With ever-growing investments in projects like hospitals and real estate developments and the underlying infrastructure to support them, the demand for field service is expected to double from US$4.23 billion this year to $8.94 billion by 2028.* Although this is great news for medical device manufacturing and HVAC repair service revenue, it also raises the question of resource management and how it can improve or worsen customer experience. Regardless, the rise in demand naturally requires a commensurate supply of productivity to achieve equilibrium in the market. Conventional business wisdom says the answer is quite simple: increase productivity.
There are two apparent ways to do this.
The first is to expand the workforce, adding more technicians to increase total service capability. The other is to make process improvements so that the existing workforce can generate more value without doing a proportional amount of additional work.
Expand the workforce
On the surface, the first option looks like the easier route to take. The increased demand for service compensates for additional labor costs, so overall profitability remains about the same. However, in real-world applications, there are several issues.
- Talent scarcity. Refilling the labor pipeline with a comparable level of proficiency becomes increasingly tricky as the old guard of technicians retires.
- Employee retention, and job expectations, both in terms of salary and work satisfaction
Expanding the talent pool also comes with costs that may be out of reach for field service organizations.
The alternative is process efficiency through process automation and intelligent field service apps. After all, a smaller workforce with streamlined workflows will always yield more productivity than a bloated one. Even after examining your existing workflows, technicians, and the broader market, there are also challenges. Quite quickly, you’ll find that technicians:
- Are bogged down by administrative and paperwork
- Spend too much time looking for information across apps and databases
- Are under constant pressure to be more productive while there is so much about the job that is getting in the way of productivity
All of these factors drive them away from the profession, thereby increasing churn and moving them further away from realizing your goal of meeting increased customer demand. Technicians understand that they need to stay close to utilizing their skills to meet productivity goals, and burdening them with recordkeeping takes them away from the actual work that customers pay for.
These two paths require two different factors to carve. Expansion needs people. Efficiency calls for technology. But a less obvious third choice exists: to do a hybrid strategy that incorporates both – no singular option will be enough to satisfy the ballooning demand.
Process Automation and Intelligent Field Service Apps
Workforce expansion will always factor into the equation, but with automated processes enabled by intelligent apps, field service companies can minimize their need for technicians. The same approach can ease onboarding and employee training requirements, allowing new hires to get to the field faster. By integrating recordkeeping into workflows without it being a separate process, businesses essentially automate data collection as technicians do their best work. In turn, this releases the productivity pressure on your workforce as each technician can more naturally perform their tasks with intuitive tools.
These apps empower them with the correct information at the right time, taking data hunting out of the workflow. They are not encumbered by switching through multiple apps to get what they need and keep a digital trail of asset and service activity. An intelligent app acts as the interface between the field and your internal systems. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary, often analog steps that divert technician time from productivity. Even more critical is the field intelligence that emerges from this living contextual database that technicians help grow daily.
Future-proofing your processes is also a key feature of intelligent field service apps. As equipment grows in sophistication, so does the complexity of installing, maintaining, and repairing it. You want an app that is forward-looking enough to consider this and agile sufficient to iterate as new developments occur. This is not space-age technology, either. This type of intelligent application already exists and has been helping enterprises solve the demand dilemma.
ARxIUM implemented a fully digital system, which gave the pharmacy automation company much-needed headroom for improvements in productivity and customer satisfaction. This solution streamlined data transfer and documentation and included customer signatures in digital forms to reduce delays and prevent costly errors. The successful adoption of the digital workflow-based system has positioned ARxIUM for future growth and adaptability to emerging challenges and opportunities.
Similarly, a floating liquid natural gas company leveraged intelligent field applications to reduce operational costs, increasing technician productivity, and increase asset and process visibility. The solution offers a level of scalability that can be exported to other areas of the operation as well.
Companies can meet rising field service demand by combining expansion and process efficiency. Although workforce expansion is hindered by a significant investment requirement along with the intricacies of an evolving labour market, and process efficiency has its own limits, it’s clear that a hybrid strategy can achieve more than any one of these can with process automation and intelligent field service apps. Field service organizations are then tasked not with choosing a specific path to go down, but with skillfully devising a combination that addresses their needs and priorities.
*Field Service Management Market Size & Share Analysis – Growth Trends & Forecasts (2023 – 2028), Mordor Intelligence