13 Apr 2023

Innovative risk mitigation – GreenSquareAccord’s smart lockers

GreenSquareAccord Ltd, with supplier Jewson, have introduced smart lockers to enable repairs’ operatives to manage their own supply of materials.

Ask social housing tenants what matters most to them, and many will cite a quality repairs service. Ask any social housing provider and they will tell you that delivering repairs is fraught with risks and pitfalls. Providing a quality service is not as easy as it might first appear.  

How can providers improve a repairs’ service, and how can technology help? 

Following the launch of GreenSquareAccord’s (GSA) Voice of the Customer strategy in October 2021, GSA in partnership with Jewson, launched their smart lockers. This was the first housing association in the UK to use this technology.  

The smart lockers work in a similar way to Amazon Hub lockers. When operatives need parts, they order them via an app called Avail and collect them from designated GSA locations. Jewson, the national builders merchant, timber merchant and tool hire supplier then stocks the locker with the right part(s) and the app alerts operatives to collect, along with an access code.  

The lockers ensure operatives have the right materials at the right time and help operatives complete a repair on the first visit. By having the right parts waiting for the operative, the lockers reduce the time taken on trips to the depot and there are no time-wasting queues.  

Completing more repairs first-time leaves time for other repair appointments helping to complete more jobs within our target timescale.  

An efficient process like this results in a cost-efficient service and improved customer satisfaction. 

The smart lockers are an example of a practical use of tech and a successful private sector partnership. The scheme also mitigates several risks and supports the organisation to achieve its objectives.  

The most obvious risk is not completing our repairs schedule, potentially allowing an accident to occur in the home or allowing properties to fall into disrepair. Either of these could result in poor customer satisfaction and/or Regulator attention.  

From April 2023 the housing sector will start reporting data to the Regulator including satisfaction with repairs, satisfaction with the time taken to complete the most recent repair, and repairs completed within target timescale. So, in addition to housing providers wanting to deliver a good service, our Regulator will be evaluating us on these key aspects too.  

Working in partnership with Jewson on the lockers also enables improved economies of scale. Jewson manages the scheme, so the risk of managing stock is transferred to the supplier. If the system isn’t working, it is very simple to switch back to a manual process.  

Cost control monitoring is improved, and vans don’t end up with surplus stock, which is more fuel efficient. This all helps to deliver a cost-effective, on budget service.  

The lockers also help to reduce the risk of fraud, as each part is allocated to a specific job. There is no reason why this system could not be used in any industry that needs regular supplies of variable products to a wide physical area.  

Top tips if your organisation is considering a similar approach 

This only works in certain geographical areas. The spread of properties (our physical area) is important. In our southern region we have properties over a widespread area in many villages and towns. The system is ideal in this instance. We have two lockers in two locations, meaning wherever the property is, they are never far from a locker.  

With our properties in and around Birmingham the need is different, and it has been hard to find a location that is available and is better than local Jewson branches.  

The lockers are powered by solar panels, which is great for our green agenda. The lockers need electricity to light the inside of the locker and to run the screen which unlocks the compartments.  

When the first locker was installed, the solar panels were shaded by trees. Combining the shade with the lower light levels in winter months, even the battery power backup wasn’t sufficient to keep the system working. This has been rectified by installing much bigger batteries. Fortunately, the cost of this was taken on by Jewson as they are responsible for the system.   

Combined with other initiatives, such as improved average jobs per day, a disciplined commercial approach, and operational rhythm, as well as receiving more accurate information from customers at initial contact, it is really helping GSA to improve our service. The benefits are clear for us, for our customers, and for the sector.