In keeping with the 2019 modus operandi of ‘Uberize everything,’ tapping into the gig economy to overcome last-mile service delivery challenges could be a smart move argues Kris Oldland...
In a time when inner-city congestion is increasing at an alarming rate, there is a rock-solid argument for combining the two facets of last-mile operations - service and parts delivery. It is of course, a significant waste of resource to have highly skilled and thus highly valuable engineers spending the majority of their time behind the wheel negotiating traffic jams, accidents and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of road works projects not only getting from job A to job B but also stopping at depot C on route to pick up the requisite parts.
In our latest research study (see more on page 91) we saw that ‘Engineer/Technician Utilisation’ is the most crucial Key Performance Indicator that field service organisations measure. In research from BT referenced elsewhere in this report, we see that 1 in 5 field service managers feel their field staff are more akin to professional drivers than actual service engineers due to the amount of time they are travelling between jobs.
These are two sets of findings that are robust and positively reflect the conversations I’ve had many, many times. They are also clearly very much at odds with each other.
Something has to give somewhere if we are to find a way through this urban impasse of last-mile service delivery. I’ve written quite a lot in recent months about how I see the field workforce of the future being a blended one. A workforce that has a specialised, internal field engineering team who hold deep level knowledge and are the ‘go-to experts’ for any maintenance, install or repair jobs that sit outside of the standard.
"It is the classic ‘Pareto’ principal in essence. 80% of your best performing field service engineers should be dedicated to 20% of your most challenging workloads..."
This internal workforce is then supported by a third party contingent labour force with the baseline abilities to perform the bulk of the standard repair and maintenance work that forms the majority of most service organisations daily workload.
It is the classic ‘Pareto’ principal in essence. 80% of your best performing field service engineers should be dedicated to 20% of your most challenging workloads, which is invariably for your most profitable clients. The remaining 80% of the work can be outsourced to cheaper third party workers, who have enough expertise to complete these more straightforward tasks but would perhaps be out of their depth in more complicated scenarios.
There are of course various permutations around such solutions and a list of pros and cons to deep to go into consideration within this article (although for those interested I’ve penned a white paper on the blended workforce which is available in our Premium Content library @ www.fieldservicenews.com/ white-papers). However, I’d like to expand on the discussion a little bit further here and explore whether now is the time to seriously consider combining the outsourcing of both parts delivery and third-party tech services into one role?
It is, of course, nothing particularly radical I am proposing here, the idea of the tech courier is something that is relatively well established with several players in both the logistics space and the third-party service sector offering a combined service that marries the two functions.
However, I feel that there could be a renewed focus on the ‘tech-courier’ as the challenges of last-mile service delivery become increasingly more significant, and I think that the technology available today could push this role firmly into the ‘gig economy.’
The way I see it is one of the biggest challenges of last-mile service delivery whether it is managing your engineers or working with a third-party service supplier is that you, first of all, have to get the engineer to where the job is in the first place.
Smart solutions to getting the parts within reach of the job site such as the increasingly sophisticated locker box solutions provided by ByBox and BT are already in place and offer a perfectly workable solution to getting the parts as close as possible to the engineer. As we’ve also seen in this report, other, more futuristic solutions such as drones or 3D printing may appear in the not too distant future as well.
Why can’t we look at where the work is and then see what engineers are within a reasonable radius of that location that is available to do the job?
However, we still need to get a courier or engineer to get the part that last mile and that means they still have to travel from where they are, to where they need to be in the first place. Wouldn’t it make sense if we looked at it the other way around? Why can’t we look at where the work is and then see what engineers are within a reasonable radius of that location that is available to do the job?
Workforce marketplaces such as FieldNation could play a huge role in allowing us to develop such an approach.
The way I see it is very Uber-esque. The field service organisation uploads the jobs, and a series of potential engineers within the location are then able to ‘pick up the job’.
There are, of course, challenges that come to mind within the idea, but many of them could be overcome with the technology already available. For example, potential engineers would have to certify that they are capable of completing the task. However, again, this is something that FieldNation, as well as other platforms, have already tackled within their platform.
It could even be a potential new revenue stream to develop. This is something that I have seen trialled before, notably by SwissCom with their pioneering’ gig economy’ solution “the Geek Next Door’ which was primarily powered by SAP Field Service.
For example, it could be a case that upon submitting a service request that lies beyond the scope of a warranty that a customer is presented with two options.
For the first price, they could get the Uberized service which uses a third party tech courier. This would likely be the quickest solution to their immediate needs and get the job done faster for less.
"Fortunately for me, my role no longer involves having to work the fine details out, it’s above my pay-grade and I’m not sure I’m smart enough anyway..."
However, an alternative premium option could be to send a fully trained member of your team, who will not only make the repair but also take the time to perform any other preventative maintenance tasks on all other assets within the location at the same time?
Consider it a bit like paying that little bit more to have your car fully serviced and valeted when taking it for an MOT. You can get the bare bones done, quickly and cheaply but for a premium, you can have the expert take a look at everything and make sure you’re running as efficiently as possible.
As I say there are sure to be challenges in implementing such a solution, fortunately for me, my role no longer involves having to work the fine details out, it’s above my pay-grade and I’m not sure I’m smart enough anyway. I just come up with the ideas every now and then.
That said, I’m pretty darn sure this could be a very good idea.