Field Service Automation: The Future of Field Services
20 March 2023
Here’s how field service automation works and why the industry is becoming automation-centric (with practical examples).
Field service businesses with growth high on the agenda are turning to automation.
Why? Because it increases productivity, reduces operational costs and improves the customer experience.
In this blog, we’ll delve into how field service automation works, why the industry is becoming automation-centric, and share practical examples.
Field service automation maturity today
The key ingredient to successful automation is leveraging the right tech. As this replaces the manual and paper-based systems that have held back operations for decades.
Yet, while paper-based processes are inefficient, businesses need to feel safe and comfortable making the move to digital systems.
This is a barrier field service businesses need to overcome.
In fact, hesitancy and lack of trust are likely what’s preventing over half (52%) of field businesses from making the leap. The issue is, failure to go digital and leverage tech leaves field services behind and shrinks profit margins and future growth opportunities.
You’ll see why in these examples and the future trends shaping the industry.
6 examples of field service automation
Let’s now look at the common use cases of field service automation so you can see how this works and the benefits. Heads up: the use of tech will be prevalent.
#1: Resource optimisation
With automated job scheduling tools, businesses can allocate jobs based on the nearest location, engineer skill set, and availability. This is all thanks to field service automation software features like GPS tracking and geofencing.
The result? They can respond quickly to service requests to boost customer satisfaction, reduce fuel and labour costs, and book more jobs within a day. Win-win.
#2: Reduce workloads for field technicians
With mobile apps, field service engineers can track their time, access job information and send job updates to customers and back-office teams – all in real time and with just the touch of a button.
This creates a huge boost to productivity because there is no paperwork to handle. It’s much easier to click on a response option than to write it. And worksheets guide you step-by-step through every job and can be automatically sent straight to both the office and the customer at the end of the job.
Plus, with field service software like BigChange, you can even optimise field technicians’ routes based on traffic and fuel consumption.
The result? Efficiency, cost savings and better job satisfaction for field teams.
🔍Automation case study: After moving to digital and automated processes, JWH Tanks saw 35% growth. “We have slashed the time taken to produce vital documentation for each job. Customised worksheets such as tank cleaning reports and consignment notes can be completed simply by our engineers, which is complemented by easy access to important safety information such as method statements and risk assessments.”
#3: Quicker invoicing
With this real-time data, you can automatically send accurate invoices straight to customers. Plus, as you can add invoice items against a job on the device, it maximises accuracy.
For example, if a specific part is needed for a job and an engineer needs to buy it, they can charge it against the job on their tablet so it will automatically appear on the job costs at the office and won’t be missed off the invoice.
The result? Accurate invoicing, prompt payment and better cash flow. Also, because you can mandate photos or videos as worksheet answers, you have proof of service/delivery
#4: Prevent stock issues
Stock is a major issue for many field services businesses as you need parts to complete jobs, but also don’t want cash tied up in unused kit.
And that’s where field service automation software comes in.
With some tech solutions, businesses can track inventory levels and automate reordering if volumes drop below a certain threshold. They can also show exactly where stock is held – whether at a customer site, a warehouse, or on your own or someone else’s van.
The result? Simple inventory management. It saves hours of time manually managing warehouses and minimises stock-outs blocking job completion. Plus, you’re more likely to boost first-time fix rates when armed with all the kit.
#5: Reduce time on admin
And as mobile applications allow jobs to be completed and reported on while on-site, there’s no need for duplicating records back at the office.
Job status updates are instant so the entire business has a live view of progress and can see job status clearly on the schedule – whether a job is late to start, has started, completed or has completed with issues. That’s because field technicians complete information while on-site and via job sheet templates that prompt action so that processes are followed.
The result? This means they don’t miss a thing and there’s less work to do when they get back home, and you minimise the risk of human error or duplicating records.
#6: Automated financial reporting
As everything is digital, data collection is instant and stored in one place. Plus, it’s filterable so you can see the exact information you need.
This data represented in highly visual dashboards provides a quick view of business performance, such as engineer utilisation rates, billing statuses, and customer satisfaction scores.
On top of this, reports can be sent to whoever you want and at your preferred intervals, or as one-offs.
The result? On a daily basis, you can see exactly how the business’s finances stack up and where you can make changes to get back on track to hitting KPIs.
🔍Automation case study: A&S Newbuild Aftercare have seen a boost to turnover of £5m in just two years. “We have complete visibility of everything going on in real-time… It has allowed us to really streamline our mobile operations. Tradesmen are now much more self-sufficient; journeys to the depot are rare, first-fix rates are improved, and there are fewer wasted hours. ”
It’s likely you’re starting to form a picture here. Ultimately, automation reduces operating costs by giving field services better control over the entire business’s operation. But, if that’s not enough to convince you, here’s what’s on the horizon for field service businesses.
Future trends pushing field service automation
There are so many advancements happening across so many industries, thanks to technological developments. And despite field services traditionally being slow to adopt, this is likely to have an impact in 2023.
#1: AI and machine learning for predictive maintenance
Imagine knowing when machines and vehicles are likely to break down? Well, with predictive maintenance alerts, you can.
Take fleet management, for example.
With the right field service automation software, engineers can run daily vehicle checks, get alerted of defects and automate MOT and service maintenance. This means field service businesses can prevent disruption, like missed customer appointments, and heightened maintenance costs. It can also help fulfil customer SLAs and KPIs by ensuring that you don’t have breakdowns and do have very little downtime.
#2: Customer self-service
Did you know, 69% of customers prefer to independently resolve a significant number of their issues?
Pretty hard stat to ignore. And this is why leading field service businesses are leveraging field service management software to provide self-service portals and provide automated booking alerts and ETAs.
#3: Carbon-neutral & cost efficiencies
The biggest drivers here are cost-efficiency and meeting government regulations (plus, avoiding penalties).
Whilst major investments such as solar panels and electric vehicles may not be an option, automation has a workaround. With automated and smart scheduling, you can find the most fuel-efficient route and even avoid traffic and congestion.
📕 Want to learn more? Check out: Field service industry trends to watch in 2023.
Common blockers to field service automation
Now, we’ve gone through why adopting field service automation is a no-brainer. But, we appreciate there are still a few common blockers.
Here’s what they are and how to overcome them:
- Cost: Purchasing and implementing field service management software isn’t free. And some well-known brands will be costly so it’s hard to weigh up these up-front costs against long-term value. But, there are specific solutions available, tailor-made for field service businesses. These have all the features you need – so you don’t pay for jazzy tech that you won’t use – they’re easy to use AND the prices are fair to small businesses. You can even level up to more pro packages as you grow and your needs change.
- Internal resistance: Humans just don’t like change – it’s natural. Luckily, a lot of research has been done to overcome resistance. Like communicating the benefit (sharing relevant success stories and eventually the measurable impact of the tech on the business) and providing training and support (good automation solutions provide a range of training options and even 24/7 support).
- Lack of integration with other tech: If the field service management software doesn’t cover multiple business needs and it doesn’t integrate with other solutions like your accounting software, it just won’t work. For you to streamline operations, one platform that manages the entire business operations is a must.
The biggest piece of advice here is to bring the entire business along on the journey. If a new piece of tech just lands, it will likely meet hard resistance.
Move to profitability and growth today with field service automation
The need to save costs and improve efficiencies makes field service automation a compelling priority. As the field service automation market continues to grow, we expect to see continued technological innovation to streamline operations and improve profitability.
And with this, we’re expecting customer expectations to grow with it.
So, the question is, can you afford to sit on the fence with automation?
Ultimately, field service businesses powered by automation are better placed to compete with economic challenges, better manage costs and resources and meet increasing demands.
Ready for field service automation? Book a personalised demo and our field service business pros can talk you through the top features for better job scheduling.
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