A new day is dawning in Field Service with the advent of Mobile Devices
The clipboard was patented in the late 1880’s and has served the world commendably for well over a century. Most field service processes prominently feature a clipboard, a form, and a pen. Millions of forms have been completed over the years. The humble clipboard has proved to be one of the all-time best uses of particleboard and metal.
Today, mobile devices are poised to relegate the clipboard to the dustbin of history. Tablets and smartphones, equipped with the right software, can be invaluable in many areas of field service, including estimation, maintenance, and inspection. The software and hardware is getting so good that we are approaching an inflection point in the adoption of mobile devices in field service. Here are some reasons you should be taking a hard look at abandoning your old friend, the clipboard:
- Eliminate paperwork - Many field service processes follow a similar rhythm – collect the data in the field, transfer the data to a laptop, create a report/do some analysis. Rinse and repeat. This cycle can be time consuming and can lead to valuable field service staff spending an inordinate amount of time on administrative tasks.
Through the new field service software, a lot of the data entry and repetitive processes can be automated, freeing your staff to spend their time on more value-creating activities.
- Standardization - Manual forms often come back illegible and incomplete. Staff will often develop and use their own forms so that over time the data being collected across the organization is irregular. Lack of standardized data means that you can’t roll up the data without a lot of additional work. It also means that the data is going to be of limited value going forward. There is nothing more discouraging than to search for a form only to discover that it is unreadable or that the key fields you were looking for are blank.
- Corporate and Regulatory Compliance - Companies want things done in a certain way, and many corporate processes are governed by industry or governmental regulatory standards. With mobile devices, regulatory compliance can be “baked in” to the processes. The actual standards can be stored as a whole in the mobile devices, and specific statutes can be associated with form questions.
The cost of fines, downtime, and health and safety issues can be eliminated by encapsulating your regulatory environment in your mobile device.
- Multimedia - Mobile devices give you the ability to take pictures, but also to embed them in your form so that they’re directly linked to the pertinent form question. Having a picture of processes and equipment in the field, can be invaluable in speeding repair and ensuring that small issues don’t growing into larger ones.
Video is also becoming more popular. Videos can provide your field staff with tutorials and best practices directly from their mobile device.
- Analytics and Reporting - The Analytics revolution has reached Field Service. Every company is looking to make processes more measurable, and to extract competitive advantage from data, both big and small.
When we ask our clients what they do with their forms when they pull them from their clipboards, the most common response is “We file them”. So North America is full of filing cabinets stuffed with field service forms – not visible, and often not complete, or even legible.
Tablets and smartphones can create a new source of operational data by making the field service data available online to the entire staff. There are innumerable uses for this data, including:
- Comparative Analysis (Regional comparisons, Divisional comparisons, Product comparisons)
- Predictive Maintenance (Looking for predecessors to equipment and system failures)
- Big Data (combining Field Service data with public databases)
As we transition from the offline clipboard world to online mobile devices, there are all kinds of ways this new data will be used to make organizations more efficient, more competitive, and ultimately more profitable. If you don’t want to be left behind, this is the time to start throwing out your clipboards and start rolling out those mobile devices.
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