What is field service management?
Field service management stands for the optimized planning of a company's mobile resources for handling service or maintenance orders. Resources include internal and external technical field staff, vehicles and other tools or machinery. The planning is carried out by internal staff, so-called dispatchers. For optimum planning, they have to consider many different factors depending on the industry.
Disposing of technical service calls is, for example, particularly complex because many factors such as the qualifications of the employees, scheduling agreements with customers, distances or working time models influence planning. The larger a company is and the more mobile deployments per day, the more complex it becomes. Instead of past plant panels and Excel lists, most companies today use a field service management software that offers numerous advantages over the traditional planning method.
Goals of field service management
Order types in planning
Optimal ratio between dispatchers and technicians
Integration of external technicians
Difference between field service management and workforce management
A central planning and control of the technical field service allows for a better transparency of the service and maintenance processes. This applies to the operational planning and execution as well as to the strategic planning that is planned for the future.
Furthermore, a large part of the planning knowledge is stored and made available centrally in the software. This enables the centralization of the disposition process and provides another source for increasing efficiency.
IT-based planning also offers optimized resource utilization and increases the efficiency of the entire service or maintenance process. Tour optimization plays an important role here.
In addition to increased productivity, the use of field service management software also leads to increased customer satisfaction. Shorter time slots for service calls, higher reliability and the avoidance of second calls will delight every customer.
All of these factors contribute to cost savings of 20 percent and more with field service management software through optimized processes.
A field service management software is suitable for medium-sized companies and large corporations with a technical support from 50 technicians and ten dispatchers. The more service technicians a company has, the higher the potential savings. Field service management software is particularly popular in the fields of plant engineering, mechanical engineering, energy supply, medical technology, facility management, IT and telecommunications.
Many companies distinguish between three main types of service or maintenance:
- Commissioning: Assembly and commissioning of equipment in the field of mechanical engineering or the network expansion of energy suppliers, whose structure binds extensive mobile resources for several days or weeks, are usually planned weeks or months in advance.
- Maintenance: In all industries, regular maintenance is required for systems or equipment that dispatchers have to schedule in addition to commissioning and disturbances. These are not time-critical and are usually distributed relatively far in advance to specific periods and possibly also to areas. In the next step the distribution is allocated to the field service. In practice, it has proved the best to schedule maintenance not fixed, but to plan faults and to fill up free slots around these dates with maintenance.
- Disturbances: The appointment agreement with the customer in the case of disruptions is usually handled on a daily basis. In order to keep downtime costs as low as possible, a quick repair of the fault is necessary. SLAs are also often to be considered. A field service management software quickly shows the dispatcher which technician is suitable for repairs, who is availalble and close to the site.
Optimum planning and field service management is complex and depends on many factors. A disposition tool can help to implement and optimize the appropriate service and disposition strategy for a company.
An efficient ratio of service planning and maintenance is provided when as few as possible dispatchers plan as many technicians as possible. This depends on various factors. Are the dispatchers only responsible for the planning or do they still have other tasks to fulfill? Do they also prepare orders? Do they have the professional and disciplinary responsibility for their employees? Are they responsible for the follow-up of the orders and for the clearance of the confirmations?
It also depends on whether the planning can be fully or partially automated via IT-based scheduling or whether the customer's business requires an individual appointment adjustment.
In addition to the efficient planning and management of internal resources, external service providers can also be coverered by a field service management software. Here again, the planning processes can be designed more clearly and optimized according to appropriate algorithms. Depending on the degree of integration, this also reduces the communication effort with external service providers, which opens up a corresponding cost reduction potential. The company can react quickly to changing market requirements by integrating external service providers into its own processes in the short term.
The optimization of the travel times of the technicians, ie the arrival and return trips as well as trips between the different jobs, has a large part of the cost savings by field service management. Tool-based, it is possible to calculate distances between locations and to use them for the decision-making disposition. Within milliseconds today's systems calculate hundreds of thousands of route options to calculate the best tours for all service technicians. In urgent cases, the dispatcher can quickly determine the next resources and make an optimal planning of the costs and qualifications. As a result, the sum of the travel times and the associated costs are reduced considerably depending on the type of organization. This avoids unnecessary idle times and empty runs, increases capacity utilization and at the same time contributes to reducing overtime. Depending on the number of orders per day and technician and the regional coverage of the technicians, a reduction in travel costs of about 20 percent can be achieved.
What should be considered when introducing a field service management software in several countries?
The international introduction is a particular challenge, since most regions have their own processes and peculiarities. The heterogeneity of the branches is reflected not only in the different size, number of employees, language and culture. The different IT systems, legal guidelines, the general IT infrastructure of the country and the support in different time zones play an important role for such a project. In small branches, for example, there will usually be no SAP system, so that the implementation of SAP CS / PM or the integration into another backend system should also be taken into account during project planning.
While field service management is specifically designed for the planning of technical field service workers in the mechanical engineering sector or in the supply sector, workforce management is the personnel planning for the entire workforce. This includes determining personnel requirements, capacity planning, scheduling, personnel management and working time management in companies in all sectors.