He and Estrella are pleased that in addition to efficiency, the GPS improves safety because its audible directions free the inspector from looking down at papers or maps. The system also reduces the likelihood of an inspector getting lost.

The Nitty Gritty

As with anything new, the program is ironing out a few kinks as the workers use it. “Because of the size of our jurisdiction, there are pieces we’re still perfecting,” Estrella said. “In newer communities or areas that haven’t been updated yet, we still have to use the old-school methods, but it’s a very small percentage.”

The entire department has learned that technology is only as powerful as the information that supports it. “The software uses our own data, so if our staff inputs something incorrectly — say, ‘Mane’ instead if ‘Main’ — that can be a problem,” Henderson said. “We have to be accurate or it can throw everything off and waste time.”

Still, both men agree that’s a small price to pay for the abundance of benefits the new system offers.

“Scheduling and routing more than 900 inspections a month can be very challenging,” said Clint Magoffin, a housing specialist and Inspection Unit supervisor. “The TourSolver and GPS initiative has decreased the amount of time it takes to complete my monthly tasks by approximately 20 hours. We are able to use the system data to send out appointment letters, tracking logs and complete fieldwork logs. It really is amazing.”

Matthew Munski, another housing specialist in the Inspection Unit, agrees. “Using the GPS system to complete residential inspections has been a great asset and convenience,” he said. “The GPS system plans the most expeditious route to the residence, which saves the county money, gas and time. I spend less time driving around searching for a residence, which translates into better customer service.”

TourSolver software has allowed the HCD to redirect resources formerly used for  manual routing and scheduling to other tasks. The savings is estimated to be more than $30,000 per year.

To implement the TourSolver project, the department spent $10,300 on IT integration, software and GPS devices. Best of all, Estrella said, “ROI took only four months.”

Ellen Ullman is a writer and editor in Fairfield, Conn.

Ellen Ullman  |  Contributing Writer