Unblocking logistical obstacles

11 April 2024

Richard Warley explains how a drainage services provider is embracing software to jettison inefficient job management and improve productivity.

TRANSITIONING TO digital working, field operatives from Trent’s Drains, a provider of 24/7 drainage services, are using mobile devices synchronised in real-time with the back-office system. Since implementing BigChange the company is said to have seen a tenfold increase in turnover and has doubled its fleet of specialist jetting vehicles.

Operating from its headquarters in Bristol, Trent’s now undertakes around 800 jobs a month and has managed its growth without having to hire more admin staff. The company is also saving more than £30,000 a year in admin and accountancy fees thanks to a seamless integration between BigChange and QuickBooks, and it has boosted its customer service with more 5-star ratings on review sites.  

Day to day management

A second generation, family run business with over 60 years’ experience in the drainage industry, Trent’s Drains was established by Mark Trent, who still manages some of the larger domestic projects, and his son Louis, who oversees the day-to-day management of the company and works closely with key commercial accounts. Offering expert drainage services, including emergency drain unblocking, CCTV surveys and preventative maintenance, Trent’s team of satellite engineers covers the whole of the south-west from the depths of Cornwall over to Essex and up to the Midlands. Trent’s operates a mixed fleet of Jetting vans, tipper trucks and a 2,000-gallon tanker. 

“We had previously invested in a standalone CRM system but didn’t use it to its full potential,” commented Louis Trent, Director and Co-Owner of Trent’s Drains. “We used it to log some of the jobs, for some of the engineers, whilst others continued to use cardboard job sheets whilst quotes and invoices were done in Word and job histories were kept in Excel. When COVID struck, and we only had frontline field staff, we reverted to tried and trusted job cards with supporting images, etc sent by WhatsApp.

“However, as we expanded this became unmanageable,” he continued. “We had to work through mountains of job cards, ours as well as our customers’, scanning and matching them to quotes, purchase orders and photos, and we knew we needed to make a big change.”

System management

Trent’s looked at a couple of options before reaching out to BigChange having had previous experience of tracking software from BigChange’s founder Martin Port, liking that the system managed tracking and fleet management alongside job scheduling. Using BigChange, which incorporates a mobile workforce appcustomer relationship management (CRM), job schedulinglive tracking,financial management, and business intelligence tools in one system, Trent’s has, according to Louis, “Exceeded our business goals through productivity and been able to take on more work, with the same resource, and grow the business in its entirety.”

Using BigChange, Trent’s can easily manage its growing client base. The CRM tools, linked to Google Maps and with What3Words integration allow for the easy identification of customer locations, even if they are off the beaten track on a private road or in the middle of a field or woodland area. Intelligent job scheduling, taking into account engineer skills and equipment, has replaced whiteboards in the office and back-office staff have real-time visibility on engineers’ progress using the BigChange App running on a tablet or smartphone. This allows Trent’s planning team to monitor each operative’s time and react to changing schedules and circumstances.

Customisable job cards that can accommodate Trent’s requirements as well as those of its larger corporate clients are reducing the time it takes for engineers to complete reports onsite, removing the need to capture multiple customer signatures and eliminating the need to scan paper documents back at the office.

“Prior to BigChange our engineers would have to fill in different worksheets for different clients in addition to our standard job cards,” added Jozef Przytocki, operations manager at Trent’s Drains. “Using BigChange, we can build different templates for different job types with a mixture of questions which, when completed, can be fed into different job sheets. This improves onsite productivity and reduces back-office administration.

“It’s not just about the engineers doing a great job in the field it’s about reporting on this service to the end client. We get a lot of feedback from our commercial customers; property agents, facilities managers, landlords, helpdesks, etc., who are not onsite to see what we have done, about the detail and speed of our reporting.”

BigChange is also helping Trent’s manage the financial side of the business with an enforceable system whereby suppliers will not accept an order without a valid purchase order number, and integration with the company’s accounting system QuickBooks. “With BigChange we can better monitor and manage our spending and have complete visibility of which job materials or tools may have been purchased for. We are also saving many hours a week with our accountants able to seamlessly access invoice and credit note data directly from QuickBooks,” concluded Przytocki 

Richard Warley is CEO at BigChange

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