07 Nov Improving your processes with automation
To get you started, here are some questions to help assess the need and value for field service automation:
- How much time do field service technicians spend filling out work order records and preparing invoices?
- How much money is spent annually on pre-printed forms?
- Are inventory records for service parts accurate? Do inaccuracies cause problems in the field?
- What happens in the office when handwritten work orders and invoices aren’t legible?
- How much time is spent on data entry, both in the field and in the office?
- How often do customers call about billing disputes?
- How long does it typically take to resolve these questions? Which departments are involved?
- Can you change dispatching and job priorities throughout the day?
- How would operations benefit if your technicians could complete more calls per day?
- How do your customers rate your customer service?
How to Improve Your Business Processes
The manual process provides no strong safeguard against errors, and poor handwriting and low-quality carbon forms increase the chances of inaccuracies. Answers to the questions about inquiries, disputes and customer service can indicate if data accuracy causes problems.
Improved accuracy is a major benefit of automating the process. Using a handheld computer application with pre-loaded customer information, equipment service histories, configuration settings and other information saves technicians time in the field. Most software applications require users to verify data if they attempt to enter questionable or inaccurate activity codes, labor time, parts quantities or other information.
Changing processes to produce work orders, invoices and other documentation on demand instead of pre-printing at the start of the day saves time, and improves accuracy because changes can easily be reflected in the printout. Mobile thermal printers make more process improvements possible. Users have the option of mounting them in the vehicle or choosing wearable or handheld models that save time by eliminating the trip to the vehicle to generate the paperwork.
Improving Employee Productivity
The most consistent benefits from field service automation are time savings and improved productivity. Handheld computing and mobile printing applications can slash the time required to fill out and issue work orders and invoices. Several of the questions were designed to develop an appreciation for how much time is spent on these activities in the field and in the office. Organizations are often surprised to learn how much paperwork completed in the field influences other operations, so when they measure their paperwork-related activities, the value of field service automation often becomes clear.
For example, UPG, a propane distributor, calculated that its mobile workers saved three to four minutes per delivery by preparing invoices with mobile computers and printers instead of manually. Faster invoice preparation reduced the total time spent at each customer site by 15 to 25 percent, which in turn enabled workers to complete more stops per day, resulting in more customers served, better responsiveness, and improved cash flow.
In a non-automated environment, invoices and work orders are typically filled out by hand on three-part forms. Notes or special instructions may be crammed in the margins or written on separate note paper, which may get lost or separated from the actual invoice. Completing invoices on a mobile computer instead of on manual forms saves time because software can automatically populate customer information and drop-down menus simplify the process.
You will see the benefits of automation throughout the supply chain.
Find out how your business can improve productivity with automation.