Tools to do the job – hardware
In this series we are tackling the topic of end to end field service and exploring the technology options across each stage of the service call lifecycle.
In the previous features in this series we have looked at the transition from identifying the need for a service call and gathering as much information as possible to allow us to understand the requirements of that specific call out.
Following that we have looked at the importance of being able to have a 360 degree view across internal systems to enable us to get the right engineer to the job, with all the required tools and parts needed to complete the fix and of course to ensure that the service we are delivering is covered by our customers contracts so we are not giving our valuable service away for free.
All good! So now lets focus on empowering our field service engineers when they are on the job.
Paper is just so 20th Century
Having just had a field engineer visit my own home who was still required to fulfil the documentation of his work in paper based format I was amazed at how cumbersome this approach was and the sheer waste of productivity his organisation (one of the UK’s largest glaziers) must be facing.
Seeing it there in front of me as I signed forms in triplicate it really dawned on me that moving to a digital means of working is no longer a nice to have but a must.
Not only is there the very simple business case that moving to a digital first medium will almost certainly pay for itself when you factor in the saved man hours in needless administration (not to mention sheer paper costs!) but also the perception.
Despite the engineer being polite, friendly and doing a great job, I still felt I was dealing with an organisation that weren’t as professional as they should be. In the consumer realm this has some impact on the level of brand trust. In a business to business environment – this could be the difference between choosing your company or your competitors.
So if the decision to go mobile and finally turn away from paper is a given – the question becomes no longer why but how – and this is where there are almost as many variables as answers.
Is BYOD the answer?
Perhaps the biggest of these questions centres around BYOD. The BYOD trend has been much vaunted for many years but has yet to truly take off in the UK and Europe as it has done in the United States.
Whilst the benefits are clear – less cost, quicker adoption and happier staff using the device of their choice, a counter argument surrounding security, insurance and the murky hidden costs of such a set up is easily made.
The emerging CYOD (choose your own device) could well take prominence as a solution that takes the best aspects of BYOD and negates the biggest fears.
However, it is my view that this debate is best left to the wider realm of enterprise mobility.
When selecting devices for field service engineers it is far more important to understand the requirements of their daily activities and then find a device that best suits those needs rather than try to utilise a variety of differing devices.
Build a case of requirements based on your field engineers’ workflow
Lets take a look again at the field engineer who visited my own home today as an example.
One of the first things that was evident was that he required a device that was big enough to accommodate the documentation of his work, much of which was form based. Therefore a smartphone or mini tablet device would have been cumbersome and the form factor that would have been preferable would have been either a more standard sized 10” tablet device or a laptop.
Despite their being a number of fields in each form the engineer completed, the actual level of data input was fairly minimal with short answers to most fields. Therefore the need for a keyboard is not huge so the portability of a tablet over a laptop comes more to the fore.
As his job was to measure up the windows we were to have replaced simple drawings were required within the forms that outlined the shape and style of each window. Therefore a pen input should be included for the device for ease of use.
Across one window there was potential for damage to our property during installation if not handled in the correct manner and scaffolding woul need to be erected. Photographic evidence of this would have been valuable not only for his companies due process but also in explaining where exactly the issue was. Therefore a camera should also be part of the device.
By taking into consideration our field engineers requirements we are able to identify a mobile tool that is right for his workflow.
And there we have it by taking into consideration our field engineers requirements we are able to identify a mobile tool that is right for his workflow.
In this instance a consumer unit such as Samsung Note 10.1 or perhaps the Microsoft Surface with a semi-rugged cover would be sufficient. In more manufacturing based environment a specifically designed rugged device maybe required. If you’re field engineer is servicing connected devices then RFID or NFC can become hugely important. Or perhaps a barcode scanner is required?
Also consider periphery devices, does your customer require a printed receipt for work carried out? In which case a wireless printer in the back of the engineers van could be essential.
Maybe the engineer has to input large amounts of data manually so a keyboard is essential – in which case a laptop or perhaps a convertible is the way to go.
The important part here is to take a step back and assess the needs of your field service engineers and then select your devices accordingly.
The technology certainly exists to meet most demands however; it is also easy to end up selecting a device on reputation and either missing functionality you need or paying for functionality that your engineers may never use.
There is also an accompanying white paper to this series which is available to download here
This series is sponsored by: