Data Interchange Energy Field Sales and Delivery Industry Solutions Mobility Route Accounting Transportation and Logistics

3 Ways Technology Optimizes Productivity for Your Field Employees

Field employees — whether they are technicians, delivery drivers, route sales reps, or some combination of those jobs — are an extremely valuable and expensive part of your operation. If you don’t properly optimize their schedules or daily workloads, you can wind up with idle employees and equipment or find yourself over-hiring and investing in more routes or vehicles than you actually need.

Technology and planning can help you improve the efficiency of your field employees. That’s good for the company (you can log more jobs or sales without hiring additional employees) and also good for your field staff since they can spend more time earning money and less time driving from job to job.

Here are three examples of how technology can benefit your field operation:

Route Optimization: No matter how skilled your schedulers and dispatchers are, if they are still managing routes manually then your field employees are probably not working to their full potential. Manual routing is prone to human error.

By using an intelligent, automated routing and scheduling tool you can ensure that all routes are optimized based on your own efficiency/productivity goals. Route optimization tools can ensure that stops are organized to minimize time and distance, but within key customer time constraints and expectations.  Route optimization can also ensure that employees take the fastest route between stops, intelligently schedule pick-up/drop-off stops for delivery applications, and even schedule service technicians based on both location and skill set.

Modern route optimization solutions with real-time capabilities can even reroute employees based on traffic, weather, and road construction information. If a job is taking too long, the next stop can be automatically rerouted to another employee.

These features can keep the schedule on track, improve customer service, save fuel, and boost productivity — and routes can be optimized and communicated even before the shift begins.

Anticipate Customer Needs: Inventory management tools can help your delivery or route sales drivers arrive at each customer stop with the right merchandise and equipment on hand. New predictive analytics and forecasting tools can help sales operations forecast what their customers need before an order is placed or the driver arrives, which can help improve the efficiency of each stop.

In field service applications, sensors, automation, machine-to-machine interfaces, and cloud computing resources can help companies remotely diagnose (and in some cases repair) assets and equipment. By knowing what is wrong with a machine before they arrive to fix it, technicians can be sure to have the right tools and parts, which will improve both the first-time fix rate and overall productivity.

Leverage Technology on the Truck and in the Field: With mobile computers, GPS technology, and/or telematics solutions in your company vehicles you can further boost employee productivity.

By deploying automated delivery, inventory, or work order management solutions on mobile companies or tablets in the field, employees can quickly provide status updates, document their work, obtain customer signatures/payments, and close out work orders without time-consuming paperwork.

Combined with real-time wireless communications, these systems can also automatically update ERP, CRM, and route optimization solutions in real time. Managers and dispatchers can see the status of each job/stop and use that information to adjust the schedule if necessary.

GPS-based fleet tracking units on the truck can also update the location of each employee, time-stamp arrivals and departures to improve documentation/billing, and help automatically populate driver logs, hours of service documentation, or fuel tax forms, saving even more time for field employees.

The technology can also provide solutions for electronic logging devices (ELDs), hours of service (HOS) management, driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR), and other compliance and operations requirements.

With the right technology solutions in place to optimizing your routing and scheduling, anticipate the needs of each work order/customer, and track the progress and location of your staff and vehicles, you can greatly enhance both the efficiency and productivity of your field employees.

Data Interchange Field Sales and Delivery Mobility

3 Things to Look for in a Field Mobility Solution

Selecting the right field mobility solution for your business requires evaluating a number of different elements, including the features and functions available in the software, as well as making sure the solution vendor is a good fit for your company. Putting aside some of the more specific technical features, one of the most important areas to look at is whether or not the solution can help you meet your overall business goals. If you deploy the system, can you actually improve efficiency and customer service? Will you meet your key performance indicator benchmarks?

When it comes to making sure that the solution will help you meet your business goals, there are three key things to look for in a field mobility solution:

1. Usability

Is the new solution easier or harder for technicians to use than the solution or process you are replacing? Field service technicians can’t be bogged down by a sluggish user interface, clunky data entry options, or complex applications that require them to complete multiple steps or open multiple screens to do their work. If technicians work with gloves, then they should be able to enter data on a mobile device while wearing them.

The system cannot be cumbersome or duplicative, or users won’t embrace or possibly even use the solution.

Field mobility solutions are generally created to replace paper forms, and should be as straightforward to use as writing the information down — just much faster and more reliable. Even most rugged device manufacturers have adopted user interfaces that mimic consumer devices like the iPad because they know that end users are already familiar with them. The more intuitive the interface, the less time you have to invest in employee training. Technicians can be up and running on the new solution more quickly.

2. Empowerment

The new system should make mobile employees’ lives easier and empower them to provide better customer service. Your mobile employees want to do the best job possible, so the mobile technology should enable that level of service.

Deployment success will depend on support from the field technicians, so user adoption is critical. You should be able to demonstrate to your employees how the new field mobility solution will make it easier for them to do their jobs, complete work more quickly, provide greater customer satisfaction, and allow them to provide more value to the company.

Evaluate your field and back office processes to make sure you aren’t just automating poor processes. Putting technology on top of a flawed process simply gets you the wrong results faster. Work with a vendor or integrator that can help you take the critical process redesign steps to ensure a successful field mobility solution deployment.

3. Flexibility

The new solution should be flexible and scalable enough to grow and change with your own business requirements and customer volume. You should also be able to customize the system to meet your unique operational needs.

The system should provide straightforward integration with back-end systems, dispatch solutions, GPS fleet management technology, and other systems. Otherwise you’ll wind up moving your process bottlenecks from the field to your admin staff, who have to spend time manually moving information from one system to another.

The solution should also support multiple mobile hardware platforms and form factors. The mobile devices you deploy today can be obsolete in just a few years; you don’t want your field mobility solution tied to an outdated hardware platform.

By focusing on your own business needs, you’ll be able to select a system that is flexible enough for your operation, user-friendly, and that can empower your mobile workers to do their jobs faster and better.