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Achieving the perfect field service operation

Monday, August 11, 2014 - 17:04
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John Cameron

Expert opinion: John Cameron, general manager of Trimble Field Service Management

As the summer holidays get underway, traffic on the roads is expected to be worse than ever with the average trip time set to increase by 50%.

For holidaymakers, this is a temporary setback but for at-work drivers that rely on their vehicles to meet customer service appointments; these delays could have a detrimental effect on a company’s bottom line and, ultimately, its reputation.

However, summer holiday traffic is just one of many unexpected challenges that can threaten to de-rail a field service operation. Workforce management, alongside achieving customer service excellence, are two of the biggest hurdles facing field service businesses today and with much field-based work becoming increasingly complex and critical in terms of timing, skills and consequence, it is more important than ever that any unpredictable dynamics of the working day – whether it’s delays caused by traffic jams, vehicle breakdowns, absenteeism, customer appointments overrunning, workers diverging from pre-planned routes, getting lost and missing appointments – are dealt with effectively.

The ultimate objective for field service managers is to get the right people with the right skills with the right assets to the right place within a set time. The emergence of work management technology has come to the fore as a solution able to manage the unexpected out of a mobile work day and transform the way in which work is performed, through intelligent scheduling tools and advanced performance analytics.

Work Management technology provides real-time job status of each mobile worker alongside alerts for proactively managing productivity. If a job is in jeopardy of being missed due to a technician being caught in traffic or a vehicle breaks down, work management solutions automatically highlight this and can adjust schedules and reassign work to meet the new requirements.

More organisations are also beginning to realise the value of intelligent scheduling – incorporating technician knowledge, parts availability and capacity into their scheduling processes to ensure that the technician arriving on site is actually the person who can resolve the customers issue first time. Furthermore, developments in intelligent advisor tools offer the added value of evaluating and displaying the impact of assigning a job to a particular field worker in terms of overtime, tasks affected and travel time.

Incorporating Performance Management Analytics (PMA) technology is extremely beneficial in helping organisations to improve operational decision-making. The technology generates and customises digestible reports that showcase key measures including quality of service, statistics for individual workers, actual tasks completed against the total time of the working day, fuel usage and distance travelled. With this information, field service managers are then able to identify what is preventing their workforce from completing more jobs.

John Cameron is general manager of Trimble Field Service Management (FSM), where he is responsible for worldwide operations and development.

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