Verang (Pty) Limited

Background
Bank City is FNB's corporate headquarters and the focus for a significant volume of daily traffic.  Driving to and from meetings is embedded in Johannesburg's business culture, mainly for security reasons, and this poses significant challenges for facilities operators when it comes to managing their car parks.

Bank City, for example, has car park estate covering 65,000m², which sounds substantial. But factor in the requirements of almost 11,000 staff and consultants, and daily visitor numbers approaching 5,000, and it soon becomes clear that unless you can guarantee the constant availability of 10,000 spaces – which simply don't exist – managing the facility will become a difficult process.  Verang's solution was to take Concept™ and develop a hotel-style booking module, complete with provision for over-occupancy, that would enable the proactive management of a potentially overwhelming situation.

"This really is a unique requirement," explains John Keramianakis, Verang's Technical Director. "There is a new parking lot for staff, while executives and visitors can park in the main building. But with the old manual system, staff would book themselves in as visitors to be closer to the office – and visitors would arrive to find there were no spaces for them!

"The best option was to automate the system, running it like a hotel booking service, capturing specific numbers of bays for each department according to size, on a pro rata basis, and oversubscribing by 10-15% to allow for visitors."

The customised Concept™-based module allows Verang to set thresholds for each department with calculations based on the number of personnel who have the right to a parking bay, and the number of visitors expected.

When a customer or member of staff registers their request on the system, this is passed to the facilities department, which generates a unique reference number. When the visitor arrives, they must quote their reference number and will then receive an access card to the building and parking space. Photos are taken of the visitor and vehicle on arrival and attached to the card, adding to the bank's security infrastructure: if anomalies are detected, suspect visitors can be tracked by CCTV. The card also states the time of entry and exit, and this is then billed back to the
department in question.

"Because the system generates internal funds and there is an associated charge, for example if a reservation is made but the visitor doesn't arrive, it makes departments aware of the cost of parking and of having visitors to the building, and the consequences of abusing the system," says John.

"Bank City now manages to park more cars more efficiently, and visitors are asked to travel in one car because of the strain on space availability. It means the bank can maximise the use of its space."

Challenge

With more than four years' experience of using Concept™ and training staff in the use and support of the platform and its applications, Verang was well placed to develop the new module. It plugs into the native database and system users aren't aware that they are accessing a 'non-native' application.

According to John, development fell into two phases: access control and visitor registration.

"We spent two weeks specifying the module, and six weeks developing it," he says. "Then it took a further four weeks to develop the visitor registration element, which integrates with the access control system."

The main challenges arose when introducing end-users to the new system, he explains.

"We don't actually have facilities staff managing the module, which is run by security staff – and that introduces a whole new mind set. Essentially, we had to train the guards to manage the system.  The boom operators at the entrance to the car park in the basement are not experienced computer users, for example.  But they need to ensure that as the cars arrive, they match the access number and details on the card. The ironic thing is that the early hurdles were really basic technology issues: using the cameras and getting the users to 'speak' to the system, rather than anything to do with the system itself."
This, says John, is because Concept™ is such a fundamentally easy to use CAFM system, with extreme flexibility at its core.

"We used various components to integrate the parking module with Concept™," he says. "For example, in order to record all the staff in the building who can accept and approve visitors, it was simply a question of logging into Exchange Server and extracting the personnel details.  The fact that it carries all-live information makes it much easier and was essential for the facilities team when it came to implementation."

The Help Desk module at the heart of the system is another important element, because it means status reports are always up to date. Calls are logged and updated in real time, making it a reliable and true source of who is where in the building.

"Our new module was very much developed to interact with Concept™ and all the database entries are reliant on the platform," John continues. "A lot of the functionality is parameter-driven.  As a system it is very customisable and so easy to replicate – and to set up!"

Benefits

John says the best way to assess the impact of the new system on Bank City's parking infrastructure is to look at the experience of the CEO.  "If he can't find parking on his level, we have a problem!" John points out.  "And so far, he's always been able to find a space, so that's the benchmark.  It has minimised any abuse of the system. The post boy hasn't been able to park in a director's bay.

"Also previously, there was never enough parking for visitors.  Now, it's well managed, the departments are paying for it and they are much more careful about how they use the facility.  Visitor security has improved: they can come to a meeting knowing there will be a space for them, and that's reduced the number of cancelled meetings or requests for bank staff to travel to their premises instead.  That's why an automated, properly managed, secure parking system is so important in Johannesburg's central business area."