Council engineers get mobile eprocurement app

New software platform will make it far easier to acquire parts and materials in the field, as well as reducing paperwork and red tape.

Eprocurement specialist EGS has teamed up with mobile connectivity firm Pervasic to launch a system for public sector field workers to buy materials while on the road.

The system will be targeted to people like field services staff working for bodies like social housing groups. While out on visits and work maintenance jobs, these specialists often spot where new kit - e.g. a new boiler - is needed. For many authorities, at the moment buying that boiler creates a long paper trail where the item must be requisitioned or bought against an invoice that later needs to be tallied. The idea here is that the engineer can make the purchase online and so all actions get captured electronically.

"Our customers often end up with their accounts payables clerks riffling through boxes and boxes of paperwork at the end of the month," said John Salter, chief executive of Pervasic, which supplies the software to handle the communications between the mobile device and the back end.

"This way they can make purchasing decisions in a way that is much easier for both them and the organisation."

"Staff can now make purchases on the road against the authorised catalogue at the pre-negotiated price and in a way that meets compliance targets," added Steve Beebe, sales director at EGS, which provides the eprocurement exchange software that the mobile requests will link into.

"People are starting to realise that 'the field' is now as close to them as 'the office,'" commented Steve Downton, a independent consultant tracking the field service market in the UK.

"By making the procurement process happen online data like customer and job number, premise being repaired and so on in one place streamlines the whole procedure and will cut out a lot of paperwork for the engineer."

Downton added that the technology underlying solutions like this is now robust enough to allow wider deployment of such field-based support systems. "There were questions marks maybe a year ago over some of the mobile devices but we have moved beyond that phase now."

Pervasic is to link its MobileOne platform with the EGS Exchange, with clients mobiles typically falling into the PDA class of device (e.g. the XDA) or devices HP iPaqs or Motorola MC35s, or any capable of running Windows Mobile.

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