Taking Control of Field Service Operations

The challenges of running a field service fleet leave managers little time for strategic changes because they spend most of their workday reacting to the constant demands of monitoring and maintaining vehicles and keeping drivers on schedule. To make their fleets as efficient as possible, managers have learned that they need to easily capture and consolidate vast quantities of data produced by in-vehicle devices and the handhelds of mobile workers.

Doing so requires reliable systems to capture, analyze and turn data into actionable business intelligence, so managers can manage by exception rather than instinct. For instance, information from location technology and 3D mapping helps optimize routing, saving on vehicle maintenance and fuel as well as driving time, while data from fleet and workforce management systems facilitates operational changes to boost productivity.

Fleets in a range of industries, including utilities, medical, telco and trades, typically enjoy double-digit percentage gains from implementing these technologies. A study by NDP Consulting found that location technology produces savings of 11 percent in labor costs, 13 percent in fuel and 13 percent in vehicle maintenance and repair. In addition, field service managers have learned that workforce management software can boost productivity by more than 10 percent and dispatch efficiency by at least 20 percent.

Here are key strategies that successful field service managers have learned from implementing these technologies:

 Use Your Data

Information collected from a fleet’s various systems, including GPS navigation and vehicle monitoring, workforce management and billing applications, provides valuable insights about vehicle use, staff behavior and dispatcher efficiency. Savvy field service managers know that monitoring and acting on data such as delivery time stamps, time spent at each customer site, routing records and daily logs, can significantly improve operations.

Undesirable behaviors such as personal use of vehicles and habitual speeding, as well as inefficiencies such as dispatch taking too long to answer driver calls or scheduling drivers through busy intersections, can be corrected to eliminate waste and minimize overtime. Managers have learned to compare historical with current real-time and periodically collected data to spot patterns and identify areas needing improvement, all of which leads to better service and happier customers.

Use Efficient Routing 

Advances in location technology, 3D mapping, geolocation and telematics are allowing field service managers and dispatchers to fine-tune routing to save fuel, improve delivery times and control vehicle wear and tear. Data from location technology lets managers review and compare routes that drivers actually use with assigned routes that take into account multiple factors, including point-to-point distances and traffic patterns.

Optimal routing isn’t all about the shortest distance. Efficient routing means paying attention to hourly, daily and seasonal traffic patterns, road construction, proximity between customer locations and staff shift. Field service managers have learned that route optimization generates a quick return on technology investments and is instrumental in modifying driver behavior.

Optimize Your Workforce

Efficiently run companies have learned that they need reliable systems to optimize their operations. One such system is workforce management, which gives managers and dispatchers real-time visibility into the work schedules and activities of their field workers. Integrated with fleet management software, a workforce management system helps companies react quickly and reduce overtime expenses by assigning in-day jobs based on real-time information they receive about their mobile workers.

Successful field service managers know that information collected throughout the workday about dispatch efficiency and mobile workers’ activities allows them to compare planned work with jobs that are actually completed. They can then adjust schedules and, when necessary, reassign work to ensure quality of service and worker productivity and—ultimately—to enhance customer satisfaction.

For more information on field service solutions, visit www.trimble.com/fsm.

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