Mobilizing Field Service Delivers Profit and Productivity
By Khristen Chapin, wireless/mobility editor, Integrated Solutions magazine
How important is field service automation for 2007? According to Aberdeen Group’s “2007 Mobile Field Service Update”, two-thirds of companies polled are looking to purchase and/or upgrade technology to automate portions of field service processes.
If your company doesn’t already have some type of communication solution in place – such as calling techs via wireless devices or a scheduling and optimization field service data solution – chances are it soon will. Examples of successful mobility deployments in field service are now widespread, the solutions are affordable, and the outcomes are proven.
Today there is really no reason for companies providing field service not to have scheduling and optimization technology. First, look at what the technology can do for you:
- eliminate the problems of inaccurate and delayed information from back-end databases to field workers,
- reduce drive time and fuel costs,
- increase the number of service calls per day, and
- improve dispatching efficiency and field inventory management.
These benefits are clearly proven, as a quick glimpse into two BlackBerry customer case studies reveals. In one example, the company, Thomson Grading (a land grading contractor for commercial buildings), increased the productivity of crew leaders by 240 hours annually. Another company, CN (which provides rail and rail-related transportation) decreased onsite repairs and IT support costs by 65%. Additionally, Aberdeen’s mobile best practices report shows that the average improvement in the key performance categories of worker productivity and overall profitability are 27% and 15%, respectively, when a field service automation solution is implemented.
Second, wireless data networks are continually improving, with increased speed and bandwidth. The major carriers are in the process of upgrading the networks to “3.5g” technologies which will make large and data-intensive wireless applications more feasible to deploy. Your field techs can wirelessly send and receive work orders, inventory information, and parts schematics without the worry of crashing the network or the download taking half an hour. Network costs are decreasing as well; you can get a cellular data plan for as low as $50 per month, per user, depending on your needs.
Third, there are now numerous options for field service optimization software. There are applications that can extend back end customer data to your field techs and schedule the techs for jobs while taking tech availability, skill sets, and even inventory into account. In fact, vendors are offering customized field service solutions for all types of companies. The varied software options also mean prices are lower for smaller companies. A field service solution is no longer a $100,000-plus investment, or even $50,000. If your company has 20 technicians, you could get a hosted solution running on smartphone devices for as low as $10,000, depending on your needs.
Finally, Location Based Services (LBS) can increase the efficacy of field service optimization. By installing location-finding devices in trucks or mobile computers, you can know the exact location of technicians in the field. You can provide customer service center reps with that knowledge so they can more effectively answer customer calls inquiring as to the locations and estimated arrival times of the technicians. More importantly, you can even avoid having customers call because your field service application can route the techs based on the techs’ locations, eliminating those 8-hour service windows your field techs are used to — and your customers despise. Animosity from customers is not what you want, nor do you want to waste your techs’ time waiting for a customer rather than working. And you don’t have to, with the technology that is currently available. So, what are you waiting for?
Khristen Chapin is the Wireless/Mobility editor for Integrated Solutions magazine, which details the successful implementations of field service and related mobile technologies at major end-user companies. She interviews executives at Fortune 1000 companies, as well as industry leaders in the vendor arena for magazine content. She also meets with key industry players at trade shows and summits. Click here to read her recent series "2007 Mobile Forecast: Executives Speak Out".
Research Overview: Aberdeen Group’s Mobile Field Service Study - webcast
Also in this issue: Q&A: The Facts on Field Service and Mobility
BlackBerry Business Solutions for Field Service
For more information on creating successful field service optimization solutions for your BlackBerry deployment, visit these RIM partners:
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