Steve Smith | 08.09.16
Summary >

Improving efficiency and reducing costs are stock goals for anyone managing field service operations. But to really impact the top line and the bottom line in your business, you need to think bigger and establish more aggressive targets. In order to become a top quartile performer in operational reliability and project delivery, you have to implement the right mix of process, people, and technology. With attainable targets of reducing operating costs by 10 to 30% and increasing resource utilization by 20 to 40%, its well worth the effort. Less tangible benefits like increasing operational awareness to make better strategic and tactical decisions as well as addressing critical health, safety, and environment (HSE) compliance are waiting to be captured. But what is the most direct path?

Improving your ability to measure, benchmark, and improve all these key metrics relies heavily on the tools you use. While technology can't do everything, it can—and should—help you address these six areas, and reach that top quartile bracket.

1. Optimize Resource Utilization

Increasing the level of precision when defining and collecting field resource details (i.e. people, equipment, tools, crews), and evaluating to that level of precision at all stages in your operational processes ensures reality is always addressed.  With tools available in the market, the results include immediate and precise access to available resources so commitments can be made that consider the wide range of varying work requirements against the ever shifting availability of resources. This increased operational awareness and accessibility leads to improved prioritization and utilization. Commitments are better made and met, with a clear awareness of all operational demands, what resources are available, are needed and where to shift capacity to meet exact needs.

2. Provide Operational Awareness

Capture knowledge, improve training, and report on the results to increase profit and competitive advantage. Knowing exactly what is happening where and when while comparing it with what resources you have available and where is just the first stage of operational awareness. Complete operational awareness requires the ability to assess what has happened and expose potential areas to improve as well as assess what is required in the future and target how best to address those needs with the resources at hand. Properly addressed, true operational awareness supports the ability to evaluate the past, present and future and institute a process to continually improve the performance of the business.

3. Consolidate Solutions

Support a consolidated and centralized approach to management of all field resources: distribution of work, collection of field details, and dissemination of details across corporate systems to include the ability to accommodate variability within the single centralized solution. A consolidated view of all field resources and work provides the ability to break down historic boundaries and leverage all the resources to address each and every job. Quickly assess what is, has and should occur within your field operations as well as instantly access availability considering everything about each individual resource, work needs, as well as all outstanding commitments. In addition to the benefits of one operational system to view the exact truth of what is, has and should happen, the obvious benefits of reduced administration efforts and IT infrastructure exist.

4. Improve Process Adherence & Compliance

Ensure standard work instructions (SWIs) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are adhered to by field personnel along with other defined processes to improve consistency across the operation.  Likewise, ensuring compliance with external mandates from regulators and customer established regulations helps ensure consistent delivery of work to improve an organizations professional reputation while reducing penalties and the need for unproductive re-work. The baseline established with consistency aids in taking the guesswork out of where and how best to improve the business. Management can no count on consistent delivery based on the defined strategy, providing a solid foundation to adapt and refine toward the desired strategy.

5. Streamline Operational Processes

Incorporate a field resource management system that can bolt onto your ERP, HR, CRM and EAM solutions, to expose and enhance information across the operation seamlessly. No matter what system you are in, you have an up to date view of what is, should and has gone on. This will reduce administrative efforts like double/triple entry, allowing each system of record to maintain ownership, while sharing details and accepting in updates as desired. The resulting increased operational velocity reduces lags in awareness while also supporting a culture that values clarity and speed.

6. Design Adaptable, Extendable Infrastructure

Expect changes, everywhere. With the right technology, the business is equipped to adjust quickly and easily to inevitable changes in market or operational needs. Today's competitive environments demand agility as customers, competitors, regulators, as well as the business' desire to innovate is revealed. New systems, business acquisitions, or process changes don't have to disrupt all your operations or require your users to work around static operational systems. Select solutions with flexibility in mind to ensure the business needs are addressed, users are kept engaged, and you don't find yourself looking for a new system every few years.

These six directives provide a good starting point on what to look for and consider as you evaluate solutions. The first step towards improving field service delivery is establishing what your targets are. Oddly enough, many confuse this as the last time targets are evaluated. With the clear truth that change is inevitable, these goals will adapt and new targets will arise, a solution that supports transparency and flexibility on a granular level will position a field service operation to focus on their goals and allow the solution to support the strategy and tactics needed to get them.