by Bob Ashenbrenner

Did you know that nearly half of field service technicians claim “paperwork and administrative tasks” are the worst part of their day? Or that despite the “digitalisation” of the field service sector, technicians still waste an unacceptable amount of time looking for information to do their jobs? These revelations, uncovered in The Service Council’s report Field Service in 2016: The Technician’s Perspective, clearly indicate that it’s not enough to just digitise some forms if you’re striving for greater technician productivity and workflow efficiency.

Yes, digitalisation can redefine, or even refine, the workflow. Removing impediments to work (redefining the workflow) and ensuring that more actions are done accurately (refining the workflow) can have a big payoff from the start, while providing the framework to later add more capabilities.

Many field service organisations are struggling to turn this “possibility” into a reality for three primary reasons:

  1. Under utilisation of existing mobile technologies
  2. Solving only one issue with technology, in the name of focus, and subsequently only creating more data silos and workflow disruptions
  3. Under estimation of technician’s technology interest and skill set

To improve the quality of your service, introduce more sustainable business practices, and secure higher customer service ratings, you must do these three things:

Take the time to consider how your mobility solution can, and should, work cohesively with other IT and operational technology (OT) systems in your organisation. Digitalisation is about more than replicating paper-based processes in a paperless format. Yes, you will give workers more “wrench time” — more time to fix things — once you remove the burden of paper. Think about how much more your technicians can accomplish when you remove simple impediments to work and add new capabilities. Something as simple as fingerprint authentication can remove the hurdle of typing in passwords, resulting in more use of the mobile device because it is now easy and not a hassle. How much longer they could work without disruptions if they had a hot-swappable battery or a handheld capable of automatically connecting across a host of wireless communications networks. How much more revenue they could generate if they could access a customer’s history — or provide and complete service recommendations — on the spot. More importantly, think of how much time and resources you would save if you could incrementally refine your digital workflows without having to completely reengineer business processes, rewrite software or replace hardware and accessories every time.

Make sure you have a reliable mobility solution in place to take advantage of IoT, augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI) predictive tools. Otherwise, it will be challenging for field crews to access, interpret and apply the data being generated by these advanced technologies. The data produced by a sensor won’t reach them if they don’t have a reliable rugged tablet, handheld or 2-in-1 type device in hand to interface with the back-office systems and advanced technologies in the field. And, augmented reality overlays are dependent on the accuracy and availability of data transmitted by the tech’s mobile device. In fact, the case studies listed on clearly prove that mobile technology is the baseline investment required for the majority of digital transformation projects.

Involve field service technicians of all ages and ranks in your technology evaluation process, whether it’s a new rugged tablet or new workflow software that you’re thinking about standardising on. Their experience — and input — is invaluable in determining whether or not the technology you think is great will really be great for them. After all, The Service Council study confirmed that “Technicians like to work and prefer the removal of all obstacles to getting work done”. They also like “learning about new tools and technologies”. It isn’t just a Millennial sentiment either. Career field service professionals have an uncanny grasp on the “tools” they need at their disposal to get to the right place, at the right time — and to get the job done right the first time.

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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