How Field Service Technicians Are Reaching Higher Levels of Efficiency and Ensuring Safer Jobsites
By Amit Jain, Construction Executive
When hard-hatted men and women are operating forklifts and scaling skyscrapers, it’s essential for equipment to work safely and efficiently; otherwise, firms risk losing millions of dollars, not to mention human lives.
Field service is vital to ensuring that neither happens. With regular maintenance and proactive repairs, field service can keep workers safe by preventing unplanned outages and keep projects on schedule by preventing downtime.
Imagine that a crane malfunctions days before a frame installation is scheduled, and the project deadline is looming. Repairing the crane might take multiple days, several field service technicians, and various parts or replacements to get the machine up and running. The cost of machine downtime adds up quickly both in time and in money. Worse, crane operators were likely using the crane in the days prior to the outage, unaware of the machine’s dangerous maintenance issue. With connected technology, this scenario is entirely avoidable.
Integration of sensors and big data by industry leaders has already begun changing the way construction field service personnel work from the moment they clock in, regardless of whether they are on the jobsite. Mobile technology is vital, and in the coming years data analytics, cloud connectivity and machine learning will be an increasingly powerful driver of change in the construction industry.
From ruggedized computer systems to cloud-based inventories, innovation in technology is putting real-time data into the hands of field service technicians. Logistically, this has brought new patterns of service to the field.
ARRIVE ONSITE EQUIPPED WITH OPERATIONAL INSIGHTS
A mobile workforce platform brings a remarkable level of access to field service technicians. For example, mobile devices connect a technician to a live inventory database of parts, contracts that can be managed and work order history for each specific piece of equipment. Long-term projects in particular can benefit from the connectivity of GPS-enabled systems that track the location of equipment in remote areas where machinery is stored until completion of a project, preventing theft and speeding up service completion.
Armed with better technology, field service technicians arrive on a jobsite already equipped with insight into required operations and functions. Gone are the days of returning to headquarters to retrieve a part, calling employers to investigate how the machine has been serviced in the past or searching through catalogs of inventory to identify the right part.
Workforce mobility platforms represent a complete logistical overhaul that optimize and streamline the life cycle of equipment and have immediate benefits for construction companies. The result of these platforms can be remarkable increases in first-time fix rates with quality field service systems—meaning less downtime for machines and fewer unanticipated project costs, which makes both the service customer and the foreman happy.
THE EVOLUTION OF PROACTIVE MAINTENANCE
With the internet of things (IoT) rapidly becoming an integral part of jobsite maintenance, field service is evolving into a completely new era of proactive maintenance, where wear and tear is identified prior to machine failure. With proactive maintenance, field service technicians set their sights on zero unplanned downtime, as opposed to reactive (i.e., costly) repairs on dangerous and inconvenient outages in vital machinery.
Sensors—the physical, fundamental architecture of IoT—are key to actualizing this technology. They enable technicians to conduct repairs before downtime occurs. Machines equipped with IoT sensors can collect data on machine usage, including the time a piece of equipment has spent idling or running, fuel efficiency, temperature, pressure and degradation of infrastructure.
These intelligent sensors can alert field service management systems when a part malfunctions. Ultimately, with enough aggregate data analyzed, they can predict the series of events that are likely to cause any specific part to fail. From there, field service management systems can dispatch a service technician to do what they do best. Meanwhile, the larger construction project chugs along on schedule, without outages in a single piece of machinery.
The availability of more data will make these sensors smarter, and usher in the opportunity for analytics programs to not only optimize and streamline field service, but also push jobsites capable of time- and money-saving measures towards a zero downtime reality. These insights will have massive effects on the bottom line for construction companies, project managers, construction personnel and manufacturers.
Field service technicians are achieving remarkable business outcomes, reaching higher levels of efficiency and ensuring safer jobsites—proving connectivity isn’t just for downtown offices.