Mar 09, 2016 • FeaturesHardwarefuture of field serviceZebra Technologiescloudfield service management

Wider access to custom-fit mobility tools is driving new efficiencies for field service workers, says  Alison Clark,  Product Manager  for RhoMobile Suite, the app development platform from Zebra Technologies.

The proliferation of more affordable and richly-featured mobile technologies is finally at the point of transforming field service practices for companies of all sizes. The degree of tool customisation essential for maximising the efficiency with which field service tasks are carried out has finally democratised, moving away from being something isolated to big businesses with the budget to match.

Enterprise-calibre field mobility applications customised to meet the highly specific needs of an individual business can now utilise specialised tools that include barcode scanners, GPS, sensor data capture, and more. This wider access to custom fit mobility tools is producing exciting new trends in field operations, which any business looking to improve their own practices in the field would do well to study for possible adoption. Here are three of the most significant ways that custom mobility app technologies are driving new efficiencies for workers in the field.

  1.  Optimisation of field workers’ driving routes is slashing transit times.
    App-based GPS, traffic mapping, and routing technology in every service vehicle and carried in the pocket of every worker in the field is giving company dispatchers a more sophisticated, holistic overview of the field resources at their disposal. Field workers now have their routes for the day continuously optimised by intelligent software. The days of the repair truck coming within a “window” of 9am to 9pm are ending. Rather, precise computer-assisted planning allows field workers to tell customers how many minutes they are away.

    More streamlined and customised interfaces are benefitting today’s field workers by removing pain points and making data capture fast and error-proof.

    More specifically, we’ve seen a move toward apps where dispatchers can simply assign work orders to field technicians using a drag-and-drop calendar interface – where appointments and geographic routes are then easily recalculated and optimised for the fastest possible travel. Field workers are now experiencing the ease of simply following GPS directions from site to site. Dispatchers work from a dashboard that includes not just field workers’ locations but analytical insights as their work progresses. This allows dispatchers to modify assignments on the fly to further optimise work efficiency. The result of this efficiency is more site visits and jobs completed in a day, happier and better-served customers, and sizable savings in fuel costs.
  2. Digitised and streamlined interfaces are revolutionising data capture.

    The pens and clipboards still used by some field workers are now (or soon to be) antiquated relics. And while technology solutions that are not custom fit to a company’s needs may assist somewhat by digitising information, workers using one-size-fits-all systems will still need to capture data in different apps and send multiple files to dispatchers. Thankfully, more streamlined and customised interfaces are benefitting today’s field workers by removing pain points and making data capture fast and error-proof. To complete a work order, field service workers may need to capture arrival and departure times, labor hours, work notes, part and material numbers, digital images, customer consultation time, customer signatures, etc. In the worst-case scenario of using less efficient and downright unwieldy solutions, field workers might even have to return to sites to recapture improperly recorded data.

    more streamlined and customised interfaces are benefitting today’s field workers by removing pain points and making data capture fast and error-proof.

    We’re seeing a decisive trend toward app solutions with thoughtfully designed user interfaces and smart use of data capture equipment. These apps also tend to include business rules and task segmentation customised for precise company needs. They can use Bluetooth scanners for errorless capture of complex parts numbers and integrate data within work orders themselves at the time of capture for seamless processing. Dispatchers can then receive and make use of those filled out work orders in real time, as their software is custom made for this purpose.
  3. Field mobility apps work just as seamlessly offline.

    Even when work order data cannot be transmitted to dispatchers in real time, the trend in these apps is to make sure that locally capturing and later syncing recorded data is automatic and painless. Many field workers frequently travel to locations where their mobility devices will read “No Service.” Apps capable of offline data syncing enable workers to capture information without Internet connectivity and have that data sync up with the software used by dispatchers at the home office once they return to an area with a better wireless signal. This means that data is safe and available for use as soon as possible. Businesses using field mobility technologies have found that the more customised the application they use is to their needs, the more efficiently it will serve them. As highly tailored app customisation is now within the reach of businesses of all sizes, companies deploying employees in the field should look for those trends that support their productivity and help the business’ bottom line.



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