Field Service Management is the practice of monitoring, managing, and optimizing field related personnel and assets that are assigned to install and maintain equipment at remote locations, or to service clients in the field.
To these ends, FSM draws on data collected from the field, from workers, and digitally from technological assets (like IoT), about the conditions and locations of key people and equipment. This data is in turn used to coordinate communication to and between workers, scheduling jobs, assigning jobs, dispatching workers to sites, and managing inventory and assets. To streamline this data, organizations use Field Service Management software.
Field Service Management (FSM) software provides features for dispatching, job and resource prioritization, communications and collaboration, and analytics. Though these features are essential, FSM apps can be integrated into other software packages to extend their effectiveness, such as connecting to PLM software for worker access to product history and documentation.
Job Scheduling and Dispatch — More than a calendar and text message, the job scheduling, and dispatch component can track other worker characteristics, such as availability, skill level, and geographic location, to best optimize human resources for jobs. Once identified the appropriate resources can then be dispatched and followed in real-time with live maps.
Work Order Management — Work order management is a standard component of FSM software and allows teams to streamline job assignments and process tracking. Quality FSM apps will simplify this process, but retain access to detailed information about jobs, and make those details available to all relevant roles. Mobile integrations have also improved this function's efficiency, a feature that is a boon to field workers.
Asset Inspection and Compliance — Customized inspection forms help workers gather information in the field in a standard format, reducing errors, and in some cases allowing mobile-enabled customers to perform inspections themselves.
Maintenance and Repair Coordination — FSM software pulls data from work orders, inventory management, scheduling, workers, and analytics into a single coordinated application with the ability to manage all relevant and associated resources. Quality FSM apps will stress ease of accessing this information, likely through a single dashboard.
Analytics — Analytics has become ubiquitous and is a feature that elevates the usefulness of FSM apps. Analytics functions can help optimize schedules, understand trends, and map alternative travel routes for safety and reduced time on the road.
Field Service Management software benefits service-oriented businesses by making visible in one place all field jobs, personnel, assets, and technical knowledge. The combination of these data points, from asset management systems and remote devices, empower field workers and help efficiently manage resources by providing several key benefits.
Increased Productivity — FSM software eliminates the need for dispatchers and workers to rely on manual systems that are prone to inefficiencies. Instead digital tools connect dispatchers and workers in real-time improving operational efficiency and worker productivity.
Reduced MTTR — FSM apps ensure appropriate coordination of resources that reduce the mean-time-to-repair, like assigning the right technicians and tools to the correct job.
Empowered Field Workers — Field service workers can access essential information and resources through the FSM software which relieves overtaxed dispatchers and managers to focus efforts where they are most needed. Likewise, workers can optimize their own schedules based on the nature of the jobs that they are assigned.
Lower Costs — Both overhead and field services costs are reduced. Overhead costs are lowered by system wide efficiencies, such as better scheduling, easier dispatching, accurate inventory management, and better communications. Overall field services costs are saved because data insights make anticipating downtime exceptionally reliable, in turn increasing asset uptime and lowering the number of maintenance visits.
Field services challenge maintenance managers, mobile service technicians, and companies as a whole.
For maintenance managers, maintaining a skilled workforce poses significant concern. Managers must attract and retain talent amid a shrinking talent pool, train workforces to meet the demands from changing technologies, reduce operational costs while expanding the services needed to manage sophisticated assets. The solution is to implement an FSM package that can coordinate job information between the field and base, and one that provides automation features that can take error-prone and time-consuming tasks away from workers.
Field service workers are squeezed by scheduling conflicts, lack of essential data, miscommunication about job specifications, and having to make return trips. The simple solution is to give them the information they need by providing more information features to their mobile devices. For example, the ability to review asset maintenance histories, access detailed technical specifications and GIS-location data, examine work order information, process billing, and communicate in real time.
Challenges have not gone unnoticed by companies who have installed many solutions over the years and are now inundated with siloed packages. To maximize field services operations, though, requires an integrated, cohesive, end-to-end solution that provides organization wide visibility of assets, and easy features for field workers, and maintenance technician leaders to use.
FSM technology enables companies to reduce their operational, and administrative footprint, while providing communication and information sharing features for mobile workers and dispatchers that not only increase their efficiency but provides a platform for the company to confidently scale operations.
While FSM technology intensity brings greater efficiency and control to field service operations, the following trends highlight the importance of field service management with respect to a changing business environment.
Work Patterns Have Changed — Work patterns are shifting from traditional office jobs, and traditional work hours. Now, many companies are going to customers in the field to fulfill job requests. This has led many workers to release their schedules from the 9-5 mold, and in many cases return time to workers as companies can now prioritize work output rather than time clocked. Not so for companies that rely on transitional FSM tools though.
Workforce Demands More Satisfaction — Many FSM packages highlight the benefits for company performance; however, field workers also demand a better standard of workflow efficiency that provides them real-time scheduling so that workers can reclaim their time and agency. Because workers want to move to sophisticated companies that offer a better work experience through advanced technologies, companies need to consider their workforce needs as a major factor in their operational strategies.
Data As An Asset — Advanced data analytics has turned seas of data collected by companies into actionable insight. And the trend has moved to one of convergence between modern management systems by way of integrations. By combining and coordinating data from multiple systems, for example CRM with FSM, and ERPs, systems can anticipate needs across several functional areas and plan accordingly.
Field Service Management (FSM) software provides a central platform for managers and supervisors to allocate workers to field assignments and track those assigned resources, while workers are also provided a platform to receive information about their assignments. FSM software may also integrate information from other packages, like geographic information system (GIS) software, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and product lifecycle management (PLM) software, which can provide workers information about where the job and client are located, and the technical specifications about that job.
Field service management is applicable in many asset-intensive industries that require coordination of field service technicians.
Manufacturing — In industries like automotive, aerospace, equipment, industrial products, and consumer products, asset downtime means decreased productivity. To prevent this, qualified field technicians are assigned to jobs and dispatched for maintenance. FSM software establishes maintenance schedules based on historic asset performance data and predicts if and when an asset will begin to fail.
Transportation — Technical documentation is vital for service technicians. FSM can integrate with other systems, like computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), and provide specific access to the myriad of documents to help them solve problems in the field.
Energy and Utilities — Energy and utilities are challenged with vast field assets and need to rely on geospatial information from remote assets to coordinate crews throughout the service territory, for time-sensitive mission critical operations.
Oil and Gas — Oil and gas companies are under extreme pressure to comply with health and safety regulations. At the same time these companies can demonstrate compliance using FSM software, they can reduce costs, and increase asset performance.
Government and Municipalities — Government agencies operate extensive field operations and face multiple challenges with scheduling and coordinating very large work forces and extensive capital resources.
Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) is an umbrella category for solutions, notably software and mobile devices, that help to manage workers outside of the office. Workers outside of the office is a category that has broadened over time, for example, often field service workers who work in technical industries like energy, telecommunications, manufacturing, were considered the mobile workforce.
However, mobile work encompasses any type of work that takes place outside the office. Home and office services, installations and repairs, trades work, on-site training, and on-site support are all examples of mobile work. This extends the mobile workforce into industries such as healthcare, Nonprofits, home construction, small and medium service businesses, and more.
1. Field Service Management Software Systems Empower Mobile Workers, Dispatchers, and the Company — Implementing a software system that provides workers and dispatchers greater job predictability, work autonomy, communications, and information access is a best practice that elevates team and workflow efficiency. Efficiencies translate into time and cost savings, as well as greater customer satisfaction and company capabilities.
2. Listen to Field Service Workers — Instituting feedback systems from field service workers is a best practice communications channel for understanding problems that ripple throughout the entire company. Identifying and documenting service delivery bottlenecks, training gaps, and operational inefficiencies, from the people on the ground often reveals insight that can go unnoticed by management.
3. Integrate Software Packages with Field Service Management Systems — Companies that find value in the data they collect in the FSM systems should consider integrating other data into their analytical practices. Combining systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) with FSM data can reveal resource planning insights that help managers make more efficient decisions.
4. Listen to Client Feedback — With the degree of visibility into workers and job progress provided by FSM systems, companies should avoid forgetting about customer feedback. Possibly soliciting an outside perspective can uncover radical improvements that go unnoticed by field workers.
Improving field service operations means adhering to industry best practices, leveraging technology, and fostering a data drive culture. The focus is on people, processes, and technology. People are first. Building positive relationships will go a long way to improving field services. Workers will be heard, and leadership will gain a better understanding of the challenges of the organization. Second and in tandem, aligning processes to technology will accelerate efficiency. When old processes are very familiar to workers, offer training that relates how things were being done to how they are asked to be done now. Highlighting the benefits that technology and new processes provides to workers autonomy and agency is a good way to proceed with change.
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