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Managing a field service operation in today’s marketplace is not an easy feat and there are many barriers that need to be overcome and steps that need to be taken in order to execute a perfect workday. Trimble FSM's Mark Forrest explains how this can be achieved.
With customer expectations at an all-time high, the pressure to deliver the best service performance has never been higher and it is a clear objective for any field service company that wants to remain competitive. However, budget constraints have led businesses having to achieve service excellence with fewer resources, resulting in meeting SLA Commitments, providing short appointment windows and ensuring the ‘first time fix’ that much harder to achieve.
When it comes to managing a field operation and achieving the perfect workday, it is often supposed that knowing each vehicle’s position would be at the heart of the solution. However, it isn’t where the vehicles are that’s important, its where the engineer or field service worker is and what they are doing that is of paramount concern, as ultimately they are the ones providing the service to the end customer.
So executing a ‘perfect’ mobile workday may be a rarity as field service workers are regularly faced with obstacles often out of their control. For example, jobs may overrun as they turn out to be more complicated than first thought, emergency work may come in which changes the day’s schedule or traffic congestion and vehicle breakdown can cause delays or failure to meet an appointment. Additionally, with workers calling in sick, starting late or getting lost; all these factors can impact adversely on the productivity of the workforce. With much field-based work becoming increasingly mission-critical in terms of timing, skills and consequence more importantly than ever companies need to ensure that their field service is not derailed by unpredictable dynamics of the working day.
Achieve your perfect work schedule
In a recent survey by The Service Council, nearly half of organisations highlighted their interest in broader investments in field service in the next 12-24 months. Developments in Work Management technologies, for field services, have come to the fore as solutions able to transform the way in which work is performed, through intelligent scheduling tools and advanced performance analytics. This capability provides the stepping stones needed to help organisations measure, manage and improve their operations through optimising resources, offering real-time visibility and monitoring and giving warning of tasks at risk or showing the impact of work allocation decisions.
Such capabilities helps to increase the profitability of service delivery as it allows the field service manager to schedule tasks to meet SLAs, produce efficient routes to reduce travel time, fuel costs and overtime and ensures work is only given to those with the right skills.
Many organisations schedule tasks based on a technician’s allocated territory, however selecting the most knowledgeable technician, or one who has the right tools or parts in their vehicle, is also crucial. More and more organisations are beginning to realise the value of ‘intelligent scheduling’ - incorporating technician knowledge, parts availability, and capacity into their scheduling processes to ensure that the technician arriving on site is actually the person who can resolve the customer’s issue first time. AberdeenGroup found that intelligence is at the heart of scheduling with over half of organisations using service performance data to evaluate the effectiveness of scheduling criteria.
Self-learner tools help with intelligent scheduling. They incorporate an algorithm that quickly learns preferences for each mobile worker and will allocate tasks accordingly. This includes geography (which mobile workers normally service particular areas) and skill (learns what skills mobile workers have and to what degree they are qualified to do particular types of work).The first step to managing productivity requires field service managers to get the right people with the right skills with the right assets to the right place within a set time and the self-learner tool significantly helps in achieving this.
Optimise productivity to achieve quality of service through greater business intelligence
It is important to remember that technology is purely an enabler and measuring the effectiveness of technology is just as important as the initial install. It is the management information and performance management analysis and how this is used that is fundamental in meeting business targets. A survey by the Service Council confirmed that performance management and visibility was a major area of concern in field service. Reassuringly, developments in workforce management technology have begun to offer a solution to these concerns.
Performance Management Analytics (PMA) provides field service managers with the visibility to analyse the productivity of their fleet operations. For example, scheduling statistics for individual workers can be recorded from the start of the day and compared with the position at the end of the day. Based on actual location data, easily digestible performance reports can be generated and customised to showcase the key metrics of a field operation. These can range from if the quality of service has been met/failed, utilisation (total time vs. time spent on tasks), efficiency (actual vs. estimated task duration), total tasks completed, total fuel usage and total distance travelled.
By adopting PMA the field service manager is provided with the visibility to identify what is preventing the company from doing more jobs and able to identify gaps in the working day where mobile workers could be utilised elsewhere.
An additional capability of the technology is that it provides the field service manager with the ability to learn from day-to-day experiences. Data can be collected about the trends in the field, the type of jobs that overrun, the number of commitments met and the performance of individual and groups of service workers. If, for example, a service worker takes 40 minutes for a particular task whereas the average for others is two hours, then is that worker cutting corners or are they simply an outstanding employee? Conversely, if taking two hours as opposed to 40 minutes then do they need additional training?
Such integration not only ensures that all relevant stakeholders across different business units have the salient information they need to manage the daily performance of the organisation, but the performance analysis also helps feed into strategic business planning on targets, budgets and resourcing.
Ultimately, the capabilities provided by Work Management technologies overcomes the business challenges field service companies have been faced with for years. How do I know what is really happening in my field service operations? How do I know that what my workers say they are doing is true? How can I get more jobs done per day? What prevents me from doing more work? How good is the quality of service? How effectively are resources being met? Taking a holistic approach across field operations and obtaining visibility into the work in its entirety is essential and the business intelligence provided by Work Management technology achieves this, suggesting that the old adage of ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’ certainly rings true.
To find out how to achieve your perfect workday, demonstration videos are available, featuring Aubrey Fox, Work Management Product Manager for Trimble Field Service Management:
Performance Analytics - http://www.youtube.com/embed/bIjrXqG60KE
Scheduling and Optimisation - http://www.youtube.com/embed/cFO__9_IK-g
With the current economic business pressure, reducing costs in the service management supply chain without compromising customer satisfaction is a challenge which must be faced head on. Glyn Dodd, Managing Director of Centrex Services explains...
With the current economic business pressure, reducing costs in the service management supply chain without compromising customer satisfaction is a challenge which must be faced head on. Glyn Dodd, Managing Director of Centrex Services explains why...
Facing the challenge...
Managing this balancing act requires business intelligence, which refers to the applications, tools, infrastructure and best practices which enable raw data to be transformed into significant information, and as such can be utilised to improve outdated processes in the service management arena.
Sadly, the current service supply chain model does not use business intelligence, but relies on a silo system, in which each area of the network, namely diagnostics and scheduling, parts, logistics, field service and repair, is run by a separate company.
Although the majority of companies working within the service supply chain use this silo model, there are major pitfalls to doing so which seem to be overlooked by the decision makers which strategically drive the agenda.
Quite simply, these are issues that cannot be overlooked in modern service management.
We know the service supply chain model has been working inefficiently, with separate entities running each sector of the network. Unsurprisingly, the communication between these areas is often found lacking, as an issue which the diagnostics team are unable to resolve is simply passed on to the next stage, when in reality it may not have been necessary to do so.
The current model invariably results in the deployment of field service engineers, regardless of the scale of the problem, due to a lack of business intelligence. The cost-effectiveness of such a system must therefore be scrutinised.
There are three key elements to the service supply chain which transcend each of the five silos. By studying the people, processes and data which unite to create the service supply chain, while simultaneously identifying the inefficiencies within these silos, each element can be challenged. Ultimately, this will culminate in a far more efficient network.
Correctly skilled representatives create cost-effectiveness in service management
The three key elements which are vital to the functionality of the service supply chain must be dissected to create the most effective model available. The first of these are the people who represent businesses in the service supply chain. This is the element which is easiest to directly challenge, as this can be controlled through efficient management of correctly skilled representatives.
Personally, I believe that the current silo model within the service supply chain is in fact impeding such change.
Communication is of paramount importance in all businesses, and this applies to those working in the service management, where we live and die by the level of customer service we are able to offer.
It is therefore unacceptable that the communication silos which the majority of businesses seem to rely upon result in a system where cross-silo communication is so poor. This is especially poignant when it is the customers who pay the price. It is hard to believe, when some businesses utilise an integrated service network which improves communication, that the silo structure continues.
A recent study by the Aberdeen Group shows service supply chain customers agree with this sentiment. 58 per cent of respondents state they want to see an improvement of diagnosis of triage at the initial call level. With further statistics showing there is a 24 per cent increase in first-time fix performance, from 62-86 per cent, when all calls are routed via triage, it is clear that such intelligent communication can increase service level agreements (SLA) and in turn, customer satisfaction levels.
Inefficient processes must be challenged
Customer satisfaction levels cannot be increased solely through challenging the service supply chain businesses representatives. Alongside this, processes must also be scrutinised to construct an efficient service in which business intelligence can be utilised.
With business needs evolving continuously, the processes which are currently commonplace within the network cannot be sustained in the long term.
Although this is a vital step in the evolution of the service supply chain, this message is not reaching the relevant decision makers.
Those decision-makers who strategically alter the function within the service supply chain do not necessarily have the knowledge required to alter the inefficient processes which currently plague the system.
With businesses worried about maintaining their profit margins in these difficult times, altering the processes they use can seem like an unnecessary burden, which is then wrongly linked to excess spending. If they used a leansource approach to integrate the service supply chain rather than tactically selecting separate companies, efficiency levels would increase, while spending decreases and complex issues are transformed into competitive advantage.
A study by research organisation McKinsey looking into the priorities in the global supply chain support this. 61 per cent of respondents cited reducing operating costs as a priority over the past three years, which is a task manageable through creating more efficient processes within the service supply chain. Once achieved, the percentage of SLA’s which are successfully achieved will increase without any additional pressure being applied on the deployed field service engineers.
Read the second part of this feature here where Glyn outlines why Big Data isn’t the answer to solve all the service management industries issues, why failure is a good thing, and why true Business Intelligence is perhaps the key to unlocking a successful future for service management...
It can make or break your service business growth strategy, yet it’s surprising how many service leaders do not appreciate the impact a separate service P&L can have on changing the mind-set of their people.
It can make or break your service business growth strategy, yet it’s surprising how many service leaders do not appreciate the impact a separate service P&L can have on changing the mind-set of their people.
Many just focus on what they believe is the best way to maximise their corporate value. Yes it’s important to ensure we have the systems to manage the value of our enterprise, but we also need to consider the impact of measures on the performance of our people.
Take Textron Fastening Systems who were a $1.8bn global manufacturer of nuts, bolts, rivets, screws and plastic clips. Their European business became the sole supplier of fasteners to the Ford Fiesta, providing an integrated solution consisting of manufacturing, purchasing, logistics and engineering services. As far from their manufacturing core, it was set up with it’s own P&L and dedicated team. They succeeded due to their focus and separation from the main manufacturing business.
But once this $30million service business was stable, we decided to re-integrate it back into the core business. So a dedicated team, was re-deployed back into the operational silo’s of Engineering, Logistics, Purchasing , IT and Sales. What a disaster and I say that as this case study is from my own experiences. We lost focus, drive, energy and sales. Our biggest competitor, who set up a separate service business, grew to 5 times our revenue, from exactly the same starting point in time and experience. 15 years on the Textron Fastening Systems no longer exists, having been bought by Private Equity and then broken up. Ironically the remains of the service business have survived but without growth.
For me this was a very salutatory lesson about the importance of focus. But its not so simple as saying that for an industrial company to succeed you must have a separate P&L or Business Unit.
It depends on the strategic goals of the business and also where it is in the transformation process. For example companies such as Rolls Royce & BAE with over 50% of their revenues from services see it as such an integral part of their business model, they do not have a stand alone services division.
So if you are pondering how best to manage your corporate value and looking to make the profit/cost centre call, you might ask yourself 2 questions:
- In your future business model how integrated will be your products and services offering.
- Is organisational focus the key challenge facing your service transformation programme.
Having a sound service strategy is key to make the transformation to a sustainable high growth profitable service business. If you want to read more about how real companies achieve this goal, you can look at the Bobst case study on www.noventum.eu
Whilst building a service business entirely from scratch might seem like a dream for many Service Managers when facing the trials and tribulations that are often the result of many legacies, it is none the less a daunting task and certainly no...
Whilst building a service business entirely from scratch might seem like a dream for many Service Managers when facing the trials and tribulations that are often the result of many legacies, it is none the less a daunting task and certainly no mean feat. However, for Daryll Brown, Operations and Service Manager with Bürkert Fluid Control Systems this was exactly the task he was employed to do. In this exclusive interview he explains just how he has approached building a service division from a standing start...
FSN: Building a service business from scratch must be both a daunting and exciting proposition, what was the approach you adopted in taking the first steps to achieving this goal?
DB: Our approach to building a service business from scratch is to first of all define what can be thought of as service in our industry.
Fluid controls are a very complex business and there is not a clear description of what is traditionally known as service work. We need to define what we class as service work and then develop products that would be attractive to our customers.
Some of our definitions of service include Installation of Bürkert products and systems, continuous service of Bürkert products and systems, planned maintenance and breakdown cover for Bürkert products, installation and commissioning, consultancy, design, calibration and training. As things stand most of our products do not lend themselves easily to service maintenance. This is because there is not always what you would call spare parts that need to be replaced. Also a lot of our products are designed for one time use and they may last for years. So we need to be very creative with our offering.
FSN: What approach have you taken to scheduling software, are you using a manual, automated or optimized system? Why did you take this approach? Which provider are you working with and what made you choose them?
DB: This is unique for us as we do not necessarily need scheduling to cope with high volume demand we need it more to manage our complexity. Having had experience in implementing field service software in my previous company I knew that the generic service software packages out there were not going to be as flexible as we would like.
Most offer an out of the box solution which never seems to do exactly what you need. You then seem to spend time (and money) on modifying the software to meet your needs. I think a lot of software companies fall into the trap of thinking all service businesses are alike.
For us this isn’t the case so we have decided to develop our current quality and asset management software (Q-Pulse) to be able to manage our service work. This has the added advantage as we are already very familiar with the software and we have a lot of scope to develop and modify to suit our needs.
FSN: What logistics solutions do you have in place to ensure that your field engineers can get the right parts as soon as possible?
DB: As mentioned our service work is quite complex and some visits have to be planned months in advance. This gives our logistics team time to plan when and where our parts can be delivered and stocked. Bürkert’s UK core business is mainly distribution of product from our Plants in Germany and France so we are already well versed in managing the logistic supply chain. When the business grows we will need to think of innovative ways of supporting our service teams with some of our faster moving items. Again from past experience I have found that having a partnership with a flexible logistic partner is worth its weight in gold.
FSN: How are you monitoring driver behaviour? What tools are you using (GPS, telematics etc)?
DB: Roads in the UK are becoming busier and this presents a challenge for any service business. We have put a lot of thought into using the outside of our service van to market our business and products so we do not want our drivers to give us a bad name. So we have had all those who drive our van read our companies driver handbook and then sign a declaration that they will comply.
We have also made this an agenda point at our Management review as ideas have been raised regarding advanced driver courses. This would have the added advantage of potentially lowering insurance costs.
We do not have this issue of needing to know up to the minute the location of our Engineers. Nor do we currently have any trust issue which would warrant GPS tracking.
FSN: Who else within the organisation do you liaise with when making decisions that will impact upon how the service department operates?
The Bürkert UK business is ran by a small Management team of five members. These represent areas such as General Manager, Logistics, Finance, Quality and Sales. Due to our business structure and all of these areas need to be involved in the decision making process. As we are only a small business here in the UK every action has a reaction and this means all departments have to work closely together. As past experience has taught me this is no bad thing. For me even in larger organisations if all departments are working closely together and not in silos key decisions revolving around the service business are made more quickly and effectively with less risk.
FSN: Have you been able to integrate the service division with other divisions within the organisation such as sales or client services? What challenges did you face?
DB: We are still in the early days of developing our service business. For now our project engineers are also doubling as our service engineers. This is not necessarily a bad thing as we are starting with our service already integrated into other areas of the business.
For me all areas of the business working closely together is critical. All processes tend to cross over into different areas of the business and often this is where most processes come unstuck. If ran as a process and not a interlink of different activities in different areas the service business will run a whole lot better. For instance in the past I have often been called to meetings with the logistics departments to complain about the amount of stock in the service business.
If managed as a process then the logistics teams who are setup to manage other needs of the business can account for the service business. This will help them to adjust themselves to meet the completely different demands of service.
FSN: You personally also have a wide skill set holding an advanced certificate in Sales and Marketing (Institute of Marketing Management ILMM 2007). What led you to a career as a service management professional? What are the key skills that you think are required to be a good service manager?
DB: I spent 24 years with my pervious company and I worked in several different departments including operations, quality, sales and customer service. This gave me a good understanding of the overall business and a good grounding in organising teams and coping with different demands. For this reason I think the senior management thought I may be a good choice as a service manager. Service has been by far my biggest challenge as it seems to involve so many variables and crosses over more boundary lines then I had seen before. In my old business service was managed as part of the sales business. If I were still there today I would have definitely recommended managing service as a separate cost Centre. This is because the needs of a service customer are completely different to that of other customers. This should be managed by a focused service team with no distractions and to key performance targets that are service related and not just sales related.
FSN: What are the biggest challenges you think the field service industry faces and how have you set up the service business at Burkert to overcome these challenges?
DB: Of course there a different types of service businesses which will face different challenges. However, there are challenges that are generic and affect all service businesses.
For me one of the biggest challenges is the modern lean business trends. This drives a cost cutting culture in all industries which makes customers demand more for less. When you are selling service there tends to be a lot less overhead to play with. One extra day on site due to an unforeseen issue and your margin disappears. So at Bürkert our way of overcoming this issue is preparation (and lots of it).
Planning needs to accurate, costing needs to be accurate and the timing needs to be spot on! This is of course easier said than done. So to endeavor to make this happen as mentioned before we have developed our software package to effectively manage our service business. Our logistics are integrated with our service offering so that we have the parts available when our customers need them. All areas of our business are part of our decision making to facilitate us managing our service as a process and not as a group of individual activities.
However, we know we cannot afford to sit still we need to look for ways to continually improve our service offering. For this reason our marketing team is working closely with our customers to keep up with the latest developments in our market. We have put together key performance indicators that are based on areas that our customers value. We hold regular improvement events to review the feedback that these items give us so that we can continue to develop our business to be customer focused and deliver value.
Bürkert at a glance:
Industry = Fluid Controls
Number of Field Engineers UK only = 3 (these also double as Project Engineers).
Number of Dispatchers = None (not set up as yet)
Average number of jobs per Engineer = 1 (our work is quite technical)
Services Provided by Mobile Field Service Management:
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About Mobile Field Service Management:
Mobile field service management is an independent consultancy offering impartial advice, expertise and programme delivery capability for organisations seeking to transform or enhance the field service aspects of their business. Mobile Field Service Management can help develop mobile strategies and roadmaps, articulate requirements, build realistic and achievable business cases, and deliver the subsequent service improvement programmes.
We can provide the ‘glue’ to new or faltering improvement and transformation programmes in the mobile service arena.
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SGSA has the expertise, knowledge and tools available to help your support organisation deliver the level of service your customers expect.
Our team of qualified consultants have support industry backgrounds and understand your business. We offer a support centre health check that will enable these practitioners to identify exposures in your support business that left unchanged will impact your customers, company or employees.
Our senior consultants are available to help you implement and manage changes that will help you develop a highly productive support operation achieving superior levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. The result is an improvement in the levels of service delivered to your customers that establishes a benchmark for your competitors to meet.
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