CUSTOMER STORY

NMR Group

NMR Group increases operational efficiency by 40 percent with a custom app

Industry

Energy

Solution

A custom app built on FileMaker's Workplace Innovation Platform enables NMR Group to gather more robust and reliable data.

Benefits

Eliminated the need to fill out paper forms, then fax them in and re-enter data. Increased operational efficiency by 40% and decreased inefficient tasks by 60%.

With mobile app, Massachusetts company evaluates energy subsidy programs

If you’ve ever found yourself in the lighting aisle searching for a replacement bulb, you may have noticed the difference between traditional light bulbs and newer, energy-saving models like LEDs and fluorescent lamps. Those bulbs often come with subsidies that are overseen by companies like NMR Group. The company uses a custom app to gauge the effectiveness of subsidy programs.

Energy-efficient bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than an old 60-watt bulb and use 25 to 80 percent less power, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Because of that, energy companies have programs designed to encourage people to use them.

The programs give subsidies to energy-saving products or measures, such as light bulbs and efficient refrigerators, and home upgrades such as better insulation. But it’s up to government boards to make sure that power companies are investing in programs that really do reduce energy use and that consumers' money is being spent wisely. That’s where companies like NMR Group come in.

Built for research

With the help of a custom app built on FileMaker’s Workplace Innovation Platform, NMR Group conducts research into subsidy programs to make sure they really work. As part of their efforts, NMR Group visits homes and businesses across the country to track energy usage.

For instance, NMR might visit a randomly selected group of homes in the Boston, Mass., area to see what kind of lightbulbs people are using and how long they’re switched on each day. Once the company has collected that information, it gives staff a baseline for what’s normal in that area and what kind of energy savings could be gained if residents there used energy-efficient light bulbs. If no one in that particular area is using them yet, the gains might be huge. Conversely, if everyone is already using them, energy use might stay the same, even if fluorescent bulbs are subsidized at local drug stores and home improvement stores.

Before it had a FileMaker app, NMR Group would send data collectors into homes and offices with paper forms. The data collectors would then use the forms to keep track of their questions and to log answers. When they were finished, they’d scan the sheets, then email or fax them back to NMR Group, where someone would manually enter the data.

"With the old method, we were stuck in a work rut,” said Scott Walker, a project manager who used his problem-solving skills to create NMR Group’s app. “Every step could introduce errors. The job we perform has multiple rules about what should be done in particular situations. If it’s done on paper, technicians have to remember all of those rules."

"We're now able to focus on the things that are important rather than on errors"

Scott Walker, Project Manager, NMR Group

Escaping the work rut

Once NMR Group had their custom app, it was able to send out data gatherers with iPad devices instead of pen and paper. Using the mobile app, they can record the data directly into FileMaker. The switch eliminated the need to fax and re-enter data and increased operational efficiency by up to 40 percent. Inefficient tasks have been reduced by up to 60 percent.

The app also helps employees get better data by guiding them through a list of questions, which are often slightly different at each survey location.

“Our new process is more user friendly for employees, and it led to us getting better data,” Walker said, adding that the innovative app also helped the company identify data collectors who weren’t doing their job.

In the past, it could take months to identify an employee who was fabricating answers instead of visiting the homes they were assigned to. Now, Walker and his colleagues can use the app to compare data, identify outliers and address the problem.

“We’re now able to focus on the things that are important rather than on errors,” Walker said.

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