Proptech in practice: VitaTech transforms traditional market for technical maintenance of real estate
“If I order a pizza or a pair of new shoes, I know the exact time the delivery will be at my doorstep,” says Jacques van der Krogt, CEO of VitaTech, part of leading Dutch maintenance and service company, Van Dorp. “But what if the air conditioning in my office building shuts down on a hot day — how can I track & trace my maintenance request?”
He answers his own rhetorical question: A phone call to the manager of the building, an email to the maintenance company, and then just wait to see if the repair can take place that same day or towards the end of the week. Technical management and maintenance of real estate should be more customer-focused, efficient and proactive, thought Van der Krogt. Thus, he began his mission to not only digitize but transform the entire business model and make it future proof.
- VitaConnect gives external customers, such as contractors, property owners and tenants, full transparency about (internal) work processes, and facilitates the optimal deployment of people, resources and money.
- Users always have complete, real-time insight into all relevant data and agreements made about their properties. In addition, they proactively receive notifications about submitted tickets, planning, and handling of a problem.
- The internal user benefits from transparent and easily manageable processes, resulting in 45 percent time saving compared to old methods still used in a traditional sector.
Transforming a Traditional Market
Van Dorp’s core business is technical maintenance of real estate. They are responsible for about 18,000 properties worth $15.5 billion, varying from business offices to schools, hospitals and governmental buildings. Due to rules, regulations and different stakeholders, there is a lot of indirect communication, contracts and paperwork involved. This varies from approving work orders and informing clients, to cross-checking agreements within the SLAs, and inspections by controlling bodies. Combined with a well-known shortage of well-trained technical staff on a national level, the need for more efficient organization and control of the mostly paper-based processes was evident.
Evident, but not an easy task, since technical building management is a traditional market with little innovation. The agreements made with property owners, and the implementation of maintenance plans according to KPIs and the strategic objectives of the customer, are often recorded in different IT systems. There is no clear insight into compliance, the current status of maintenance tasks, and open reports.
To answer the urgent need for a more cohesive and efficient workaround, Van der Krogt and his team at VitaTech, a sub-company of Van Dorp, developed the Building Monitor App, later internationally deployed and renamed VitaConnect. “The challenge with this project was to combine large amounts of data from different sources into one clear, real-time overview. This includes data from smart meters, sensors, legacy building management systems, and information from the Dutch Land Registry (Kadaster) and the Energy Register (Energieregister). Increasing data quality, enriching it, and subsequently making it available to customers were challenging operations with risks in terms of data pollution and consistency,” explains Van der Krogt.
Slashing Maintenance by 45%
After six months of development, Van der Krogt and his 22-person team launched VitaConnect, their main platform. Currently VitaConnect is used by 1,200 employees, processing over 800,00 tickets a year — slashing the maintenance time by 45 percent. “Quite an improvement, both for our own employees and for our customers and partners. With technical management, you should not only think about software, but take the customer experience as a starting point,” states Van der Krogt.
Although VitaConnect defines 17 roles in three different categories — from regional director to contractor to business client — everyone uses the same platform. Using smart algorithms, VitaConnect prioritizes incoming tickets by looking at the client’s needs and nature of the complaint, and, using integrated GPS data, sends the nearest available technician to the location. Van der Krogt explains, “If your air conditioner breaks down, we automatically check the agreed SLA, which technician is nearby and whether we are dealing with an acute malfunction in, for example, a retirement home or hospital, or a less urgent report.”
The technician receives the ticket with real-time information through VitaConnect, and after he confirms the assignment, the tenant or property owner gets a notification that the technician is on their way. After the malfunction has been remedied, the invoice is automatically forwarded to the correct person.
Next on the Technology Roadmap
“VitaConnect is just a stepping stone, yet a very important one, in our journey to transform the business model of the real estate industry. We have a lot of interesting projects on our roadmap that aim to match supply and demand in our sector. Together with Mendix, we also built our recently launched platform Wally, the first live project of new sub-company, Dapple, which offers property managers and owners an innovative way to optimize their customers’ facility management. Our goal is to initiate a revolution in the entire chain, in which the economic value instead of the market value of a building is most important,” concludes Van der Krogt optimistically.