How Aircon India Identified the Right Integrated Software for Project Contractors?
Mr. Amitabah Sur (Director, Operations) of Aircon India talks candidly about GrowSmart implementation in their company: the challenges faced, how to identify the right software for Project Contractors, what are the implementation challenges and how to overcome them, and what kind of results they were able to achieve after implementing GrowSmart.
About Aircon India
Leading Building Services contractor based out of Kolkata.
400+ employees; 30+ years of successful journey.
One of India’s first and consistently top-rated dealers of Carrier corporation.
Services offered in HVAC, Fire and Safety, Water Treatment Plants, and Sewage Plants.
USP: Customer service and critical design.
Used 4 different software systems and Excels. Collating MIS from different software was time-consuming and unreliable.
Managing purchases across large number of projects with manual material reconciliation and controls led to leakages, and eventually margin surprises in post-project analysis.
Wasn’t able to get a seamless end-to-end view of an order through its entire execution.
Key Results with GrowSmart
1.5x to 2x increase in productivity
20% increase in profitability
Purchase leakages plugged
Accurate and instant MIS
Pre-emptive controls leading to timely action
Key excerpts from the video
“We were struggling to collate data and create an MIS. Many times we would find that it was not right. Because there was a huge amount of man dependency in that.”
“Given a kind of a common platform, in the pre- GrowSmart era and now, I would say that, certainly, there is a 20% increase in terms of profitability. Because of better management, and timely management.”
Full video transcript
Before Implementing GrowSmart
Majorly before GrowSmart, for a very short period of time, we used Microsoft Navision. And we went back to the traditional excel sheets and word files for document keeping. So, we were not practically working, or the operations were not working on any integrated software I would say. We had CRM software, we had a Service Management software, we had a Stock Management software, we had Tally for finance software. They were, you know, in pieces. There were four or five software which we were running. But there was no Integrated software.
What were the challenges?
You know, consolidated MIS was missed out, that was something which we were striving for. Controls in material reconciliation, stock keeping, kind of a uniform seamless flow of an order, that was missed out. We were struggling to collate those data and create an MIS. Many times we would find that it was not right. Because there was a huge amount of man dependency in that. So these were the challenges that we faced in the legacy period I would say, in the pre-GrowSmart era.
How did you evaluate the software?
We came to know about GrowSmart because one of our industry friends was trialling with you. That was one source. I think we came across in ACREX (Exhibition), where you put up your stall, and that was another source. And then when somebody approached us and we said, "Yes it's a kind of good thing to look at". And that's how it started rolling. Because we have heard of it, we've seen it in ACREX (Exhibition), this connect was kind of easily established.
One definite thing is that reference; reference is something which gives you comfort because somebody has already used it and is referring. So we were trying to collect some references from the known circle, whoever is using, whatever they were using. But we were finding it difficult because either those companies were big and they were using SAP, the advanced version of Navision, or Oracle, or something like that, which was not an affordable thing for us. Or, something which is not ready for our industry, which was more generic of an ERP, more for the manufacturing segment than not for the contracting segment, or project-oriented. So we were hunting, but we were finding it difficult.
You've done a smart thing, A) You have focused in the mid-size segment. B) You have kind of qualified your software to meet the project requirements. These are the two I think points which have kind of created a distinction for you.
What were your expectations from the software?
First was proper MIS, because that was always differing. We were never sure that whatever MIS we were getting, whether it was right or wrong. Because it was all taken from different kinds of either software or normal excel sheets. And it was totally a man dependency kind of a situation that whatever reports were coming. That was one of the biggest challenges that we faced.
The second challenge that we faced was in projects. What happens is that when there are large requirements of purchases you want to have some control on the purchase. Control on the kind of items that you're purchasing, how much you are purchasing, how much you utilize. And there was no control because these were all manual controls, it was practically impossible to do when you are doing a large number of projects, some 50, 60 projects at a time. And because the purchases are happening simultaneously, you keep on buying things which are repetitive. You may have it in stock, you may have it lying somewhere, a little extra unused, but you don't kind of pick up things correctly. You may come to know about it later and then say, "oh we just bought it last month, we shouldn't have!".
Those kinds of things were, that information was not arrested properly, and therefore we were working pretty blindly I would say, trying to do things through an excel sheet. So where this software helps, because you know you can tag all your stores, you know where what is lying, you can have a review of it, you want to buy something it gives a prompt of what is happening. So you can plug the leakages. Because sometimes we are very very careful about saving our cost which is visible to us, but there is a much larger thing - I mean that's just the tip of the iceberg, but then the whole iceberg which is hidden below, we don't see it. Because it goes unnoticed. And then end of the year when we kind of make our financial reports, we say despite so many things we have come out with not a very favourable result. Because we couldn't plug the linkages. So this software helps us to plug those leakages. These are the areas I think, which were important.
How did you go about the implementation?
Basically, the first thing we did was we studied, obviously with your team, we tried to understand how initially GrowSmart was operating, what were the features available, and what were the MIS we can get, what were the controls exactly available at that time, and then we compared it to our existing system - the controls we were having outside GrowSmart. I mean, in our excel systems, email approvals, the excel spread out showing profitability or the stock-in-hand kind of things. Then we started integrating those into GrowSmart with the help of your team. We gave you all the requirements, I believe you remember, we used to mail you, and we used to have sessions on that and then gradually we actually could sync our requirements with GrowSmart, gradually. And now, I think, at this stage we are almost through. So, all of our requirements are being covered. We can actually now operate GrowSmart - whatever MIS management wants, whatever controls our project managers want, whatever information our project engineers want, whatever purchase executive wants, they are being able to source it from GrowSmart. So that is the way we did!
The actual implementation, migration of data was a very difficult task. We had to form a team, we had to you know blackout for a few days so that the data from the existing system can be migrated to GrowSmart. So that was a difficult time. But, somehow we managed. And for the users the main problem or the main issue is, when you actually ask the users who were not conversant with an ERP, to use an ERP, there is always a mental block. So a lot of counselling has to be done. Someone should understand the system and then counsel the other users, so that gradually that mental block goes away. That is what I have to say.
The biggest resistance comes when you are in the transition period because that time you have to maintain legacy as well as this software. That is when your employees try to resist. Because they think that they are doing the same work twice, once in the legacy and once in the (new) system. That is where you know we need to do counselling, but I think we have done well on that and passed that (phase).
Impact on Productivity
Definitely helped! GrowSmart has definitely helped! First of all, you know the number of resources that were required earlier to complete a particular activity is now so much streamlined, much streamlined! So I would say the productivity has gone up.
If I was doing X amount of task with Y number of people, today I am able to do almost 1.5X, if not 2X, with the same number of people. Or in some places, I may be utilizing them somewhere else, you know, doing some other activity. Because I do not need Y number of people to do that even 1.5X. So, productivity-wise, surely this has improved!
It is more streamlined like what Sanjay said. Data is more visible, and visible on time! Earlier also it was visible. It's not that we didn't have any systems earlier. Those systems were manual, but the systems were there. But then it was not "preemptive" systems. You know it was post mortem, rather than preemption. Now, we are getting preemptive. We can take preemptive actions. We are getting information on time. So, if we have to correct ourselves, adjust ourselves in some areas, that is easy. That is more visible to us, timely it is visible, and therefore we can implement this. In terms of efficiency also, not only in terms of productivity. I would say in terms of efficiency also, it has helped us to kind of streamline things.
Results: Impact on Profitability
On profitability, yes, definitely! Revenue depends on so many other things also. We are going through a difficult phase, and there are so many, kind of, other pulses which need to be kind of taken care of. before revenue can really grow up. So yes certainly, once your efficiency increases your revenue should increase. But, certainly, the profitability, the control on the profits have gone up, and it helps. I could plug the multiple numbers of leakages that were there. Particularly when we are dealing with, you know, thousands of products. Thousands of items I would say, not products but items. Because when you do a project you have to buy so many things. Starting from nut, bolt, washer, to ropes, to steelware, to cables, to insulation material, GI sheets, and equipment. And therefore it's very very important that you have control over those purchases. Otherwise, leakages can happen. Ignoring that, you know, can lead to a catastrophe, and big damage.
I'm giving you an example, a live example today. I was approving a purchase order. When I was approving, it clearly told me that it is available in stock. And when I went and delved into it more, I saw it in which warehouse, and I immediately told my purchase team that I am not approving this. Because you go to that store, and you see that, you use that. And, certainly, we saved that. That quantum of purchase was not small.
Given a kind of a common platform, in the pre- GrowSmart era and now, I would say that, certainly, there is a 20% increase in terms of profitability. Approximately, of course, I would say that. There is a 20% increase in profitability. Because of better management, and timely management.
Results: Impact on people dependency
People are always important for any organization. I mean, this is one of the most important resources that a company can have. So I would say people are important. But our team, or the people that are engaged in operations, were more bogged down with the daily operations activity instead of having free time to think aloud, how to build this business in a better way. Today with this software, the same people are finding time to explore newer things, and to take the company to greater heights, instead of getting bogged down in paperwork. I would like to put it in that way. With GrowSmart, we have been able to make people free, or freer, compared to what it was earlier. So they can kind of contribute more in terms of quality. Because the quantity part has been taken by the software. They were earlier bogged down with quantitative approaches, and not qualitative approaches. Now the human resource is going into the qualitative approach, and the software is helping us with the quantitative approach. So it's a kind of a good Jugal Bandhi, I would say (Hindi word meaning cooperative relationship).
How is an All-In-One, integrated software different?
We were using different software, integration of data was an issue. Because integration was done manually. With a seamlessly integrated software, that has become very easy. Also, you know I would say, the multiple software having different users and different user patterns, it was difficult for the management to access any report from the different software, which is easier in GrowSmart. So these are the two things where an integrated software has helped.
How different it is from others; a couple of them were pretty user friendly, and this is also user friendly. But, as I said, this being an integrated software, and being user friendly, it is kind of catching up with the staff also. The initial resistance of taking a new software - we have done away with that part and today people have started liking it and work is becoming easier. Because it's user friendly so that's one difference definitely we are seeing. It's easy to navigate and operate, and since it is integrated, integration of data is not an issue today. We don't have to think about it because data is in one place, you can access it. You don't need to log into multiple software and take the data. If you ask for an MIS which needs to pick up certain things from this and certain things from that, this is easily available. Because we can just make that report from GrowSmart, which we earlier had to ask somebody, and he would take some time to prepare that.
So, MIS is faster, more accurate, integration of data is easier, and navigation and operations is easier.
About GrowSmart Support
You know, your support was fantastic! There was no issue with the support thing. It was always timely and the better thing was that they were very candid! If something they estimated would take around, you know, a lead time, they always told us that "This is not available right now, this will have a particular lead time". So we also get mentally prepared. So it has been a very frank and a very prompt response that we have received from your side.
Business continuity during COVID lockdowns
Certainly, it helped! Because we were all working from home, and we never missed out on anything. Because we were on the software, which was on cloud. The one thing you need is internet connectivity. And the office was open. You know the virtual office was open. Because you could execute your projects, you could do whatever you were able to do. Everything locked down, things were not that hunky-dory, not that happening. But still, we kind of carried out some operations. We did some hospital projects in COVID times -critical applications, COVID applications, isolation wards, and those kinds of things. And we never felt the absence of the software or nothing stopped, because the software was on cloud, and we could access it from our home and do the work!