In 2007 Spectrum Consulting carried out a survey of the UK field service industry highlighting the enormous amount of time spent by engineers on administration and paperwork. The survey also showed how much additional effort was spent in the back office handling the paper records created in the field.
This paper-based working style, the survey suggests, could be costing thousands of pounds per engineer each and every year.
The question is, how far have we come in our quest to reduce costs by automating the field service order, dispatch, parts, fulfilment, recording and billing process? We can consider a 4 level maturity model:
- Level 1: A predominantly manual system characterised by extensive paper records with engineers being tasked when they come to the depot or over the telephone;
- Level 2: Connecting the engineer to the service desk using mobile data technology to reduce paperwork and visits to the depot;
- Level 3: An integrated back office and engineer system which automates much of the field service process, freeing engineers to execute their trade;
- Level 4: Using auto-scheduling tools to optimise the engineer’s day and maximise productivity.
Experience suggests that in the UK the picture may be mixed. Many organisations are passing through Level 2, and some have already arrived at Level 4. A back of the envelop calculation suggests that investment to get to Level 3 and above can make good business sense. Although this journey is about the use of technology, it is more about a process mindset, one which is looking to efficiency.
With business and households looking to prolong the life of existing equipment, and the UK scheduled to invest billions of pounds on infrastructure, is the field service sector ready to deliver maintenance, repair and after sales service in a competitive market?