For some years facilities maintenance and repair budgets have been under sustained downward pressure. Unsurprisingly the field service industry, which undertakes much of this work, is being asked to shoulder the burden and reduce prices.
But price is just one arm of the pincer squeezing the field service industry. Clients are now looking for ever greater levels of service. Shorter response times, flexible appointments and more frequent progress reporting are just some of the items being layered onto existing contracts when they come up for review.
The good news is, that even during an economic downturn, field service businesses can respond to this challenge, but they will need to innovate.
Responding to the Challenge
In tough trading conditions it is tempting to “just sit on ones hands” and weather out the storm. However, businesses that come through a recession typically emerge stronger, and not just because they were well placed at the outset, or competition falls by the wayside. Survivors innovate, and invest cautiously in response to changing conditions.
For field service, addressing the market challenges means investing in efficiency and productivity to reduce costs, and in value added services to attract and retain clients.
Automation is Key
Field service is characterised by high volumes of low value transactions such as planned maintenance and equipment repairs. Delivering these efficiently means automating as much of the process as possible; the taking of calls, dispatching engineers, organising parts, reporting progress, billing, etc. It also means using technology to reduce travel, eliminate paperwork and improve engineer productivity.
In its simplest form a delivery model based on high levels of automation is made from three interacting components; Service Management to automate the back office functions, Scheduling to allocate work and route engineers to site efficiently, and Mobile to deploy the engineers and eliminate job paperwork increasing productivity. Where already implemented this automated model is reportedly delivering step changes in performance and service levels of 10% to 20%.
Automation is not the only lever that can be pulled. Optimising the value chain, for example can deliver significant cost savings. But with automation comes information with which to drive further efficiencies and create value added services. Without it, business development will always be constrained by the all too familiar piles of paper records, and their inherent inefficiencies.