The Domino Effect: Supporting Field Workers During Disruptive Events

Delivery driver wearing a mask and looking at the camera while holding a tablet

The domino effect dictates that one event sets off a chain of similar, foreseeable events.1 And today’s hyperconnected world is more impacted by the domino effect than ever before:

  • Interruptions at an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia can shut down global transportation and logistics and supply chain operations.2
  • A new viral strain originating in China ultimately lead to a global pandemic that is negatively impacting the retail industry, among many other industries worldwide.
  • An overgrown tree branch in Ohio made contact with a sagging transmission line and knocked out power for over 55 million people in one province and seven states.3
  • Unexpected traffic at one end of the city can delay or prevent mobile healthcare workers from visiting their elderly or disabled patients.

The smallest hiccup can have the biggest impact. And perhaps no industry is impacted by the domino effect more than field services and its workers.


When All Is Calm: Top Six Daily Priorities for Field Services Organizations

Even when things are calm, field services organizations are still under 24/7 pressure to deliver effective, efficient and timely solutions across six key areas:

  • First-time fix rates (FTFR): This is when a technician resolves customer issues the first time without requiring additional expertise, information or parts and tools. An FTFR of 80% is considered average while 88% or above is noted as being best-in-class.4
  • Competent performance: As important as FTFR is, it’s not the primary success measure for field services. Approximately 78% of customers are happier with a service event when it’s being handled by skilled, knowledgeable and prepared field workers.5
  • Forms and documentation: Work orders. Purchase orders. Timesheets. Any service call is bound to have numerous forms to fill out. Yet a majority (52%) of field services organizations still use manual pen-and-paper processes to capture critical data.6
  • Resource allocation: The right technician with the right training and the right tools must be sent to the right location to implement the right process. Sounds simple, but only 16% of organizations use predictive solutions to assist with task resourcing to get it right.7
  • Parts inventory: Having a well-stocked supply of spare parts helps ensure any service call is completed quickly and smoothly. However, just 42% of field services technicians have real-time visibility into their spare parts inventory.8
  • Worker safety: A successful day in the field services industry is when everyone goes home safe and sound. Yet only 2% of investment spending in the industry is allocated towards field safety solutions.9


How the Domino Effect Impacts Field Services, and How Mobile Technology Can Help

Now, when things are not proceeding smoothly, by the nature of their jobs, many field services technicians cannot work from home. They still need to service hydro lines, provide essential engineering to critical equipment, and provide in-home services to keep everything functioning.

Referencing the six areas above, here is how they can be impacted by a domino effect event and how mobile technology mitigates against unexpected disruptions.

First-Time Fix Rate (FTFR)

  • Domino effect event: Global pandemic
  • Result: The manufacturing and supply chain sectors slow down as employees become ill and are unable to work. Necessary tools or equipment are either unavailable or substituted. Technicians don’t have the exact items they need when attending a service call, which may result in a lower than expected FTFR.
  • How mobile technology can help: With total visibility into their supply chain, field services organizations can be alerted the moment a required part or tool is unavailable. This allows them to proactively search for another source, or contact the customer to explain the situation and offer an alternative solution.

Competent Performance

  • Domino effect event: Retirement of skilled workers
  • Result: By 2021, it’s expected the U.S. will have a shortage of two million field services workers10, either due to retirement or technological outsourcing. This will put enormous pressure on HR departments to effectively recruit and onboard new employees.
  • How mobile technology can help: Leading organizations who leverage innovations like augmented reality (AR), can effectively onboard new workers in half the time it takes more traditional methods (e.g. classroom training). AR also reduces the effort needed to collect, document and share technical knowledge from experienced workers by 60%.11

Forms and Documentation

  • Domino effect event: Severe weather
  • Result: Heavy winds blow paperwork away while excessive rain or precipitation soaks them beyond usability. Key information is either lost, not recorded properly or impossible to decipher. This ends up creating a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth between the field services organization and the customer.
  • How mobile technology can help: Many field services operations occur in extreme environments. This is why 93% of organizations plan to use rugged tablets and smartphones by 2025.12 Rugged devices, equipped with the ability to digitize and automate pen-and-paper processes, ensures that critical data is correctly captured and shared, no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

Resource Allocation

  • Domino effect event: Heavy traffic
  • Result: Field technicians are unable to reach and service their customers promptly. For critical issues such as repairing a wind power farm, this could result in a significant loss of revenue for stakeholders and interrupted service for end users.
  • How mobile technology can help: A mere 28% of organizations have equipped half of their field departments with mobile devices and technologies. That means many field services companies and workers aren’t taking advantage of Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and geofencing that can track where technicians are in real-time. If any slowdown is detected in their movement, they can be rerouted or redeployed accordingly.

Parts Inventory

  • Domino effect event: Labour strike
  • Result: When workers hit the picket lines, production grinds to a halt. For field services organizations, that means a slowdown on the availability of parts needed to perform routine and emergency maintenance.
  • How mobile technology can help: This is a two-pronged approach. First, in warehouses or distribution centers, handheld barcode scanners can take an accurate count of available inventory. Then, field technicians can access an app on their mobile devices to see which parts are available and when a new shipment will come in. With this information, they can contact the customer and take steps to ensure FTFR levels remain high.

Worker Safety

  • Domino effect event: Virus outbreak
  • Result: When employees fall ill and are unable to work, that puts extra strain on healthy field services technicians. Depending on the nature of work being performed, it may be difficult for workers to maintain social distancing without compromising their safety or the quality of the service call.
  • How mobile technology can help: In Why Mobile Technology is Critical to the Global Fight Against COVID-19, touchless thermometers were shared as an example of how to safely take a person’s temperature simply by scanning their forehead. This technology can be used to ensure field services workers are well enough to proceed to a job site. Additionally, if any new safety protocols are enacted, a quick update sent to all mobile devices being used in the field ensures everyone gets the message.

Let SOTI Help You Manage Mobility in Field Services

With the SOTI ONE Platform, you’ll be able to use mobility to ensure all the priorities outlined in this blog are met, whether there’s a disruption occurring or not.

You’ll also be able to eliminate downtime with remote diagnostic support of mobile devices and manage all your connected IoT endpoints, while receiving actionable data insights to ensure your mobile operations are running efficiently.

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You can also contact us with any questions you have about our products or services, request a product demo, or begin a free, 30-day trial of the SOTI ONE Platform.