“When we saw the potential, we wanted to get the technology so we could test it and see if it was a fit for us,” said Thorn, president of Thorn Pest Solutions. “We are a science-based company and are able to quickly adopt technology if it benefits us and our customers.”
The 15-year-old Utah company has 32 employees and primarily serves the commercial sector. Warehouses, logistics facilities and food processing plants make up 75% of the business, with residential representing 25%. The remote monitoring system includes infrared sensors that attach to the traps, a mobile app, a web portal and a dedicated cellular hub for the system. The sensor is NFC-scanned into the application when placed and activated so the location of the device is recorded.
“We tested the remote monitoring system with a couple of customers who agreed to use of the monitors to see what, if any, benefits there were,” said Thorn. “We were able to quickly identify rodent issues and deploy staff, but I did not expect the amount of technician time that we could reallocate to preventing pests.”
Because the system identifies which traps are moved or have captured a rodent, technicians can go directly to them, rather than checking every trap in the facility, explained Thorn. “We are observational biologists, but it is hard to observe the environment when your head is in a trap,” he said. “In our larger facilities, about 80% of the technician’s time on-site was spent checking traps, which left little time to observe the environment and look for ways to prevent pests.”
While every pest management professional wants to advise customers on ways to keep pests out of the facility, it is not financially feasible for most. Building in time to observe and consult with building managers or owners in addition to physically checking traps often made proposals too expensive when competing with other companies for new business, said Thorn. “We just landed a new account for a 2-million-square-foot facility that wanted 700 rodent devices checked weekly,” he said. “We proposed electronic monitoring for all interior traps and saved over 20 hours each week, allowing us to reallocate our time to identify storage practices or other issues to enhance pest exclusion.”
When a device is activated, the alert goes to the designated employee via text or email, to the office and to the team supervisor. A technician visits the facility to check the trap and remove the rodent within 24 to 48 hours, said Thorn. Without remote monitoring, a rodent trapped soon after the technician leaves the facility might not be discovered until the next regular inspection—one week later or longer, depending on the contract.
TRANSITIONING TO NEW SYSTEM
Initially, when Thorn approached existing clients about transitioning to remote monitoring, they were concerned that this meant not seeing the technician on-site. The reality is that although the technician is not traveling through the facility to check each trap, he or she is still walking around and looking for situations that promote pest intrusions. “We actually have more face time with clients because we can find or call the manager and ask if they have time to talk or if they can come look at what we’ve found,” said Thorn. “We spend a lot of time training our employees about what to look for to prevent pests, but they need time to practice observation. Remote monitoring is giving them that time.” Most of his existing clients did convert to remote monitoring, but there are still a few that insist on the old way to check traps.
New accounts with more than 10 devices don’t have an option, said Thorn. “We want our professionals to do their best work, so every proposal is based on remote monitoring and time for us to be proactive,” he said. Because the sensors notify Thorn’s staff immediately when a device is disturbed, they are able to detect activity early—not just when they arrive to check traps. “We don’t just want to harvest mice, we want to prevent them.”
There is a cost savings for clients since technicians don’t have to spend as much time on-site. For Thorn, the technology cuts expenses, but it also levels the competitive playing field with larger companies.
“We are able to do things at a large facility that we could never do by hand, and we can price our services competitively,” said Thorn. When his company won the pest management account for Salt Lake City International Airport, he was able to increase the number of devices placed throughout the facility over what airport management originally requested. “Competing for new clients is no longer a race to the bottom of pricing, it is now an opportunity to provide the most value for a dollar.”
Because a remote system captures data automatically and consistently, it is easier to check trends that may improve placement of devices or identify the source of the problem. The improved data also results in better reporting, which is a benefit to the facility owner.
Although his remote monitoring focuses on rodents now, Thorn is evaluating technology to monitor other pests. “Fly monitors can add an additional level of pest management to clients and cockroach monitoring can be very beneficial in apartment homes,” he said.
Thorn’s advice to other pest management professionals is to begin evaluating remote monitoring. “Start by talking with other companies to see what technology they use but remember that what works for one company might not be right for another company,” he said. Set up a pilot program to test the system on a few accounts to see how it works, how easily technicians can use it and how much time is saved, he suggested. “The biggest mistake I’ve seen is companies setting up a test, then not moving forward,” he said. “Define a time period for the test, then evaluate the results and decide if that technology is right for your company or if you need to test another brand.”
He adds, “As an industry, we need to stop dipping our toes in to test the technology and adopt it. This should be a standard practice because it benefits pest management professionals and their clients.”
SMART GLASS USE EXPANDING
When Google originally introduced smart glass technology in 2013, the product was not geared for industrial or commercial use. After the Google Glass relaunch in 2017, the technology was geared more for enterprise use—and other AR-assisted devices from a wide range of manufacturers followed.
While early adopters of the technology were in the manufacturing, warehousing, construction and architecture industries, the ease of use and improved productivity have resulted in more industries incorporating the technology.
In the agri-business industry, smart glasses are used for everything from inventory of crops or animals to tracking and tracing product through the harvesting, processing and shipping process. In manufacturing and warehousing operations, smart glasses guide employees through tasks by allowing access to the internet, internal systems and even videos that help troubleshoot problems.
Uses for the pest management industry can include:
- Enhanced training using the video conferencing feature to record on-site situations along with a demonstration of how to resolve the problem.
- Faster, more accurate troubleshooting is possible when technicians have access to online tools or video conferencing access to an expert in the company.
- More efficient data collection as on-site personnel can use speech-to-text functionalities to document the inspection.
- Hands-free operation allows the technician to use both hands when inspecting devices and evaluating opportunities to exclude pests.
As pest management professionals look for ways to improve training, enhance quality of customer service and provide tools that help all employees, smart glass technology might provide a solution that better positions them to succeed in a competitive market.
BY SHERYL S. JACKSON