According to the Aberdeen Group, 35% of organizations still rely on antiquated paper-based or manual processes for managing field operations such as safety audits, inspections, equipment maintenance, etc. That’s a problem.
Not only are hand-written notes prone to human error, manual processes are also time and labor intensive, often leading to lost revenues and increased operational costs. Further, the length of time it takes to identify an issue, report it back to stakeholders at the back-office and rectify the situation can cause considerable delay and expense. This gap in information and coordination can often also create undesirable issues for your customers and vendors.
These changes are touching all aspects of every business, from preparation to route management to information gathering to checklists and reporting. And that makes sense: Why deal with paper when you can use digital forms that adapt to your processes and people? This is especially true in field operations.
Challenges of using manualprocesses
Manual processes and workflows are fraught with challenges that inhibit the agility and flexibility required to work efficiently in the field.
Here are the main challenges of using manual processes in field operations:
- Lack of visibility. Manual or varying field processes across sites and geographies make it difficult to achieve consistent results and quality, manage dispersed or complex field operations, and report on critical data in a centralized and real-time manner. Without visibility into operations, organizations struggle to achieve maximum efficiency and performance.
- Wasted time & resources. Manual or paper-based methods of tracking field work make it difficult to achieve goals in a responsive, productive, and uniform manner. Time is often wasted searching for data or waiting for reports, both at the office and in the field.
- Inaccurate reporting. Field data collection is a slow, manual process involving error-prone paper. This captured information is usually hand-entered into spreadsheets and stored in disparate formats on incompatible systems, making it difficult to find, which impacts work quality, delays response times due to lack of real-time visibility, and results in decisions based on bad data.
- Uninformed decision making. A lack of actionable, timely data to drive decision making impacts the ability to manage orders, plan and schedule field work, maintain a high quality of service, avoid unanticipated costs, improve productivity of the mobile workforce, and increase customer satisfaction.
What does mobility mean for field operations?
Mobility allows us to automate and digitally transform the field worker into a truly connected worker. The field is just a geographic location; mobility provides access to all the systems, people, and processes in the enterprise.
In field ops, at a high level, mobility means establishing a communication channel between the remote employee and the office. Data and information flow both ways on that channel: inside-out and outside-in.
The importance of mobility for field operations
The problem with “fields” in general is that they are dispersed. This means communication issues, which means mistakes or errors that could lead to fines if not physical injury. This means you need a cohesive, holistic system to ensure all the pieces of puzzle are inter-connecting, no matter how dispersed these puzzle pieces may be.
Here are the three main advantages of “going digital” for your field:
Efficiency & productivity
Mobile devices can capture field data like meter readings, inspection rounds, etc., and the ability to send this information back to enterprise is one of the prime outside-in use cases. It means your front office knows exactly what’s going on at all times with your back office. It means transparency, which increases accountability, which makes everything run smoother and faster, and it means having the ability to measure and analyze data and results — all of which naturally increases productivity.
Most plant supervisors and executives are responsible for the safety, uptime, and upkeep of their facilities, but most of the time they’re not actually in a control room observing plant information and activity – they’re up and about and offsite, whether it’s for meetings or visiting customers.
This distance creates issues, and that’s where digitization and mobility come in.
Mobile devices can of course send audio and video files. Think of the applications for this when it comes to digitizing your field operations to make them safer. For example, if a piece of equipment is making a strange vibration noise, you could record the noise and send the recording to a subject-matter expert across the globe for his/her opinion on if you should perform maintenance now or defer it.
You can also use data archives and analysis to better understand why previous mistakes were made and proactively prevent future mistakes from happening. In safety, the applications of mobility are myriad and powerful.
Improved work quality
Off-site auditing and operations supported by mobile inspection technology providesbbetter integrity of information and standardization across multiple locations—ensuring that both data collected and processes followed are consistent throughout the enterprise. This capability reduces the chance of human error, resulting in higher quality performance and lower cost-of-service delivery.
When you mobilize your field operations, you’re empowering both your field and your front office with transparency, accountability, and data, and this will always transfer into better customer service and customer experience.
We live in the age of mobility
If you are interested in accelerating your time to market, controlling costs, ensuring quality performance, and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage, mobile field service management technology can help you achieve your goals. Additionally, it can also help you be more agile, responsive, and profitable in today’s competitive marketplace.