For many years, software and digital innovations across the field services industry were focused on work executed indoors, at a desk and in front of a monitor. Yet, a large percentage of the workforce that actively generates revenue for a company–operators, technicians, and inspectors –continues to rely on pen-and-paper, phones, or laptops.
Mass adoption of smartphones and tablets in the public sector, as well as emerging technologies to support enterprise operations on these devices, provide numerous opportunities for optimizing the field services workforce.
Here are 3 ways in which businesses can empower field personnel and increase operational efficiency with mobile technologies:
Quick access to most pertinent data on-the-go
Location information can now be easily linked to meter data such as SCADA. When a user is in the proximity of equipment location, the mobile device can automatically identify and display only the information that the user needs to see to do his work.
In the oil and gas industry, where technicians visit hundreds of wellheads and meters on a daily basis, this functionality reduces the need for manual searches or filtering through numerous pieces of equipment. This technology-supported guidance can also reduce human error involved in looking at the wrong data and making poor decisions, as well as speed up employee training.
Capture field data quickly when sensors are not an option
While meter sensors and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are hot topics today, it does not make business sense to tag every piece of equipment with a sensor. But improvements are being made in the daily process of capturing meter readings on paper and transferring them into a business system.
Now, field workers can type data directly into a smartphone or a tablet. However, an even better solution is to scan meter dials, convert them to text, tag this data with location information and pass all of that detail to the business systems. For instance, utilities personnel can save significant amounts of time by scanning meters to extract alphanumeric data, and report any additional issues like maintenance requests.
This technology-enhanced procedure is faster than locating a specific entry section for meter data and typing it in, and less prone to human input error. Additionally, businesses can now get more real-time data about what is happening in the field with every new entry rather than look at daily summaries.
Facilitated and automated team workflows
Industrial tasks often involve multiple team members who are scattered across several locations and own only portions of larger workflows. Excessive communication via phone, text messages, and emails to coordinate work execution on such tasks, as well as hours spent simply waiting for others to complete their work significantly contribute to a company’s nonproductive time.
Now, ecosystems of digital mobile tools can support workflows of multiple individuals– keeping everyone informed about the status of a task, and showing individualized to-dos. For example, when an engine breaks down due to a valve failure, a technician can submit a part replacement request, which then cues up at the procurement office. Once the part is ordered, the same technician can anticipate the part’s arrival, tracking its progress through a company’s inspection and supply departments up to delivery at her location.
Unprecedented Business Insights
In most companies, corporate levels have little or limited real-time visibility regarding what is happening across the organization at any given time. Planning for work, ordering parts, staffing jobs with skilled workforce in a timely manner are major areas where real-time data can transform how industrial field service companies operate.
Utilizing current platforms, upgrading or replacing legacy systems, building custom tools and integrating off-the-shelf solutions can all emerge as part of a digital tool portfolio. Empowering the mobile workforce with highly usable and enhanced digital tools is the fastest way to improve business efficiency.