blue collarWhile technology is infiltrating nearly every area of field service, enterprise mobility is giving some processes a complete face-life. Find out how, and why firms need adapt quickly in order to keep up.

I’m sure enterprise mobility is a phrase you’ve read about a hundred times. Everyone from hobbyist bloggers to major news sources are weighing in on the topic and everywhere you look, businesses are frantically trying to evaluate how they can adapt to the changing mobile landscape. Long paper forms, clunky computer hardware, painfully ugly file cabinets…all of these traditional office items are victims of the trending preference towards mobility and paperless enterprises.

And these trends are true for field service as mobility and process automation are becoming two of the most important factors determining a service organization’s future success. As business modernization takes place and mobile technology becomes the wind in the proverbial sail, leaders in field service organizations must establish mobility and automation as top operational priorities as they plan the road ahead.

According to the Aberdeen Group’s 2013 report, Mobility and Consumerization of Field Service, “63% of leading field service organizations highlighted how investments in mobility top the list of strategic initiatives to improve field service performance.” Field service is clearly evolving, in large part, thanks to mobile advances. Don’t let yourself fall behind by ignoring these three major areas in which mobility is changing field service:

1. Seamless Information Access

An informed tech is a better tech.

Despite being a seemingly logical argument, the motif written above is quite commonly overlooked by field service organizations. In order to work efficiently, technicians need to have access to vital service information at the touch of a button. Instead, many find themselves bogged down with paper forms, and wind up arriving at a job-site without so much as the customer’s last name spelled correctly.

In a fleet optimized for mobility, technicians are rock-stars. Plain and simple. That’s because mobile field service software provides technicians with remote access to information such as:

  • Customer/Contact Info
  • Scheduling Details
  • Equipment/Asset Details
  • Work Order Information
  • Invoice History
  • Customer Comments
  • Assigned Service Tasks

Broken down, this means that before a tech even leaves for a job-site, they can know the who, what, where, when and why of the service call. And what about the how? Yup, that’s covered too. Through what we like to call Service Portals, technicians can access cloud-hosted content, information and data through their mobile device.

For example, let’s say that a field technician finds he is unable to diagnose a service issue. He has a range of helpful options available to him through his service portal. Starting off, he can view the profile for the type of equipment servicing, looking for any past repair cases that match his situation. He can also pull up the customer’s invoice record to identify any service that took place on that specific piece of equipment, as well as any parts that were used in the process. Service portals keep techs informed without extra time or effort to do so.

2. Spare Parts & Inventory Excellence

Service supply chains can be pretty tough to navigate. There are A LOT of different spare parts, all constantly moving from warehouse to tech van, from tech van to customer asset, from customer asset back to the warehouse or to the tech van and so on. That’s why, for field service firms looking to improve mobility and automation, real time is the keyword.

Using mobile field service software, firms can get real time access into parts consumption and stocking by technicians in the field. Here’s how: Any time a technician uses, moves or picks up parts, he can record that transaction in the “parts” section of his mobile application. Then, all he has to do is sync his mobile device with the office system (push of a button). This updates the company’s back-end database, providing real time insight into what vans and facilities have what parts.

Additionally, this real time data doesn’t always have to be used in real time. Service firms can use the data collected from technicians in the field to conduct analytical parts planning. Meaning that as data comes in from techs synching up their devices, managers can analyze and manipulate it to derive insights that can help them handle inventory. Some of these insights include:

  • Which parts or pieces of equipment lead to the most work orders
  • Which parts are being over-allocated
  • Which parts are considered non-stock parts
  • Parts and inventory values

With parts analytics, managers can start to piece together how parts orders need to be adjusted, when certain parts need to be cleared from the supply chain completely, and what kinds of equipment cause the most problems for the service organization.

3. Access to a more Granular View of Field Work with Task Management

When we use the word “tasks,” we’re referring to any action that can be completed on a work order or on a customer asset. Tasks can be the distance a technician had to travel to a work site or an inspection the tech had to complete once she arrived. The point here is that tasks are the building block of a service call and they can be very valuable when managed properly.

By using field service software, service firms can perform detailed work tracking by using task management functionality. The firm can put together interactive work orders which technicians can access through their mobile device. On these work orders, technicians can plot their service calls by following task lists or adding new tasks to a work order.

Gaining detailed access to task management data gives service managers greater insight into how well their workers and operations are functioning. For example, they can track specific tasks by employee in order to see who’s being more productive and why. Maybe one worker always works in ideal conditions for a certain task so he’s able to produce better results; or perhaps one tech performs a task faster, while another takes longer, but performs it better. A more granular view of daily tasks and how they’re being performed gives you the business intelligence to help improve business operations down the line.

Some Final Thoughts

Although every service department has its own needs, firms looking to optimize their operation for mobility can look to the three best practices above for a jump start. By giving your technicians the information they need when they need it, moderating parts and inventory efficiently, and managing tasks for both preventive and unplanned maintenance, service firms can embrace mobility and excel where others lag behind.

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This article originally appeared on MSI Data and has been republished with permission.