Signs came across the PODFather system through a referral from another national sign manufacturing company, and opted to deploy a mix of HTC Touch Pro 2 and Motorola ES400 PDAs for the different parts of the business. The HTCs were chosen for the initial deployment with Cygnia Maintenance due to their low cost and slide-out keyboard, and they favoured the Motorola ES400 with Blaze Neon as they proved more reliable and robust.
Ian continues, “The PODFather system has helped speed up invoicing and cut down on processing paper dockets. Keeping all the documents in an electronic archive reduces paper usage and storage space. We are planning to expand the solution to cover site surveys in the future as it's easily customised to suit different forms of paperwork.”