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Palmers Mechanical Case Study

Customization has helped long-time Nimbus Customer Palmers Mechanical to Improve Efficiency and Productivity and Save Money

Palmers Mechanical is a Dunedin-based general engineering company which specializes in work for mining and quarrying concerns. The company’s 50 employees work in areas such as irrigation, hydraulics, pneumatics, general engineering, light and heavy metal engineering, and vehicle maintenance.

Palmers has been a Nimbus customer since 1993, and general manager Craig Stringer, who oversees the financial, administrative, and general running of the company, wanted to find a solution to the company’s complicated labour and materials tracking.

Custom Timekeeping Solution Saves Time and Money

Palmers had long relied on job diaries to track labour and payroll information. The trouble was that this system depended too heavily on employee memory to retrospectively create timesheets. Typically, these timesheets were completed at the end of the day and occasionally a few days after the job was done. Stringer explains that employees “handed in the diary a couple of times a week and the data would be manually entered into Nimbus.”

This process required the office worker to spend at least two full days every week entering the timekeeping data, and Stringer wanted to find a way to cut down on the manual work and improve accuracy by reducing the chance of data entry errors.

When Stringer wanted to update the company’s approach to timekeeping, he looked at several off-the-shelf options. He asked Nimbus how to approach integrating a new timekeeping module, and the company immediately said it would custom make a solution.

Using the Nimbus timekeeping module, employees log on and off jobs throughout the day and the following morning their supervisor checks their times, corrects any errors, and posts the time and any materials or consumables that are charged to the job. Once the supervisor has completed posting the transactions it’s instantly on the job report. The process happens in real time and even allows the company to see what jobs staff are on and what they have done by the completed work description they entered.

“It literally saves close to a hundred hours a month of processing time for our office around timekeeping; now our payroll co-ordinator exports the data that’s in the time keeping system ready for entry to the payroll.”

The savings of time meant that office staff can focus on other tasks such as invoicing customers and debtor control.

Nimbus’s hybrid timekeeping module met Palmers specifications and as a result, Palmers has a much more efficient process which saves time for office staff and supervisors alike when completing job invoicing.

“Invoicing and cashflows have improved dramatically and we have reduced invoicing time by an average of three days a month. People are getting their invoices faster and paying them quicker. That was all possible because Nimbus said, ‘well we can build it.’”

Tracking Recoveries Helps Palmers Recoup Big Costs

When Palmers employees are at a job site, Nimbus makes it easy to look up the charge for equipment or materials or consumable items (recoveries) and add it on the spot. Under the previous system, recoveries were noted in the time book or added to the job card at the end of the month. Items were often missed or under charged.

Stringer says, “Our people in the field have effectively got access to all of the stock resource list, but we’ve also created extra codes for the different plants and equipment that they use. When they are on site, they can use a portable welder for an hour, and they can charge one-hour portable welder hire.”

In the first year after integrating this new module, Palmers recouped an additional $80,000 of recovery costs, and recovery rates have continued to rise in the second year. Stringer says, “Our recoveries are approaching 100% on certain cost codes because we continue to get better at tracking who is using what and where these items are being used.”

New Efficiency Initiatives

The company is looking at other ways to utilize Nimbus software to increase productivity. It will be part of a beta test group for the next release update and Stringer looks forward to testing a feature that will allow the company to scan and email invoices.

He says scanning invoices will be a more efficient use of the administrator’s time. “They now spend at least a couple of days a week entering invoices. It is estimated that we could save upwards of 40 hours per month of time. If we can do that then there’s 40 hours of extra time to do other things.”

“We are lucky; we have one office person to look after 50 people. Other companies of our size have 2 or 3 people.”

Looking out for Health & Safety

Because the company often sends its workers to sites where safety precautions are a necessary part of the job, Stringer wants to look at ways to use Nimbus for digitizing health and safety checklists and hazard forms.

It would be an advantage for employees to log in and find out information about specific hazards and be able to manage those hazards that are on a job. Currently Palmers uses what Stringer calls a “Take Five” list, which he describes as ensuring that workers take five to check off a list and ensure everything is safe on a specific job site.

“If they are at a mine site, working at heights or maybe within confined spaces; you’ve got to have the right people and make sure they follow the right steps. Right now, we are very much a paper system and the forms may or may not be available easily. If they are logging onto a job, then they could quickly access the appropriate forms by ticking some boxes or going to another page which could bring that screen up. It just makes that stuff simple and easy for everybody to access and use.”

Supervisors would also be able to access information about which staff are trained to work at heights or who has the right welding tickets, for example, so all of the health and safety and training information could be integrated into the digitally available information about any specific job.

Stringer says he is pleased to continue using Nimbus software because it’s customizable, and it works. “We’ve used it for nearly thirty years, it’s done everything and more we ever wanted it to; and if it hasn’t, Nimbus have been able to help us or advise us how to use it better.”