United Site Services, the nation’s premier porta potty rental company, shares insights on what it takes for niche industry players to undertake a successful digital transformation
For years the business media have produced volumes of coverage on digital transformation, and it can seem that every enterprise has made some kind of digital move, despite the existence of a world of service businesses trying to find the value in making technological shifts. Many of these firms deliver solutions in sectors that may not immediately come to mind, like United Site Services (USS).
The Boston-based provider of rental sanitation equipment has roughly 300,000 assets in the continental U.S. that they manage, including portable restrooms, hand hygiene solutions, temporary fence, trailer solutions, and roll off dumpsters for every conceivable outdoor event. They serve gatherings from the most basic to elegant, serving Burning Man and Coachella, construction and other worksites, posh countryside weddings, and everything in between. With over 140 branch locations, USS is the largest sanitation firm of its kind; their closest competitor is 110% smaller.
When Ray Andrews joined the company in 2019 as VP of Digital Transformation, he was initially tasked with replacing their 20-year-old ERP system. Today he’s the CIO and his main focus is “optimizing the customer experience by implementing a modern technology stack and creating real-time visibility into business performance,” according to the firm.
“There are lot of mom-and-pops in the industry, and most of them still operate their business on paper, or with a program like QuickBooks,” he explained. “Funnily enough, we were almost no different. We were performing almost 15 million services for portable restrooms annually, and we were doing that on paper.”
Not so long ago the company’s 2,000 service technicians – the individuals responsible for setup, cleaning, tear down, and transportation – would get their daily assignments on paper. Each sheet represented a single job, and on most days that meant the techs would have 20 to 30 of them. “They’d basically look up the jobsite address on their personal phones, drive there, and log their completed tasks with paper and pencil,” he said.
The completed forms were scanned and sent back to the corporate offices to be manually input into the old ERP.
“It’s pretty incredible,” he admitted. “Over the past few years, we’ve put in a modern cloud-based architecture to do all of this systemically on the front end.”
USS chose Salesforce for their sales and operations teams; on the back end they use NetSuite for their billing, collections, and general ledger management.
Service technicians now have company-issued mobile phones loaded with Salesforce. They immediately see the day’s work schedule, organized to optimize the time spent between one job and the next. The app also serves up driving directions to worksites, as well as the latitude and longitude of each service stop.
The ubiquitous plastic porta potty is a $500 purchase, which doesn’t seem like a sizeable investment unless there’s no transparent and reliable asset tracking in place. That’s where USS was when Andrews came onboard. “We could loosely understand how many were on customer sites, but we didn't know how many we had in inventory that could be used on a new job.”
Understanding the struggles around the business helped Andrews and his teams come up with ideas for improvement. “We spent a lot of time at the branches talking to drivers and getting their feedback. We didn't run this project from the ivory tower at corporate,” he said. The involvement helped shape how the app would work, as well as making roll out and adoption more efficient.
When Andrews joined USS, his IT department was a six-person team, which he expanded considerably to support their new tech platforms. External tech partners include cloud infrastructure experts Nutanix and Argano, an organizational change management and strategy consultants for firms on the digital transformation journey.
The ability to see the functionality they were hoping the software would deliver was important, as was engaging customers who had previously implemented the platforms. “Between the demos and the customer referrals, those were the two most important things that helped us settle on the final selection,” he said.
As part of the modernization project, QR codes were put on every unit. “Our techs can scan them with their phones to report the job’s status,” he said. “Instead of making entries on paper, they take a digital scan on site and that record goes into all of the necessary systems.”
Their efficiency gains were impressive. “We saw that the same service tech was able to perform around 20% more services in a day than they were doing before,” he noted, adding that if 2,000 service technicians become 20% more productive, that saves the company from hiring 400 workers. “It's just massive.”
Customer input also influenced the refinement of their new systems. For example, a change in the way invoices are formatted may delay the prompt payment of a client. “There were things we learned that we didn't think would be a big deal to a customer,” he said. “If we hadn't had those discussions, we would have had some big misses. Getting your customers, especially some of your trusted larger ones, involved right off the bat is something everyone should do.”
When it comes to growth, the past four years have been stellar for USS; the company has increased in size over the years through mergers and acquisitions. Since rolling out the new platform revenue has expanded considerably. “We've been well into double-digit growth over the past couple of years,” Andrews said. “We've been able to maintain our head count levels despite that growth and a big part of that is driven by the technology we now have in place.”
The positive impact on the customer experience is the biggest improvement the technology is delivering, and Andrews is firm in his conviction that modernization is industry agnostic. “You can take any industry, like the portable restroom industry, and you can digitally transform it in such a way that not only transforms the company, but more importantly, the customer experience can be improved upon in a way that the entire industry has never seen before.”
You may not notice us, but we are always there -- at construction sites, industrial facilities and live events all across America. The USS team takes pride in providing essential services like portable restrooms and sinks, temporary fence, roll off dumpsters and more for over 120,000 customers coast-to-coast every year. Our team is on the road and behind the scenes helping our customers create an easy, safe and clean experience for their employees or patrons.
118 Flanders Rd.
Westborough, MA 01581
Phone Number: 800.864.5387
Homepage Link: http://www.unitedsiteservices.com