Wexford Low Energy Homes is a family run company based in the south east of Ireland. They specialise in the construction of low energy housing developments and in 2017 we worked with them to create websites for 2 of their latest developments – gleannanghairdin.com and arduisce.com.
They then asked us to create a website for their own company which can be seen at wexlow.com. As part of this project we designed and built some custom functionality and portals for their contractors and home owners to log in to.
We had been doing some website work with Wexford Low Energy Homes on some of their housing developments and during a face to face meeting on one of these websites, the project manager on their side mentioned a process that was taking a lot of effort for 2 or 3 staff members in the company. This process was error prone and slow. In an offhand remark, he asked if we could look at improving this process and with 5 minutes of listening, we were able to figure out at a high level what the requirements were.
Essentially the company had many sub-contractors (electricians, plumbers, plasterers, block layers etc.) working for them and before these sub-contractors could work on site, they needed to fill in the required forms which at the time were paper based. These paper based forms were compliance related and issued from Engineers Ireland. The sub-contractor was emailed the forms, was expected to print them out, fill in the required details, scan them on their computer and email them back where they were printed out in the office, signed and a hard copy filed away. This process wasn’t working as many sub-contractors weren’t complying with the steps fully, entering incorrect details or not sending the forms in the correct format.
We asked for 2 weeks to come up with a prototype that would showcase what was possible in this space.
2 weeks later we returned to the offices with our prototype. The prototype showed an example workflow from a sub-contractor’s perspective. Obviously it was a prototype and much of the functionality was missing but it achieved its goal of showing the customer what was possible. It would be very intuitive for its users and virtually eliminate the risk of errors or incorrectly filling out the form. Based on the positive feedback from this session we began building the sub-contractors portal.
This portal allows sub-contractors log in to the system securely and easily fill in the compliance forms by following a 4 step wizard. Step 1 is to select the form they need to fill out, step 2 is to select the development, step 3 the properties they will be working on and step 4 they select the type of work they will be carrying out from a dropdown menu. At the end of this, they will be prompted to generate the form and as if by magic the form will be shown on screen – filled out based on the user inputs. There is also a very clearly defined print button which prints out the form so they can sign it and return to the office. The process takes around 30 seconds and it is virtually impossible to make a mistake.
One of the big tests we had in this project was if our solution would stand up to industry regulations. The forms and certificates that we were populating were documents from Engineers Association of Ireland and carried legal weight. Wexford Low Energy Homes made contact with the association and not only were they in approval of the idea – they were advocating it and impressed with how the digital process worked.
We were able to leverage the solution to act as a sub-contractor database for the company. When the sub-contractor gains access to the system they are prompted to fill out their profile details (name, email address, payment details, business details etc.). This information is entered by the sub-contractors themselves and it is in their interests to keep it accurate – so Wexford Low Energy Homes can use it as their sub-contractor database rather than relying on spreadsheets etc.
The portal also allows for standard account management principles (forgotten password functionality etc.)
A few months after the sub-contractors portal went live, we were contacted by Wexford Low Energy Homes to see about creating a similar portal for homeowners within completed developments. This was seen as a value add on benefit for people who chose to buy a home from the company. The portal would allow homeowners to log in and download important documents about their home – for example BER certificates, warranties on white goods and general house information.
We delivered the portal and this is a good example of leveraging the existing database information to build a smart solution for reasonable cost. Much of the functionality in terms of security and account management were duplicated from the sub-contractors portal.
From day 1 the solution was built with a comprehensive suite of administrative functions that would allow Wexford Low Energy Homes manage the system easily. We developed a secure admin section that can only be accessed by the administrator and allows them to manage and monitor everything the need. When the admin logs in they get a custom dashboard showing the contractor, property and development details at a glance. The can access the sub-contractor database and add / edit / delete / search contractors easily. When a new sub-contractor is added, they will receive an email inviting them to complete registration by entering their details and agreeing to the terms and conditions. They can only gain access to the system once this has been completed. The same applies to home owners.
The admin section also allows for the management of developments and properties as well as general settings.
Both ourselves and the client were really pleased with the outcome of this project. This is a really good example of where our skillset has digitised and rationalised a cumbersome, error prone manual process. This project has provided huge benefits to the organisation and the day to day work of its staff. The development was completely bespoke, so we could mould the system completely around the clients requirements and that has resulted in a very good outcome.