Strategies & Innovations
By Rick Oberle
Maximize your office time with a database
By Rick Oberle
Do you ever feel as though your office work is never done and you’re always behind?
Do you ever feel as though your office work is never done and you’re always behind? Typing the same information over and over can be frustrating and can feel like a lot of wasted time with little headway.
Most ground water companies use a computer these days but they are merely tickling the computer’s capability.
Simply Accounting and QuickBooks are standard fare anymore to keep up the books, but what about the rest of the business? How do you manage work orders or equipment? Are you on top of all the return phone calls and getting those routine service calls lined up? How many thousands of pounds of paper are sitting in your file cabinets? And speaking of file cabinets, wouldn’t you like to open up your office space and use fewer of them? Let’s not even get into those government compliance reports! How does anybody find anything?
A database is essential for streamlining the flow of any business. In a database environment, any piece of information is entered once and one time only. That same information is then used over and over in different processes. For example, a customer’s name, address and general information are entered first to identify a well’s owner. This same information is used for estimates, work orders invoicing and finally, the government-required reports.
Using this information repeatedly saves hundreds of keystrokes on a single customer. Imagine how much time you could save when dealing with hundreds of customers in a given year. Moreover, if there is a mistake, it is fixed in one place and the correction flows to every other function.
The beauty of a database is that this information is available and usable in the future – all without re-entering any information. Revisiting a site for service call 10 years later is no problem. Just do another work order for the same site and you are on your way. You know exactly what pump was installed, its serial number and the wiring. This saves you time by taking the right parts to the job the first and only time.
Time is money. Efficiency directly affects your bottom line. Databases are readily searchable in any number of ways. Wells are notorious for changing owners, as people sell their homes. But you can easily search a database by the address. As the property owner changes, you can track the ownership of the well over time if you choose. Searching for wells drilled in a given area is no problem either. Simply search for a road name, county, section, or range of GPS co-ordinates.
Brad Meyers of Aaron Drilling in Calgary was an early adopter of databases. He recently sold his company and says that the most valuable asset was the database of thousands of wells drilled and pumps installed and their service histories.
This underscores the value and importance of a good system. They are handy and efficient to use in the first place, but their true worth presents itself over time when the company is sold. Without good electronic records, a company’s value is merely the value of its tangible assets and perhaps some goodwill.
Personal computers were in their infancy in the 1980s. Meyers knew there had to be a better way than writing each provincial well report by hand. A programmer was hired to build a system not only to record the required information and print the reports, but also to use that same information for estimating, work orders and other company-needed functions.
“Our database allowed us to be much more efficient in serving our customers and completing our work. Every time we went to a job, we knew exactly what to expect and had the parts on board to make the repairs,” Meyers said. “Filing the well logs was a snap and we were committed to extending the use of that data to our daily operations. It has benefited us tremendously over the years. Our customers appreciate the fact that we care enough to track everything on their well.”
Modern times call for modern solutions to age-old tasks and problems. Paper-based record keeping is going the way of the rotary-dialed phone. Doing business today requires a new approach and new tools in your office. While a computer and a basic accounting program beat a pen and paper, it still doesn’t approach the efficiency and cost-saving benefits of a database system. Just as most companies have replaced old cable tool rigs with the latest equipment, it is time to adopt new tools in the office that go beyond computerized accounting, spreadsheets and word processing.
Make this the year that you start a “one-and-done” plan for your company. Use your time savings for your family, your hobbies, or just doing more work.
Rick has been consulting with drilling and ground water companies since 2001. His specialty is building systems to automate workflows. He can be reached at 517-487-2677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.