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Field Mobility

Excerpts from Mastering Mobility: What to Consider When Mobilizing Your Field Technicians.

Mobile technology is no longer a wish-list item for a field service organization; it’s a critical reality in business today. Mobile solutions allow technicians to be more effective at their jobs because of improved scheduling, dispatching, routing, communication and asset information.

The use of mobile devices and the expanding applications provides significant opportunities to streamline accurate workflow, timely completions of service calls; reduced data entry and ultimately increase employee productivity.

When field service organizations invest in mobile technology, all facets of the organization get better connected.

They can do it all without returning to the office, calling in the status or shuffling through piles of paper. There are a lot of pieces involved in delivering competitively superior field service. The solution is to automate processes to remove inefficiencies and reduce the chance of errors.

Introducing a mobile strategy into your organization presents a unique opportunity to evaluate the processes you’re using today

Many companies are still using outdated methods of scheduling — technicians get a service call on their cell phone or email, pull out a blank piece of paper or form, and then have to painstakingly fill out every detail, from the job number to the customer’s address to a description of the work task. Too much time is wasted filling out forms, a process that today can be streamlined with mobile devices. You can eliminate most paper forms from your processes by using a smart phone or tablet — the service call shows up immediately on the device and no one has to fill out cumbersome paper forms.

Having any mobile device in the field that can transmit real-time information to the office adds value and reduces the cost of manual processes – both paper and phone calls.

Capturing a picture of the samples on a mobile device allows the tech to show the sample to the customer or, in more challenging cases, the tech’s supervisor or regulatory agency. Mobile capabilities can also allow for Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) to show where the field tech is taking a sample and to be electronically attached to a chain of custody.

Mobile solutions have to work for the technician in the field. So here’s the most important question to ask: What are you trying to accomplish with a mobile solution? Everyone wants something different: Company executives want the solution to move the business forward and differentiate the organization from its competitors, the project manager wants error-free documents and the technicians want a simple solution that can be at their fingertips whenever necessary. The key is to take all of that feedback and create an all- encompassing vision from every department. That will result in a much better mobile technology deployment that’s better accepted and benefits the whole organization.

There are many different options regarding device type and model and while an early adopter may be more comfortable with the touch-screen technology of smartphones and tablets, you must also consider technicians who have been slower to adopt mobile technology. They may not like swiping a screen, but may prefer typing on a keyboard. Fortunately, there is a plethora of device options based on the skill level of technicians and the requirements of their role and the tasks of their job. In fact, you don’t need to put the same device in everyone’s hands for mobile deployment. Select a device that meets each individual’s comfort level with technology. Likewise, you don’t need to limit your company to one mobile make and model.

Employees appreciate not having to manage two devices (one for work and one for personal use) and you may choose to absorb some of the costs of the device given its dual purpose. Tablets offer more real estate but can be bulky and more expensive to operate but the larger screen makes working on them much easier for many technicians over a smart phone.

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