4. Efficiency: With FSM software, when technicians are dispatched to a job, the task is sent to their mobile device along with the most efficient route to the site, parts and tools required, service history, contacts, applicable warranties and contractual commitments – everything needed to deliver timely and effective service.
As the work is performed, the tasks are checked off on the mobile device, keeping planners and managers informed of the current status. The technicians can also record service notes, diagnostics, test results, quality information, parts consumed and labor expended in the device, and capture as found/as left images or video using their mobile device.
“There are a lot of efficiencies yet to be gained, especially in power outage situations where there is still a lot of paper-based activity. Quick, safe resolution is required to maintain customer satisfaction,” suggests Feblowitz.
Equipment returns, refurbishments, depot repairs, and reverse logistics also are properly tracked and managed in an FSM solution. For instance, the software reveals when it is more cost effective to return equipment for replacement or repairs rather than dispatching an engineer to the field. Additionally, accurate parts dispositions ensure that refurbished equipment is not scrapped or overlooked.
5. Responsiveness: Lacking an intelligent FSM solution puts companies in a reactive state to inevitable changes. Situations in the field change rapidly throughout the day, causing static work plans to degrade as soon as they are generated. Necessary parts or skill sets may be missing, or union rules may require an additional crew member. Travel time to the site or the work duration may take longer than planned, the weather may not cooperate, the technician may fall ill, or a higher-priority task may arise.
The primary downside of a manual approach is the absence of real-time, tethered or untethered mobile communication with the field staff, leaving them unable to effectively deal with surprises. With FSM software and mobile devices offering real-time, two-way communication, schedulers and service teams can respond quickly to dynamic circumstances and alert the customer, reorganize priorities, and address any shortfalls from the field.
6. Accuracy: Consolidating all FSM activity in a single tool promotes greater data and decision accuracy. For example, the tracking of inventory in the service supply chain is more precise with FSM software. Parts are recorded as they are taken from stock and also when acquired from supply houses or colleagues nearby. This encourages optimal parts placement and inventory levels, and drives supply house relationship improvements.
It also facilitates work planning. “Some utilities have their work planned out so well that visits to the warehouse are infrequent. Field employees will load on the truck all the job packages needed for the week, and seldom have to return for additional equipment,” says Feblowitz.
7. Oversight: When GPS tracking is enabled, oversight of field workers is improved. GPS provides validation of their precise geographic location, distance from the job site, and actual time of arrival. It can also alert when the worker travels outside of a prescribed area.
Regulatory compliance is also facilitated due to the structure and consistency afforded by FSM software. From their mobile device, field users can access and transmit required regulatory information and fulfill documentation requirements, avoiding the fines and other costs of nonconformance.
8. Usability: The usability of role-based FSM software stands in stark contrast to ERP solutions, which are generalized and cumbersome with high functional and administrative overhead. For instance, in one ERP system, upwards of 14 windows are accessed to add a service part. FSM software also compares favorably to error-prone manual and spreadsheet processes that create information silos and cause dual entry.
Users of ERP systems with limited field service capabilities also lack optimal agility. Though ERP systems can be programmed to do almost anything, it comes at the cost of flexibility and responsiveness.
9. Scalability: As service processes and technologies become more sophisticated and field service teams get larger, keeping the administration cost structure and profit margin intact becomes more urgent. This is where field service automation has its greatest payback. FSM software mitigates the complexity of meeting growing customer demands and aggressive service delivery levels, and balances all the moving parts that go into deploying field personnel to complete service work.
10. Flexibility: With modern FSM solutions, customers can choose the deployment model that makes the best business sense for their organization. Traditionally, enterprise software was self-hosted on the premises. Today, companies can avoid or reduce their upfront capital expenditures with a cloud-based option – whether licensing the FSM application on a subscription basis, or opting for a fully managed cloud with all software and hardware hosted externally, and only the data managed on the premises.
Device flexibility is another advantage. FSM software is either device specific or device agnostic. Device-specific FSM software, written to support Apple iOS, Android and/or Windows mobile platforms, can take advantage of capabilities provided by the given platform. Examples include real-time, turn-by-turn mapping, GPS tracking, and cameras to capture photographs or videos of conditions found and left on site.