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Fort Lauderdale Tracks Building Permits

The city monitors the flow of documents, saving time and improving customer service.
By Barb Freda
Dec 04, 2016

When Mark Leibowitz began working as a management analyst in 2014 at Fort Lauderdale's Building Services division, part of the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD), he saw reams of paper moving through the system. During any given month, DSD issues more than 2,000 permits and conducts more than 6,000 permit application reviews. Permits for large plans often have two copies, he says. The permits, he adds, do not move in a straight line through the approval process. Files are pulled for additional review or revisions, sometimes several times as they proceed through the pipeline.

Depending on the type of permit, Leibowitz says, an application may need to be reviewed by employees in 10 different disciplines within DSD. And, he notes, each discipline has several reviewers, which can make it challenging to track the physical location of each permit application in a timely manner.

The readers can see tags located up to approximately 20 feet from the chokepoints. —Ted Kostis, Silent Partner Technologies
"I knew it would be a while before we went paperless, so one of my first projects was to find a more efficient way to track plans, applications, backups and documentation," Leibowitz says. "The building official and I saw an opportunity to improve the permit-tracking process to make it easier to locate a specific permit application—which, in turn, would increase our operational efficiency and improve customer satisfaction."

Leibowitz figured the security tags on clothing that sounded an alarm if they weren't removed before passing through a store's exit involved some tracking, so he researched the use of security tags at department stores. "That was when I learned that those security systems used RFID," Leibowitz says. "I was able to conduct a more focused search about how RFID might work for us. Then, I had a conversation with a colleague in our IT department, describing what I wanted, and that person told me that our fire department was using something similar to track inventory."

"I called them and went to look at it," Leibowitz says, adding he had a great guide who explained how the system worked. "They tracked every vial, every syringe and air tank, everything. I knew we could put those tags on files." (It's similar to the solution deployed by South Metro Fire Rescue Authority; see RFID Saves an EMS With Inventory Challenges.)

Leibowitz contacted Silent Partner Technologies (SPT), which developed the fire department's RFID solution. He liked that company's ideas, but had to follow protocol and request two additional bids from other RFID providers. SPT won the bid based on price and responsiveness to the request, he says.

It took roughly one month for SPT to install and implement the file-tracking solution. Building Services began RFID-tracking permits and other documents in December 2015.

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