Article | September 7, 2018

7 Field Service Processes And Workflows To Automate Today

By Mark Percy, VP of Technology at Field Squared

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The repetitiveness of filling out field service work order forms, capturing photos in the field or updating back-office systems is ripe for digital transformation. I realize the phrase digital transformation is thrown around frequently as of late; however, the meaning behind it is genuine, especially when it comes to field service.

Today, most field service processes are still completed via paper, spreadsheets or filled-out at a later date and manually uploaded into another third-party system. This really isn’t new; it’s generally a known thing in this industry. What is new is and noteworthy for field service is going beyond digitizing work order forms you maintain, to automating aspects of your field service business processes to improve operational efficiency. Without further delay, here are seven field service processes and workflows to automate today.

#1: Auto-Populate Data Across the Same Work Order Form

As I’ve learned over the years, every industry from inspections, oil & gas and utilities to health care, building maintenance and municipalities, have different needs when it comes to their work order forms. For instance, some industry’s work order forms include photos or barcodes, while others require signatures, check lists or calculated figures. If a technician has 5-10 work order forms to fill out each day, that’s a lot of repetitive data entry.

Automating repetitive data entry by auto-populating the same information across forms can save the technician significant time in the field. It also improves data accuracy. Some field service management software auto-populates data across assets, documents, technicians and even teams. If the software has the ability to create a team (of technicians) and that team is assigned to a work order, all the information related to that team can be auto-populated to the work order form. I know this first-hand since we helped one of our enterprise customers automate their work order forms to the point where about 90% - 95% of the form is pre-filled for the technician.

#2: Update Information Across Back-Office Systems Used in the Field

The typical field service organization has at least three back-office systems they employ in their everyday processes. It’s not uncommon for a supervisor or technician to manually update information across one or more for each and every work order they complete. I always ask why at this point. When the capability exists to integrate with practically any back-office system, thereby automate work order creation, update and close details, why would anyone choose to do it manually. Not only is it time-consuming, it’s wrought with error.

Let me provide a quick example. One of our customers leverages a leading CRM for their support ticketing. Through an API integration with Field Squared, all details entered in the CRM software are automatically added to the ticket, including creating, updating and closing-out it out. The full end-to-end field service work order process lifecycle is automated.

#3: Ensure Technician Certifications Are Renewed

In a previous blog post, I talked about automating certification expiration alerts. Given the importance most field service organizations place on ensuring their field technician’s certifications are up-to-date, it’s worth reiterating here.

Basically, when a technician’s certification is up for renewal, an alert automatically notifies a supervisor and/or the field technician they have so many days to renew (i.e., 30, 60, 90 days). The alert can be automated via different methods, such as email or text message.

#4: Technician Status Updates

Field managers, supervisors and technicians are all too familiar with jobs running over, traffic causing delays or directions being off, that comes with the territory of field work. Today, though, there is no good reason to not notify the customer of any delays. If a technician will be late for an appointment, based on the location and time of the work order, your field service management software should be able to detect that and send a notification to the manager, supervisor or the technician to complete a few automated actions:

  1. Notify the customer the technician will be late
  2. Reschedule the work order
  3. Alert the technician of the appointment/schedule change
  4. Notify the customer the work order has been rescheduled and provide the new date/time

This being the Age of the Customer, automating communications with customers is the quickest, easiest way to improve the field service customer experience.

#5: Remotely Monitor Asset Conditions

In industries where asset conditions matter for such things as environmental inspections, compliance or safety checks, the increasingly IoT connected assets make it possible to automate remote monitoring. Real-time notifications that a temperature or sensor reading is out of range or an incident has occurred, enables both technicians and management to be proactive in solving potentially catastrophic damage from occurring.

Further, automated notifications can be set up on a sliding scale—from the technician on up the chain to higher-level executives. The right people can be notified per specific standard operating procedures.

#6: Recurring Maintenance Schedules

Some field service organizations maintain assets or equipment on a regularly recurring basis. Instead of scheduling recurring work orders manually, automating a recurring maintenance schedule can save a field service manager time and ensure all historical documentation is in one place.

There are other resources associated with the whole process that can be automated, including finding the right team or technician, ensuring skill requirements match the type of work and coordinating across one or more schedules.

#7: Emailing Field Data Captured Photos and Markup

It’s not unusual for organizations that conduct any type of field work to capture photos with markup and site sketches to document before and after. Generally, understanding the state of an asset is the goal here.

What would normally be a fairly lengthy process to take a photo, mark it up by hand, upload it to a third-party system and then email either the customer or supervisor, the entire process can quickly be automated. From digital capture of the photo and markup and then clicking a button to email the details to the customer happen automatically.

These seven field service processes are discrete in that they are a part of a larger overall field workflow. Some field service management software can take these discrete processes and build a fully automated end-to-end field service business process workflow. In my next post, I’ll cover field service workflows in-depth.