Livestreaming Plumbing Jobs Bolsters Company's Efficiency

Keith McDonald Plumbing uses a livestreaming concept to both work as well as teach young plumbers more efficiently

Livestreaming Plumbing Jobs Bolsters Company's Efficiency

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Like so many plumbing and drain cleaning business owners today constrained by a tight labor market, Lindsay Goodson needs to make every minute of every day count. So to boost efficiency, the owner of Keith McDonald Plumbing has implemented a program where she and another experienced plumber can walk less-experienced plumbers through problems via a livestreaming platform.

“I can talk to technicians and they can talk to me,” she explains. “Everything they can see, I can see, too. It’s really quite cool.”

The seeds for the livestreaming concept were planted when Goodson’s late father, Keith McDonald, who founded the Milledgeville, Georgia-based company in 2002, were talking about ways to work as well as teach young plumbers more efficiently. They discussed using Apple’s FaceTime video app and also tried using a GoPro video camera, but the battery life wasn’t sufficient, she says.

“So I hunted and hunted and eventually found a camera on that would work,” she says.

It’s an Ordro EP7 head-mountable video camera, which costs about $210. She also purchased a Craftsman pack-out box, a Wi-Fi internet “hotspot” device, a backup camera battery and charger, and a headlamp.

Total investment? About $750. Benefits? Priceless.

“There aren’t any plumbing trade schools anywhere near us and there’s not a whole lot of people around here that go into the trades,” she says. “So the pool of plumbers basically is dry. If we want to keep enough people out there to do the work we need to do, I want to be able to train two or three people at a time — help them when they get stuck. But we can only train one person at a time out in the field, plus it uses fuel and takes valuable time to go out on jobs with them. But with this camera system, everything is right there in front of you.”

Goodson plans to buy another camera; the two cameras will be used by the company’s less-experienced plumbers — not to livestream an entire job, but just to receive guidance if they encounter problems. One side benefit: If a more experienced plumber goes out to help a less-experienced plumber, the former tends to jump in and do the work for the latter. But this way, the less-experienced techs must do the work themselves, just with remote guidance.

“It’s like going to a virtual school,” Goodson says.

Goodson and the company’s lead service technicians, John Methe, will each spend one day a week in the office, where they’ll be ready to provide assistance. When Methe isn’t providing livestreaming guidance, he’ll stay busy putting job estimates together, submitting shop orders and the like.

“Sure, he’s not out there generating income,” Goodson says when asked about the downside of keeping a lead technician in an office one day a week. “But our younger guys will learn things 10 times faster by getting more training — and they will then be able to generate more revenue in the long run. It’s a win-win situation.”


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