Way To Go Heliservices operates a fleet of four helicopters from the Rangiora Airfield north of Christchurch, New Zealand. The company offers a range of commercial, agricultural and aerial transportation services, including hunting and fishing, by helicopter throughout the South Island of New Zealand.
The aviation industry requires a high level of data to be compiled for reporting purposes, along with general accounting and administrative compliance. Mandy Smart, Executive Assistant at Way To Go explains how this had been done until relatively recently:
“The pilots would complete a paper-based Daily Flight Record (DFR) for every flight. They then met with their ground crew member to add the finishing touches prior to handing it in for invoicing. The details were then entered into an accounting program for invoicing and again into a spreadsheet for productivity and statistical analysis. We then sat down as a team and checked through the invoicing. Finally we had to expand on data in the spreadsheet in order to supply CAA with statistical reports.”
The manual transcription of flight records was very time consuming for admin staff, and because information for invoicing was not in one place, invoices were often sent out weeks after a job. Information sharing was also difficult. Triple entry of data onto paper and then into spreadsheet and accounting software was not only inefficient but also increased the likelihood of errors in an industry where absolute accuracy is vital. CEO Rob Kittow had often commented:
“It would be great if we could simplify things with an electronic DFR and have everything in one place.”
When the company added a second flight team in September 2013 they realised that this had to be done.
On recommendation the company approached Digital Fusion in Christchurch and FileMaker developer James Currie got to work. Mandy continues:
“The solution Digital Fusion has built for us allows the pilots to complete a DFR using FileMaker Go on an iPad, review it with their ground crew member and sync it through to a database hosted on FileMaker Server in the office in a timely manner. From there, the invoice can be raised and other information required for reports can be either downloaded in PDF form as a complete report or imported into a spreadsheet for manipulation. The invoices can then be imported into the accounting software.”
Because the helicopters are often in remote areas, the solution has a syncing feature which is used whenever the pilots are back within wireless range to send the data through to the database. Within just a few months, the solution has been developed and refined:
“We are just getting the full product up and running. We are about to roll out the third FileMaker Go version and the database solution is nearly complete.“
The impact has been dramatic. Mandy continues:
“The time saving once set up is huge. Already we save administration time in looking for records when staff are not available to provide information, and the iPad devices hold other information on hand for the pilots which is a helpful tool.“
The solution is being constantly improved. Flight and duty analysis is being added, as well as helicopter time analysis and maintenance record keeping. The company has plans to market their solution to other aerial operators.
By leveraging the strengths of the FileMaker platform, another scattered information situation has been quickly turned around and has led to:
- Savings in time across all aspects of the operation
- More accurate and complete record keeping
- Faster invoicing, improving cash flow
- Improved information management for better business decision-making
Summing up the experience, Mandy says:
“It’s been a big step but the value in implementing such a system is easily recognisable. The portability of FileMaker Go has been central in solving our problem. Most definitely the way to go!”
Thank you to Mandy Smart from Way To Go Heliservices for sharing her story with us.