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Our use of GIS has improved property management, delivered more accurate information about customers and reduced costs.

GIS helps drive development pipeline and reduce maintenance costs

The Aster Group is an ethical social enterprise providing services to over 75,000 customers, including homes for rent or purchase, care and support and property maintenance. Employing over 1,500 staff, the group has assets of over £1 billion, a turnover of £145 million and more than 27,000 homes.

The Customer

The Aster Group is an ethical social enterprise providing services to over 75,000 customers including homes for rent or purchase, care and support, and property maintenance. Employing over 1,500 staff, the group has assets of over £1 billion, a turnover of £145 million and more than 27,000 homes.

To develop a wider application of Esri GIS across the Group, joining-up the business and allowing better management of properties, more information about customers and direct cost savings

Using Esri UK GIS, Aster built an online mapping portal to integrate all of its spatial data

 

This allows staff across the business to see numerous attributes about a property, such as occupancy, repair costs, rent arrears, energy ratings or tenant profile, all on the same map

The integrated, geographic view has delivered new levels of location intelligence at Aster

 

This has increased revenues, brought a more efficient approach to maintaining properties and enabled Aster to create energy-efficient homes for customers

The Challenge

The long-term strategy at Aster has always been to see whether GIS can be used across the group.

“Aster Group wanted to develop its application of Esri GIS and look for new areas of the business that could benefit,” said Roy Thompson, Aster Group’s IT director. “In practice, this means we map information that will lead to better management of our properties, deliver more information about our customers, increase efficiencies or achieve a direct cost saving.”

“ Aster Group wanted to develop its application of Esri GIS and look for new areas of the business that could benefit. In practice, this means we map information that will lead to better management of our properties, deliver more information about our customers, increase efficiencies or achieve a direct cost saving

Roy Thompson – IT Director, Aster Group

The Solution

Using Esri UK GIS, Aster built an online mapping portal called AsterMaps to integrate all of its spatial data, as Andrew Bradley, business systems analyst (GIS) at Aster Group, explained: “As a group, we have Aster Property, Aster Homes, Aster Communities and Aster Living, which all perform separate functions. Using GIS, we joined-up the business and can reference any data from these divisions in one place. Now staff can see numerous attributes about a property, such as occupancy, repair costs, rent arrears, energy ratings or tenant profile, all on the same map.”

“ Today, GIS is core to the way we operate. During the last year, our use of GIS has increased by 50 per cent and I can only see this figure rising as more staff recognise its benefits

Andrew Bradley – business systems analyst (GIS) at Aster Group

Benefits

This integrated, geographic view has delivered new levels of location intelligence at Aster, which is now being applied across the group, helping more staff make better decisions.

One area of asset management GIS is helping to improve is development and leasing. By looking at all the factors involved in an initial site investigation, such as stock information, occupancy, garage voids, access routes and who owns what land, Aster has been able to identify several new development sites. So far, this has led to secured planning on three sites, which will produce 16 homes. A further 27 properties to be built over six sites are awaiting planning permission.

The GIS also presents a more accurate and efficient framework for leasing land to customers to build a garage, create parking, gardens or allotments.

“Applying mapping in this way is helping to reveal development opportunities in a way not possible with physical site visits or by using paper maps,” said Andrew. “We also have a better picture of the land we own, so we can make the best use of small pockets of land and generate other additional income from leasing.”

One simple but highly effective exercise has achieved a far more efficient approach to maintaining properties. Aster plotted how its properties were grouped together in zones for maintenance purposes, in relation to where maintenance staff lived and worked, along with the location of building materials and major roads. It became obvious that some staff were travelling unnecessary distances to their allocated zone, or went past properties that were a different team’s responsibility.

The findings allowed the group’s maintenance business, Aster Property, to reconfigure the zones by grouping together neighbourhoods, estates or villages in a much more logical, spatial way.

“Managing maintenance resources using GIS has saved a significant amount of travelling time and fuel,” commented Bradley. “The new method means we can reach customers a lot quicker too.”

On a tactical level, using the new GIS has allowed Aster to create and map its own Tree Survey data, eliminating the need to pay external consultants which saves the group around £80,000 a year.

The GIS is also enabling Aster to create energy-efficient homes for customers. By overlaying different fuel types, property energy ratings and Government fuel poverty figures, the software shows where customers risk fuel poverty and may be struggling to pay their bills. Aster can now take action ahead of its planned maintenance programme, to make sure customers have affordable and effective heating.

Mike McCarthy, Aster Property operations director, said: “GIS has fundamentally changed the way we deliver our asset management strategy. From managing our repairs and planned maintenance programmes, through to mapping our estates’ performance in support of our wider stock options appraisals, it’s a tool we wouldn’t be without.”

“Today, GIS is core to the way we operate,” concluded Bradley. “During the last year, our use of GIS has increased by 50 per cent and I can only see this figure rising as more staff recognise its benefits. They understand the importance of location in making decisions and now come to us with ideas of how GIS can help the business, which is a great situation to be in.”

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