The potential to enhance field service efficiencies through technologies like IoT, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence are out of this world. But to fully realise the benefits they can bring field service companies need to have a foundational framework of technology already in place.
Here we look at five key systems every field service company should focus on before they look to take another giant leap forwards…
Field Service Management technology has become essential to service delivery excellence and in a world of connectivity and ever-increasing customer expectations, service excellence is no longer a USP but a baseline requirement.
Indeed, the rapid evolution of technology and its impact on field service in recent years has led to an increasing integration between process and technology when it comes to field service management.
However, whilst technologies such as IoT and Augmented Reality are grabbing the headlines and can undoubtedly enhance service delivery, their potential is greatly diminished unless you have a fundamental layer of technology in place already. In this article, we will explore five core, fundamental elements that should be at the base of your field service management solution.
Contract management is often viewed as the starting point of almost everything within field service management operations.
Without a view of your service contracts, you cannot have to hand the answers for critical questions such as:
- What is the SLA on any given contract?
- Is a client under warranty or do they have an enhanced level of service contract?
- Does a contract include spare parts and/or consumables?
- Is the service contract due for renewal?
You could be at risk of potentially not meeting your clients’ expectations and so putting the potential of renewing or upselling service to that client in danger in the future – or on the other side of the coin, you could be giving valuable service away for free.
Therefore, Contract Management is perhaps the most important of the fundamental building blocks that you should expect to find within a modern field service management solution and perhaps the first area that you should make sure your team is fully versed in utilising.
Scheduling comes in a number of different guises and the various different names given to types of scheduling options can be a somewhat confusing but broadly scheduling will come in three flavours:
- Assisted Scheduling
- Optimised Scheduling
- Dynamic Scheduling
So which is right for your business?
It is often assumed that a dynamic solution is required for a larger mobile workforce, but whilst the size of your workforce is certainly one consideration in which type of scheduling engine would best suit your service operation – this is not the only factor.
The complexity of the service work, as well as the variety of service jobs you undertake, is another significant factor.
For example, an organisation that has a field workforce that services multiple different asset types – perhaps from multiple OEMs, and therefore has a number of different engineer requirements for differing jobs – would likely benefit far more from an optimised scheduling engine than an organisation that just fixes one or two types of assets for which all of their engineers are qualified to undertake repairs and maintenance.
This remains true whether you have 20 or 200 field service engineers.
Similarly, if a large proportion of your field service efforts are focused on planned maintenance calls which have a level of flexibility in terms of getting an engineer on site, then you may not have a need for a dynamic scheduling engine whilst an organisation that is far more reactive, that has a firefighting approach to their service delivery and strict SLAs would benefit hugely from a dynamic scheduling system.
Mobile tools and communications:
It is fair to say that the biggest revolution in field service has come from the rapid explosion in mobile computing power.
Today’s smartphones are capable of greater computing tasks than even the laptops of just a few years back.
For the field service organisation, this is fantastic as it puts information at the field service engineers finger tips, empowers them to spend more time on maintenance and repair and less on activities such as paperwork and enables them to deliver a far more effective and impressive service experience for the customer.
Engineer to engineer communications are seamless in today’s world, whether it be using dedicated built-for-purpose business tools or even free to use consumer solutions such as WhatsApp or Skype.
For example, engineer to engineer communications are seamless in today’s world, whether it be using dedicated built-for-purpose business tools or even free to use consumer solutions such as WhatsApp or Skype.
From a FSM solution standpoint again whilst a mobile app was a USP, an add on or even a separate solution entirely just a few short years ago, now almost all FSM solutions will come with some mobile offering included. However, whilst the mobile element in FSM technology is constantly evolving, essentially the most fundamental and core aspect that you want a mobile aspect of a FSM solution to do is to mirror your back-end solution and to do so in real-time.
Parts & Inventory Management:
Parts and Inventory management is perhaps an area that in the past has not received the focus and attention that it requires.
It has often been the mantra of field service organisations that they are aiming to get the right engineer to the right job, at the right time.
But that all becomes moot if the right engineer doesn’t have the right parts to hand as well.
Consistently at industry conferences, parts management remains a hot button and a common pain point for a huge amount of organisations.
So whilst it is exciting to talk about emerging technologies such as IoT and Augmented Reality – a primary focus should be on ensuring our field service operation is as efficient as possible at a fundamental level, and that means getting a grip on parts management.
And whilst of course there are supply chain and logistics aspects to the conversation which can make things complicated – especially when you are using third-party contractors – one of the most crucial aspects of good parts and inventory management is utilising a system that can keep track of where your inventory, including van inventory, is at any given point.
One area where many companies get themselves caught out is by thinking that they can use a system such as a financial system that is designed at best for companies whose stock resides in static places such as warehouses and stores.
However, field service is far more dynamic than that, with parts moving back and forth and in and out of locations constantly each and every day.
Finally, just a brief note on integration.
We are living in a world of data lakes, data rivers, data mountains and all other types of data topography it seems!
But all these vast swathes of data are meaningless unless you are able to draw insight from it, and quite often that means being able to let the data flow seamlessly from one set of business applications to another.
This is why integration is absolutely key in any modern business system – including FSM.
Integration is absolutely key in any modern business system – including FSM.
Integration varies from provider to provider but often it is led by the integrations they have been asked to undertake, so if your current provider or a provider you have identified as being a good fit for your business don’t advertise integration with a specific system you are using – it is worth discussing the possibilities with them – especially if it is a common platform as making their product integrate may be useful for other future clients also.
Whilst there are still some legacy systems that can prove very difficult to integrate with this is becoming less and less so in today’s day and age. Indeed, we are seeing more and more companies offering ‘off the shelf’ or ‘out of the box’ integration with the leading CRM, ERP and even Telematics solutions.
Finally, it is worth discussing with your providers how they are future proofing their products when it comes to integration – there is, for example, a large amount of proprietary technology centred around IoT at the moment and until accepted universal protocols are in place you want to make sure any investment you make is future-proof.
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