The business of connection: How Osmose links the front office to the field

Editor's note: Today we hear from Ben Flock, director of operations support at Osmose, which provides inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation services and products to electric and telecommunications utilities. Read how Osmose provides its field workers with connectivity using Chromebooks.

In business, as in life, connection breeds success. When you feel connected to your team, your network, your customer, your family, relationships are stronger and everybody wins.

Osmose is in the business of connecting people. We do the work that ensures your utilities are up and running so when you open your laptop, you can connect to the internet, and when you pick up a landline telephone, you get a dial tone. We offer reliable service by maintaining the poles on which utility and electric lines are strung. This means our crews spend most of their time away from the office, and we rely on Chromebooks to keep them connected in the field.

Foremen are our first line of management and key to our operations. In the past, foremen had little connectivity and limited technology when working on a job site. They used paper and pen to collect data and complete administrative tasks. When they worked remotely they often missed important family events, such as childrens’ ball games or recitals. This made it hard for us to attract and retain staff. The problem compounded as we grew: we've tripled our number of field crews since 2006. Each crew has on average three people in it: a foreman plus two other field workers.

To connect our teams and provide greater mobility, we replaced paper with Chromebooks. The devices combine the best features of tablets and laptops: they’re light, easy to use and have keyboards. Chromebooks are tough and sturdy, and well-suited for field work, including some models which have waterproof keyboards and rubberized edges so they can withstand rough weather and hard treatment in the field. They provide our crews with the capabilities they need at a price that has allowed us to provide one for each field crew at a relatively low cost.

Chromebooks play a central role in our employees’ work from the day they start at Osmose. All onboarding forms are completed online, eliminating the vast majority of our paperwork. Every crew member is issued a Chromebook during their eight-week training period, which makes the process faster and more convenient because they can refer to it for information any time they want.

Our foremen use Chromebooks on a daily basis and see the most significant benefits. They’re able to send data from the field, communicate with the main office and access safety information with the touch of a button. They can easily complete administrative tasks without carrying heavy binders. And it’s now possible for our crews to enjoy a better work-life balance because they can work from anywhere and their colleagues and family can reach them at any time via email or Google Hangouts video calls.

We’re now expanding how we use Chrome devices. We’ve introduced Chromebox for meetings in our conference rooms and our training environments. Some of our vice presidents are also using Chromebooks for everyday computing because of their portability and convenience. These devices are helping to fuel our growth and accomplish our mission to help people stay connected.