Mark Forrest discusses how field service management technology can help streamline business processes to long-term efficiency, profitability and a greener company.
In business today, operations managers face ever-mounting internal and external challenges. Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and unpredictable fuel prices, incoming legislative requirements and environmental concerns make it a daunting time to run a service operation.
Only 18 per cent of businesses possess fully automated scheduling, dispatch and mobility tools, according to a study by Trimble. Trimble surveyed directors and senior managers operating large field-based work forces in the UK and found that the majority are operating partly-manual, partly-automated systems, integrating a diverse mix of often incompatible legacy systems.
What they don't realise is that this is preventing them from realising the full potential of technology.
The rise of “intelligent” data
We all know that technology is the key to efficiency. Field service management (FSM) technology was made for efficiency.
Fleet Management and telematics, for example, have emerged as being powerful management tools. Today’s solutions integrate GPS with wireless communication and emerging technologies. Every aspect of mobile operations can be identified, measured, and analysed.
The information provided typically includes the vehicle location, speed and time, work order information, driver behaviour and vehicle diagnostics data, fuel use or vehicle faults, all determined by the in-vehicle telematics.
With that knowledge, you might reduce fuel costs by optimising route planning, improving operational efficiencies and driving revenue generation through top quality customer service and maximum flexibility.
According to the Trimble research, this value is already being recognised. Organisations running field-based workforces prioritise future technology investment and upgrades within the area of fleet management.
Managing the worker and mitigating risk
Health and safety is a high priority for organisations with field-based workers, especially those doing a significant amount of driving out in the field. These individuals not only face greater risks than office-based employees, but can also expose members of the public to danger through aggressive and unsafe driving, with disastrous consequences for the company’s reputation.
As telematics has evolved, both the amount and type of data gathered has increased significantly. Driver behaviour and vehicle diagnostics information can identify how a vehicle is being driven and recognises faults that may affect performance. Taking steps to mitigate poor driving and proactively servicing underperforming vehicles significantly reduces on-the-road risk and minimises vehicle breakdowns or unscheduled downtime.
Trimble’s research discovered that some 51 per cent of respondents agreed that the technology they are using to manage safety of their employees is in need of updating.
Driver safety solutions enable managers to monitor driving behaviour and complete back office analysis of aggressive manoeuvres, such as hard acceleration, braking, turns and speed. With this data at hand, recommendations on training can be made for individual drivers.
Essentially, telematics can be used to improve the efficiency of, rather than completely replace, health and safety policies.
Going green and cutting costs
New legislations have placed mounting pressure on businesses to improve their sustainability and accelerate the move to meet green targets. For field-based organisations especially, monitoring fuel consumption through telematics is a quickly achievable method of reaching environmentally friendly targets.
Fuel prices have seen a consistent increase over the years and business owners have become very conscious of managing these costs. Reducing fuel usage through data interpretation can result in significant cost savings and will additionally lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions.
Lack of budget is a major barrier to rolling out new technology, but the increased sustainability credentials derived from the financial and environmental advantages are key benefits that influence business decisions. Trimble’s recent research shows that nearly two thirds of respondents believe that sustainability plays a key role in their business plan and a further 64 per cent feel sustainability will have a significant effect on their business moving forward.
The desire to become more sustainable is also largely driven by perception and company image, as being green, and being seen to be green in the public eye, is becoming increasingly important. Forward-thinking businesses are moving towards sustainability as a way of promoting their organisation and ultimately to attract and retain new customers.
Mark Forrest is general manager of Trimble's Field Service Management Division.