Via NTU’s Productivity through Innovation project, CEO Chris Jackson has been working with software development specialists from NTU, Nigel King and Alaa Bafail, to develop a software development strategy focused on making efficiencies and improving productivity.
As part of the project, the firm has been supported to research tech stack options for a database dashboard that will reduce the need for manual inputting of data, improve data accuracy, and visualise KPIs such as carbon reduction targets to share with the wider business. The support included recommended approaches and help with the scoping, specification and tendering process.
We spoke to Chris in March 2022 to find out how his business has benefited from the support on offer.
"As a business, we’re good at collecting data. We’ve been doing it on a weekly basis since 2007, to give us a weekly snapshot of how we’re performing against our KPIs, based on information gathered from across the company. We monitor everything from laundry water use and effluence, to onsite generation from our 50kWh solar panel system, to productivity and financial data. 40% of our electricity is generated onsite, which is a big help in terms of rising energy bills.
"Historically, we’ve used Excel to enter these different inputs but it’s an ongoing challenge to make sense of the sheer amount of information we’re collecting. We’ve been looking at ways to streamline the process and make it easier to enter, analyse and visualise our cauldron of data – so we can act on it quickly.
"We need to move from Excel to a database dashboard system, to bring our data to life and gather information from a range of interconnected, networked sources – the Internet of Industrial Things (IIoT). For example, the sensors we use in our laundry to monitor outputs such as energy, water and effluent.
"Monitoring that data via a dashboard will help us develop and continually improve our processes and measure the impact of incremental changes. If we change the temperature on our laundry boilers, how will that impact wash quality? Or, if we change the washing process, how will that effect our gas , water & electricity consumption? We need accurate data to make the right decisions.
"Nigel and Alaa have supported us to find the right database dashboard system. They started by looking at what we’ve already got, and what we value as a business, and then ranked the different technologies available, based on a framework criteria we developed together.
"Working with Nigel and Alaa has given us the ability to really step back and take the time to assess the benefits of each approach, against key factors like the cost, time and resources involved.
"They have been a great ‘critical friend’ and have supported our conversations with private sector software providers. It’s good to have an independent view and be able to learn from Nigel and Alaa’s experience in other sectors. It’s brought ideas to the table that we wouldn’t have thought of and helped to challenge our thinking, preventing us from falling into the trap of going down a path which isn’t right for the business."