Is there anything more frustrating than searching for a specific item when you are in a hurry?
This is a common problem when we fail to properly manage our inventory of spare parts and equipment. For field service companies, this is an even greater risk, as most assets are used outside the company’s premises, where they can be easily misused, broken, lost or stolen. This would put all future service appointments at high risk of delays or even cancellation. Ultimately, this means your planned schedule can become a mess.
Another problem arises when the company needs to go through a periodic inventory audit. You will find yourself asking questions like – why aren’t all our tools and equipment in their proper places? Why isn’t this part in our database? How many mobile workers have equipment in their cars? The limitless places that inventory can be scattered may be startling.
First, let’s take a look at typical challenges with field service asset management in field service and their impact on business.
Why Asset Management in Field Service is more prone to risks?
1. Parts on the move – with employees working in shifts and parts and tools constantly being transferred between personnel, field service asset tracking is a difficult task.
2. Many warehouses – keeping warehouse inventory accurate and up-to-date is already a challenge, so how do you manage the inventory of multiple warehouses? More warehouses means greater complexity of monitoring and managing inventory.
3. Fraudulent activity – trust is not enough when passing valuable equipment to be used in the field. Especially when relying on subcontractors who might be reusing tools for tasks not related to your order.
4. Theft – this should not be excluded from consideration – thefts are reported even at companies where employees work on-premises, and it’s easier to track fixed assets in field service. Having workers outside the company poses additional risk for missing inventory due to the fact that there are more people involved in the exchange of tools and equipment or simply due to the frequent location changes of employees.
5. Ambiguous procedures and improper execution – if a company doesn’t set explicit instructions for responsible usage of parts and equipment, or doesn’t enforce these instructions, field asset management becomes merely theoretical and not based in reality – and this reality may cost your company a great amount of money.
Results of poor or lack of asset management in field service
1. Unnecessary costs and poor service quality
The fact that missing equipment costs companies money is obvious. However, field service businesses experience additional “lost opportunity” costs in terms of service delivery.
How can you guarantee a certain level of service if a technician can’t find a necessary tool or part?
In such scenarios, the inefficiencies of unreliable inventory management impact the average time to complete work orders and put the agreed upon service level agreement (SLA) at risk. In the long run, it may result in lower client satisfaction as well.
2. Engaging other staff members
If something is missing or does not work, the technician must reach out to colleagues for help. Certain situations require at least one additional employee in task realization.
3. Difficulties in making informed decisions
Shall the task be executed by employee A or B? Do they have everything they need to provide the service? What is already on-site that can be used for task execution?
As asset management in field service is a part of the process, it affects strategic areas as previously mentioned. Hence, the challenge is to have all the data presented in one place giving the dispatcher or supervisor a chance to make the right decision. With such a course of action, we may be sure that the decisions will be based on hard data and justified.
4. Frustrated workers
Help your technicians focus on work, not on the procedures. If the field asset management processes are flawed, do not expect good results. Employees will become increasingly frustrated, feeling like they are not able to work efficiently because they have to dedicate too much time on following complicated procedures.
Asset management in field service: implement best practices
1. Assets inventory in a mobile app – guide technicians to an asset. Locations, buildings, equipment should all be presented in a hierarchical way directly on your mobile device. With this feature, monitoring inventory location will be more accurate and let your workers find the parts to get their job done as quickly as possible.
2. Register asset transfers in one click – leverage the mobile application’s pick and scan procedure easily and effectively. Each transfer (even between technicians) shall be registered with easy-to-use mobile app features (utilizing QR code scanning)
3. Audits – be sure that critical infrastructure and assets are in place (i.e. fire protection, safety devices). Be informed if some tools or parts are not returned to the central warehouse in time.
4. Appropriate and timely reporting – get the right information in a convenient interface. Whether it’s for a breached SLA for service delivery, unreturned tools, or assets moving in restricted zones (indicating possible theft!), be informed and react in time.
Asset management in field service needs a more innovative approach
While the problem with inventory is nothing new, the ideas to improve the common issues are innovative and lead to superior effectiveness of field asset management processes. In other words, when innovating in this area, you should focus not only on reinventing the wheel, but on other elements as well, because improving each part of this process will speed up the entire business. At the same time, the tools must be convenient and intuitive so that technicians will be keen to participate in the process.