Field automation, which means automation of field operations or processes, is nowadays essential for any business that requires handling a field workforce. Field automation is benefiting because it provides much-needed mobility solutions to the field workforce, thus enabling them to become more efficient and productive in their job roles.
As an owner or manager of a plumbing business when you comprehend field automation, do you have the impression that automation is a must-have requirement only for businesses like maintenance services or e-commerce delivery, or insurance aggregators, in light of the fact that these businesses deal with a comparatively larger workforce and clientele. You are not the only one to think so, in general also people relate field automation mainly to maintenance services. But automation in field operations is an equally prevalent necessity for a plumbing business or any business that operates through field services.
Why Does A Plumbing Business Need Field Automation?
To answer this, think of the operational challenges that your field workforce and its managers or supervisors deal with. Your team must be adjusting to those operational challenges in some way or another. Mostly, plumbing businesses still use manual ways for managing the field processes like job scheduling, work order management, team communication, field data capturing, reporting, etc. And as the processes some-how get pulled off even with manual methods, you tend to often overlook how operational challenges are affecting the overall productivity and efficiency of your business.
For instance, you get a service request from a client, and now you need to assign it to one of your plumbers. As a manager or supervisor, you will refer to the schedule log (maybe an excel sheet) for checking the current schedules of your plumbers and try to assume who is available or soon to become available for taking up the next service request. Accordingly, you will call the plumber to confirm his availability, and then assign him the new job. In this process, you may or may not have the scope to do territory management, which means the plumber you have chosen for the job, may not be in the closest proximity to the job site. In that case, he will require investing too much of his time into traveling to reach his new job destination. Now, technically you and your team managed to render the service. But have a look at the number of productivity leaks in the process:
- The manager had to make hard efforts to identify the nearest available plumber for a new service request. Yet his way of job scheduling (manual) has no way to ensure, track or measure the 100% accuracy in the process
- There is no way to ensure that the field workers will be assigned with jobs within their territory, which means they are required to take up excessive traveling to reach their job sites. This is one of the major productivity leaks, as it devoids them of the time that could have been utilized to take up new service requests. Also, excessive traveling means overhead travel expenses.
- Establishing real-time communication between the manager and field workforce is another big challenge. Absence of this, leads to a communication gap, can cause scheduling conflicts like duplicate schedules, overlapped schedules, missed schedules, etc.
- Lack of field automation also means poor real-time access to information for the field workforce. If the field workforce is dependent on the back-office staff for accessing enterprise information like inventory records, client details, service quotes, etc. then this leads to a moment of gap or pause in their work continuity. This slows down their productivity and causes service delays.
- Recording field data, such as on-field monetary transactions, client feedback, reporting, raising inventory requests, etc. is like an added responsibility for the field workers if they have to do it manually. Whereas automation can make recording of field data a completely automated process. This also ensures complete accuracy in the recorded data.
The list goes on, operational challenges affect the efficacy of a plumbing business, while automation can address those challenges and make processes better and more efficient.
How To Bring In Field Automation In A Plumbing Business?
The simplest and most cost-effective way to automate the processes or operations of a plumbing business is to make use of plumbing service software. Such software can automate most of the field processes such as job scheduling, route planning, invoice-generating, work order management. It is a multi-tasking comprehensive software that functions as a one-stop solution for controlling every aspect of field workforce management.
For instance, as a plumbing scheduling software, in no time it can identify the nearest available, a rightly skilled worker for a job. The software has automation modules and data mining technology, so it tracks the live location of the field workers and assesses each of their proximity to the new job site. Likewise, it reads the time-stamping of each field worker and assesses their availability for the next job, also it browses the database to match the skill sets of a worker with the job in place. Thus, the software ensures that the job gets assigned to a plumber who can reach the job site at the earliest, has the right skill set for improved first visit effectiveness, and is available for that particular time slot.
Plumbing contractor software facilitates real-time data collaboration over the cloud; anyone can access enterprise information from any location provided there is valid access permission.
Besides, plumbing management software can automate standardized communication, like it sends automated schedule notifications and reminders, time-stamp updates, location-tracking updates, job-status updates to concerned stakeholders. Thereby ensures there is no communication.
The plumbing software facilitates customer management such as maintaining the archives of customers’ service history so that a fieldworker can refer to it and go to the job site more prepared. Also, the software can send automated updates to the customers and keep them informed about the advances in the service schedules, like live-tracking the arrival of the plumber.
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