Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix and is home to more than half of Arizona’s population, is the fourthlargest county in the U.S. but continues to grow rapidly. Normally, the combination of size and growth would strain county services. But Maricopa has successfully met the challenge with innovation. Since implementing wireless handheld computers from Intermec, Maricopa County has expanded services, improved responsiveness and reduced its labor requirements by at least $40,000.
Maricopa County champions best practices. If one department does something well, it becomes the central provider to all county agencies. Many responsibilities fall on the Maricopa County Public Works Department, which has county-wide responsibility for inventory, asset and document management. The department’s own best practices for providing these services include extensive use of Intermec 750 Series handheld computers running multiple applications from Micromation, an Intermec Honors Partner highly experienced in the public sector.
“Through our streamlining with the mobile computers we’ve been able to serve more departments without having to hire anyone into our department,” said Maricopa County Public Works Procurement Manager James Baker. “The system is helping improve our accountability and has eliminated human errors.”
County property is now scanned at receiving, recorded into inventory and the warehouse location automatically documented. The Intermec 750 Series computer also captures the recipient’s signature for proof of delivery when Public Works Department employees deliver items to other county agencies. Workers also uses the handheld computers to manage department assets and to track the documents the county keeps in storage.
The Public Works Department previously had a worker manually spot-check inventory of materials used the day before. The process took about two hours, then another hour for a supervisor to review the information, update records and place any needed orders. Using bar codes to scan materials in and out has made manual inventory checks unnecessary. Baker estimates the application is saving $11,900 in annual labor alone.
The department uses the labor savings to do more work with less staff – and to prevent more than $30,000 in new wage and benefit costs that would have previously been required to support the workload.
“We’ve been able to provide services to more departments because of the gains we’ve made,” said Baker. “Our department staff has stayed the same. Without the handheld computing system, we would have had to hire at least one more employee to support the additional workload.”
Information is also available more quickly. Most county buildings are clustered in a campus covered by an 802.11-standard wireless LAN protected with the FIPS-140 security protocol, which Intermec supports. Transactions within the campus are reported wirelessly from the handhelds to host systems in real time.
“The system also gives us a tool for employee exit interviews,” said Baker. "When an employee is leaving, our human resources department can pull up a list and say, ‘Okay, you were assigned these assets. We need to verify that you returned these before you get your last paycheck.’”
The county verifies the contents of each box every time it is checked in or out. The verification and check-in/check-out process typically took between five and 10 minutes per box. The county plans to replace manual verification with bar code scanning that will decrease the process time to about a minute, which may save thousands of hours over the life of the system.
“The bar code systems are saving time for us in so many ways. The time savings allow us to save money for taxpayers and make our employees more valuable,” said Baker. “And there are so many other things we can do with the technology.”
Maricopa County continually tries to leverage its successes across operations. It will no doubt find more uses for bar coding and wireless mobile computing, which are proving themselves to be among the best of Maricopa County’s best practices.