In a world that has been ‘disrupted’, for the good by rapid advances in technology; where online reviews matter more than ever before and customer satisfaction does not guarantee customer loyalty; where outdated work practices & intensive paperwork are a ball-and-chain to your productivity, it is not surprising that there is unprecedented pressure on companies with after-market services to improve customer experience, services levels, and creating value.
For industrial organizations that have large field teams and are operating assets on a wide geographical span, this pressure takes on an added layer of complexity. Companies in Oil & Gas, Utilities, Power Generation, Telecoms, and Transportation operate critical infrastructure and provide essential services. Smooth operation is imperative because any unusual delays can translate into thousands of households without essential services, twitter feeds set alight, a ‘field day’ for media, and a ‘mayday’ for the company’s reputation.
Challenges in Field Services Management
Some of the challenges that field services teams have faced, traditionally, seemed to have been etched in the nature of the job. Organizations have struggled with them and will keep struggling with them if they don’t capitalize on the emerging technology trends.
Scheduling & Dispatch, for example, has remained one of the biggest pain points for field services teams. In the absence of a field services management system, field teams often find themselves staring at double-booking, overlapping events, and scheduling conflicts.
Work Order Management poses a significant challenge for field services teams. Job requests are collected in siloed interfaces like forms or spreadsheets, jobs are assigned to dispatch teams through manually created work orders. Combine them with duplication and multiple entries and you find yourself stuck with a chaotic workflow that impedes accountability and, at worst, results in a no-show.
Response time is, essentially, your banknote in field services. Yet field jobs are rife with lack of real-time collaboration & communication between field teams, back-offices, and other associated functions which inevitably results in delays which could easily be avoided.
Route optimization is severely compromised in the absence of tools to track and monitor live location, traffic, and best routes. Lack of such tools not only inhibits the ability of back-offices to assign jobs to the nearest available teams but also the ability of field teams to reach the location quickly.
Field Operations Management Applications
Technology, as ever, is coming to fore to take care of problems that are a legacy of its preceding age. In the scenario discussed so far, field operations management applications (FOM apps) are seen as the great enablers of that quantum leap – a transformation of your field teams into a truly ‘mobile’, fast-paced, lean, and digitalized workforce that is rapidly ‘mobilized’ to the required locations. These field teams would be smarter, capitalizing on more integrated workflow tools and advanced field operations management applications that can assign jobs to field technicians and alerts them to any new developments. Field personnel would have access to a mobile application through which they can get real-time alerts for assigned jobs and can post updates on a job’s progress as it happens, enabling end to end work execution management and collaboration between operations, dispatchers, and field teams, all the way from the creation of a work order to its closure.
Technology-enabled trends – Driving the transformation of field teams through Field Operations Management Applications
Technology is catalyzing and strengthening a paradigm shift in field operations, offering industrial organizations new and exciting ways to transform their field teams in terms of efficiency, productivity, and customer experience.
Field operations management applications and Field Services Management Systems have optimized workflows through smarter, more integrated, and automated workflow tools. These tools are integrated with Internet of Things (IoT), ERP/CMMS systems, SCADA, and Data historians, allowing users to reap the benefits of a fully integrated digital twin and capitalizing on analytics-driven insights presented in role-based dashboards. With a built-in library of work instructions and work templates, manual processes can be eliminated through automated form-fills and data captures. End-to-end integration creates a centralized knowledge repository which enables continuous work improvements, enhances real-time collaboration, and reduces training times.
Field Operations Management Applications are improving scheduling and routing by using location-based and real-time data. Field technicians can post updates about job progress which improves visibility and accountability while automating job assignment and curing major headaches for back-end staff in terms of locating the nearest available field teams.
An oft overlooked, under-rated, and under-utilized advantage from the availability and utilization of real-time data is that the field workers can help their organization identify upselling opportunities. Through the application, field workers can readily post asset health statuses and at the same time, keep their supervisors informed about opportunities for upgrades, revamps, and replacements.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning integration are helping field services teams in predictive maintenance, providing information on performance-critical parameters to resolve problems well in advance. In addition to that, AI/ML’s cognitive capabilities can help field technicians resolve failures quickly by optimizing repairs before their arrival, running routine diagnostics, and testing for learnt/common issues. Technicians’ access to this information through their field operations mobile application, before arriving at the affected site, goes a long way in reducing repair times and improving first-time fix rates.
The Big Picture
A study by McKinsey showed that companies that capitalized on technology-enabled trends lowered repeat visit reduction by 20 percent and travel time by 30 percent. This resulted in lowering costs by 40 percent while improving productivity in terms of jobs/FTEs per day by 30 percent. It is not surprising then, that the field services management market size is to reach USD 23.46 Billion in 2030 and register a revenue CAGR of 19.3% over the forecast period, according to latest report by Reports and Data.