December 9, 2016 | Written by: Franklin Morris
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Managing a workforce in the field is no easy task, but advances in technology are continuing to bring the discipline of field workforce management into the connected, mobile era. The ability to optimally plan and dispatch field workers to geographic locations in a timely manner is a core mission for many businesses. Getting this right, delivering on your company’s service commitment to customers, involves aspects of demand management, scheduling, dispatching and mobility.
As we look to 2017, here are the top three technology trends that are driving innovation in field workforce management.
New data sources from the Internet of Things
In the age of IoT, everything is connected and everything generates data – from assets, to vehicles, to employees themselves (think about wearables and smart phones). Connected devices and sensors are allowing an increasing number of service work to be conducted remotely; according to Aberdeen’s Evolution of Smart Service Report, last year a third of all work was completed remotely with an increase of 10% expected in 2016. And that is just one way companies are beginning to use this explosion IoT data to make smarter decisions about work planning, completion and scheduling.
The ability to analyze real-time traffic and weather data alongside device and asset data, for example, is already changing how businesses manage their field workforce for the better. Weather may seem like an uncontrolled variable in most situations, but businesses that incorporate real-time weather data into their planning and scheduling can minimize missed service commitments. The ability to set — in advance — weather conditions under which work will not take place, helps keep workers safer. And smarter dispatching systems are beginning to tap into real-time traffic and location data to make sure the most qualified worker gets to the right place at the right time. The ability to use weather, traffic and IoT data to rearrange worker schedules and daily priorities on the fly will increase the efficiency of any mobile workforce.
Watch this webinar to learn more about how IoT, traffic and real-time weather data are coming together to enable smarter scheduling.
Mobility matters at every stage
Businesses in 2017 without mobile-first strategy are already being left behind.
On the technician-side, your work management software needs to be able to push work orders to technicians on their mobile devices in the field. Field service technicians, in turn, must be able to provide real-time status updates back to dispatchers and back-office employees.
But mobility in field workforce management means more than just managing your workers’ schedules and priorities using iPads. It also means communicating with customers in a mobile-first fashion, as well — sending real-time alerts to customers on their mobile devices that give them the ability to cancel or reschedule appointments as needed.
Automation through smarter asset management and analytics
Intelligent enterprise asset management (EAM) software that talks your workforce management platform will be key to reducing equipment downtime and ensuring that maintenance workers are scheduled in the most efficient way possible. Today most equipment maintenance takes place at manufacturer-recommended timed intervals. But technology is enabling better maintenance practices. IoT sensors and connected devices are constantly feeding asset data into EAM platforms, so that a more complete and accurate picture begins to emerge of actual equipment / asset condition.
This deluge of asset data is not as important as the analytics used to make sense of it. Predictive analytics can constantly examine various aspects of equipment performance (temperature, age, vibration, etc.) and automatically fire off a work order if it looks like equipment might be failing. The ability to automatically kick off a service call will allow businesses to begin offering their customers a proactive level of service, while helping them avoid equipment downtime — all thanks to EAM and predictive analytics.
Want to learn more about Watson IoT for Asset Management? Watch videos, read white papers and check out demos at our website.