Must Have Features in a Field Service Management System
Companies that service equipment need to make the best use of available resources, provide exceptional service, and make a profit. A well-designed and properly implemented Field Service Management system can help accomplish that. While searching for the right Field Service Management System, a selection team must focus on the following 7 functional areas where Field Service Management (FSM) is most needed and can provide the most benefit.
1. Scheduling and Dispatching
Deploying service resources is the essence of field service. Scheduling and dispatching are the marks of a Field Service Management system– those features need to be operating at maximum capacity. An ideal system can schedule emergency and short notice calls, along with regular and previously scheduled service calls. This minimizes mileage and travel time while providing the quick response and schedule reliability that customers require. The system must integrate mapping and GPS to allow the scheduling team to see the impact of potential responses to emergency repair requests, helping them establish best practices to manage shifts in priorities.
Scheduling and dispatching functions should be integrated with the customer history, including equipment, inventory tracking, and prior repair and maintenance requests. This ensures that the right parts and equipment are dispatched along with the technicians, to ensure quality service with minimal delay.
2. Mobile Technology
Like most other software, modern field service resources must be mobile-enabled. Mobile technology helps field technicians stay in touch with changing schedules. Mobile technology allows technicians immediate access to equipment information, usage, and repair history both on-site and on the way, it reduces and can eliminate manual recording of time spent, parts used, and history updates, and makes reporting for billing purposes instantaneous and more accurate. A well-designed FMS will work with standard mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) using existing cellular networks. Mobile devices should be capable of real-time connection to the host system to display dispatching changes and traffic information to provide the best route to the next customer site.
3. Installed Equipment Tracking
Tracking installed equipment and the service history helps make service operations more efficient and effective to start. There are additional benefits: Having information available to assist in the record-keeping of mobile inventory, having a base for tracking maintenance and repair history, and keeping records for warranty purposes are all important needs equipment tracking fulfills.
The equipment service history is a critical part of product lifecycle management (PLM). Serial number tracking is even more important in support of engineering studies and product improvement efforts, as well as being a necessary part of the response to litigation or product recall. The serial number is also part of the basic equipment identification that supports configuration history. Equipment tracking and service history are important components of preventive and predictive maintenance. A supplier that helps its customers stay on top of certification and calibration records will be considered a valuable partner.
It is crucial that the importance of equipment traceability in customer service is not minimized. Picture how a customer will feel when they call in and the service rep has all their equipment information immediately accessible. You can help your customers keep their equipment running smoothly and reliably while making it easy for them in the process. This type of interaction is important as it makes you a partner in the safe and effective operation of their equipment.
4. Inventory Management
It is important to control and track inventory of tools and repair parts spread across multiple vehicles and warehouse locations. Your system should help you determine the best locations and quantities to hold to provide the best coverage at the lowest cost. Inventory can be deployed/relocated in conjunction with scheduling and dispatching to ensure service technicians have what they need, when and where they need it. With integrated inventory and purchasing, replenishment orders can be shipped to a specific location and, when the parts arrive, the dispatcher can schedule the service appointment for installation.
5. Integration with Back-End Systems
Integration with in-house systems like ERP and financial/accounting eliminates delays and errors from manual entries or re-keying. The benefit is multiplied when mobile device entry from the field is included. Billing is fast and accurate, there are good audit trails and history that is maintained within one source. The resultant unified database can be exploited for ongoing improvements and saving reports and measurements including KPIs.
Integrated FSM and ERP keeps everyone on the same page by providing company-wide visibility of customer activities, inventory usage and status, and equipment performance. Billing and collection are timelier, improving cash flow. Financial records are complete, accurate, and immediately updated as activities are completed.
6. Flexible Billing
Your FSM systems should not limit or impair your ability to create and process invoices in compliance with all the variations in contracts and relationships you might have with your customers. Your system should be able to assemble and process billing by project for design and implementation, for recurring revenue, by time and material for repairs, and consolidate billing for multi-site clients or centralized payment situations.
FSM, in conjunction with ERP, manages a wealth of data about equipment usage and performance, repair and maintenance needs and activities, costs and revenue for labor, materials and equipment, costs and needs for warranty coverage, customer relationships, and more. Your information infrastructure should enable the exploitation of that data to create more value from your field service management system by analyzing the data and looking for patterns and intelligence. Additionally, it should cross-reference repair history with usage information, location, or design details to gain insight into the validity and effectiveness of preventative maintenance. Once that information is gathered, you can then change policies and warranties or advise customers to help them get more from their equipment investment. By optimizing inventory placement and deployment, the system can provide valuable feedback to design engineers to improve future product performance and reliability.
The analytical capabilities can stem from an ERP module or application, a feature of the FSM system, or a third-party analytics product. No matter the source of the capability, its effectiveness will rely on the quality and unity of the database your FSM and ERP will be building. Ideally, that database is fully integrated across both ERP and FSM with no redundancy, overlap or duplicate entry. That structure should be a prime objective as you review and consider FSM solutions.
In the field service business, the primary areas for management attention that can be greatly improved with the right technology are scheduling and dispatching, tracking installed equipment, inventory management, and accounting/administrative. A well-designed and integrated field service management system is an essential tool for managing the service side of the business to control costs, deliver needed services efficiently, and keep customers happy.