Air conditioner manufacturers are mentioned by us more seldom than automobile and smartphone brands, but they should be as air conditioners are as important for us as computers. The American manufacturer Cooper & Hunter established itself as an industry pioneer in climatic equipment during the twentieth century. The company, established in 1906, has made several important engineering breakthroughs during its hundred years of history. These breakthroughs made the modern man’s comfortable daily life possible. One of these innovations is responsible for the massive size of today's household air conditioners – and it can be traced back to Cooper&Hunter's commitment to progress.
The company still remains one of the market leaders in the production of commercial and industrial air conditioners. Cooper&Hunter is responsible for almost a third of the global market for such units. And today, it still requires innovations, not only industrial ones but also those related to service.
As the company was looking for digital innovation, Cooper&Hunter chose WEZOM for implementing it. At first, the company was in need of a robust tool that would help to organize the work of technicians, but as we progressed, the scale of the project also grew — right up to the creation of a multi-level digital ecosystem.
The Essence of the Project
The Cooper&Hunter team contacted us last November. They wanted to create a cross-platform mobile application that will simplify the service and warranty maintenance of the units. Also, the creation of a separate admin panel for managing the application was implied, too.
While we were working on the zero sprints, it was obvious that we needed to create a corporate website that could be linked to the admin panel. This is why the team faced an ambitious goal — the creation of a digital infrastructure from several tools connected by common databases and complementary functionality.
To create such an infrastructure, the team had to solve several tasks:
- Develop a cross-platform service application;
- Create a corporate website;
- Combine all the tools using a new backend and admin panel.
The result of the development needed to be done in the form of a platform with three user roles. First of all, it would simplify all aspects of technicians' work: from communication with managers to ordering spare parts for repairs.
The process of development started in December last year. Cooper&Hunter wanted us to create working solutions after-the-fact, so the schedule of our work turned out to be challenging. The deadline for creating the backend, website, and application, was only half a year.
How Was the Technology Chosen?
The team had to develop several separate products and work on their complete synchronization. The technology was chosen with consideration of compatibility and speed. The basis for the application was the Flutter cross-platform framework, the site was developed on Laravel and React.js, and the admin panel was created as a SPA. We also used GraphQL to organize the work of the backend.
Eventually, the technology stack included the following:
- PHP 8.0
- MySQL 8
- Laravel 8
How Was the Reporting Performed?
The team based the workflow on the usual SCRUM scheme and the reports were made for each sprint. The duration of each sprint rarely exceeded two weeks.
The project manager maintained an impressive roadmap and a file with reports, in which he first recorded a detailed sprint work plan and deadlines, and then actual results, with hours spent and financial estimates. The client could refer to this document at any time to evaluate the progress, as well as the development direction.
Although the schedule was challenging, everything was going smoothly. However, on February 24, the war in Ukraine started.
Difficulties in Development Process
Initially, the project required a large team of experts, and it inevitably complicated communication, as well as the coordination of the efforts of the developers. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken these difficulties to the maximum level.
On the one hand, the war created objective problems in work — our key experts were faced with the need to ensure the safety and well-being of their families, get out of the war zone or adapt to work from bomb shelters.
“When the war began, the situation with the Internet was challenging as it started to constantly go away. I had to make regular calls in an old-fashioned way to discuss work-related issues. I called four people and merged the call into a conference call. This was nonsense as almost everyone forgot cell phones had this feature, and we joked that we could switch to pigeon mail, and that's it. This is how we communicated on work-related issues” – Vlada Belaya, project manager.
On the other hand, subjective difficulties were completely real, too — the stressful reality of air raid sirens and shelling could not but affect the performance. At least periodically. Early March was the most challenging period, as the team faced the risk of disrupting the sprint. However, terrible circumstances at the same time prompted colleagues to become more connected and support each other like never before. This collective support and communication became the main resource that allowed the work to be brought out of the impasse. Separately, it is worth mentioning our clients from the USA, who fully supported us at a critical moment.
As a result, the team managed to meet the deadline we set before the war started, despite the whole situation being force majeure. By May 1, most of the work was completed.
What Have We Achieved?
The enterprise mobile application we created was the most important element of the new Cooper&Hunter digital ecosystem. This application relies on a completely new backend and admin panel.
Two main roles are available in the application today – the role of the owner of the air conditioner (homeowner) and the role of the technician, each user starts a personal profile. For an ordinary homeowner, all the processes are relatively simple – he or she needs the application, mainly in order to register the air conditioning system for service. In the application, you can also receive notifications on the status of the warranty, find the FAQ on the operation of air conditioners, and the company's product catalog.
But from a technical point of view, the situation is much more complex. In the United States, air conditioners are installed by specialists with a special license. In addition, there are technicians who have received special certification from Cooper&Hunter. The technician's license number is mentioned in the system after the registration procedure.
Using the application, a specialist can solve a number of routine but troublesome issues in a few clicks:
- place an order for spare parts to repair or rebuild the system. There are no products in the application itself, only categories. The order is processed manually and then entered into the application. The technician himself decides whether to confirm the application. If yes, then payment is made through PayPal;
- use "troubleshooting" – in the form of a database for troubleshooting. It is enough to drive the serial number of the product into the system (or find it in the catalog), as well as enter the error code that is displayed on the device. The system will provide the technician with a PDF file with a description of the problem and its solution;
- communicate directly with Cooper&Hunter technical support. To do this, the application has a full-fledged separate chat, where you can exchange media files and documents. In addition, a request mechanism is provided - a technician can leave a request for system administrators on a specific topic;
- Receive notifications on warranty status, technical support responses, and order statuses. Information comes instantly. The application uses both push notifications and sockets.
The logic of the application is consistent with the new website as well. It is a corporate portal with personal accounts for technicians and homeowners. The new site leverages the same database and admin panel as the application, where you can access the product catalog and register the air conditioning system for service. In general, the site duplicates the different capabilities of the application by 80%, except for the request system.
One of the main features of the site will be the find-solution mechanism. This is a page that allows you to choose an air conditioning system for any household using the logic of the intersection matrix.
From the point of view of an ordinary user, the page’s work looks quite simple: you select the climate zone, the type of system (Single or Multi-Zone), and the series and power of the devices in order to configure the preferred assembly of equipment. In fact, the site page performs the work of a sales assistant.
The idea of a service ecosystem for Cooper&Hunter was ambitious in itself, and in addition to it, it became a serious challenge for the development team. In fact, the tasks were combined into two projects in one, and the team had only six months for all the work. And the war made this case a real test of strength – both professionally and psychologically. Now we can proudly say that we managed to not quit our work halfway, and succeeded by bringing it to the end, despite all the troubles we faced.
Today, the application has already been published in the stores for Android and IOS, American technicians use it to maintain and repair air conditioners, and they get used to new opportunities. The site has also been released, and the team has moved on to the second stage of the project and is working on new functionality.
In the future, the ecosystem will get an additional user role – for corporate clients from the B2B segment. We are talking about the mass maintenance of hundreds of air conditioners at enterprises, and engineering maintenance of complex and large-scale climate equipment. This is an ambitious task of a completely different level. But now we are certain that we are able to solve it brilliantly.