Increasing operational efficiency is the number one reason field service organizations make the switch from paper-based processes to mobile digital technology. The reality is no organization or industry is immune to lost productivity. The difference is field service organizations live and die by it. Efficiency and productivity are crucial in the world of field service.
Every day, inspections take place, plant rounds are completed and fiber optic cables are laid. At the same time, assets are misplaced, an address can’t be found and customers aren’t communicated with about a scheduled job. The world does continue moving, but so much time is lost on routine, mundane aspects of field service that have a solution. Here are 5 ways to avoid losing time in the field and increase field operational efficiency.
#1: Employ Route Optimization Tools
Field operations managers, dispatchers and supervisors spend their days scheduling work orders across their field workforce, but schedules change. If a technician is out sick or running late on a job, assigning someone new can push back customer work orders hours, days and sometimes weeks or months. Route optimization ensures operations managers can plan and assign work orders that optimizes location, reduces fuel consumption and actually makes sense.
The nature of field service work means a technician somewhere needs to locate a customer or job site. Technology makes it possible to rarely, if ever, be in a position where they are unable to find a job location. Geocoded addresses as well as embedded linking to driving directions right from a mobile app provides solutions for technicians.
#2: Know Where Your Assets Are at All Times
As difficult as it is to believe, enterprise asset management is an often-overlooked area of field service management, but one where operational efficiency gains can easily be made. For instance, providing field technicians with real-time asset tracking, means they spend less time searching for the property, plant or equipment.
It also helps field operations managers understand how assets are used in the field. If one asset consistently moves location over time, it may be an indication that extra training is required, or the asset is better suited to being placed in the same location after each use. There is much to be learned from the people in the field and why they maintain certain habits.
Not all field service technology has asset management capabilities, so be sure to ask for specific details when you evaluate any field service management solution.
#3: Communicate in Real-Time with Your Customers
The adoption of mobile technology solutions across the field service space is an opportunity to improve your customer service experience. You already have the technology and resources to do so, now you just have to start.
Embedded real-time communication in field service management software is possible. Think about sending real-time status notifications to customers via text, chat, email and phone. Alerting a customer to a technician’s late arrival, assigning a different technician or rescheduling a job completely, are quick customer experience improvement wins. I can tell you, across the many field service organizations we talk to, real-time customer communication is a competitive advantage in any industry and one that can easily make or break a business.
#4: Enable Your Technicians with Mobile Field Service Solutions
So, you’ve armed your field technicians with tablets and mobile phones to do their work. Now what? Do they have the proper field service management software to complete the entire work order with said tablet and/or phone?
Field workforce mobility is more than just providing digital work order forms or being able to schedule jobs. It’s really about enabling technicians with such capabilities as field data capture of photos and barcode scanning; the ability to markup and annotate images; functionality to create site sketches; and provide better decision-making solutions in the field.
Embedding context-sensitive operating procedures reduces repeat visits, while providing documentation for equipment and other assets, enables technicians to make understand when they need to bring in an engineer or make repairs right then. This type of information is priceless to helping improve operational efficiency.
#5: Eliminate Manual and Duplicate Data Entry
It’s common across many field service organizations to reuse the same work order forms repeatedly for the same or similar types of jobs. For instance, environmental inspections typically have the same work order form layout and fields across that type of inspection.
The moment a work order form is digital, allows the ability to create conditional logic, rules and auto-population of fields across the same form to reduce duplicate data entry. Further operational efficiency gains can be made when back-office systems are integrated into the field service management solution. I’ve had conversations with many customers and field service organizations that maintain multiple back-office systems, where field technicians and operations managers often times have to duplicate data entry.
Leveraging the latest technology, it should be easy and seamless to integrate practically any back-office system and automate updating data across disparate systems. There is no logical reason why someone should manually go into two or three or even four different back-office systems to update information. Ensuring whatever field service management software you evaluate has the capability to integrate via API, web services, SFTP or another method, is crucial to effectively increasing operational efficiency.
In the end, the nature of field service work lends itself to automation.
Image Source: Unsplash by Joey Banks