Understanding the challenges those who work in the utilities sector face is only one step in implementing technology, like field service management, and processes that will improve their working practices and help maintain a high standard of service delivery.
The utilities sector is made up of vital services such as gas, water and electricity services; they keep the population running smoothly and we barely notice, but if things were to stop working, it would be a very different story. The utilities sector faces growing pressure from on-demand services and the expectations set by companies like Amazon and Netflix for instant access to services, as well as a growing population and a skills gap.
One of the major areas of concern for those who work in the utilities sector is asset management. With a high volume of assets, from power stations, gas pipelines, electricity cables, to heavy machinery, monitoring their status safely and efficiently can be a huge task. Without real-time information field staff have to monitor every asset which not only takes up a lot of time but will result in issues being overlooked causing disruption.
Not only do field based utilities staff have to maintain assets and minimalise outages but they are managing an aging infrastructure and a younger workforce who may not have the level of experience of the previous generation. With these challenges coupled with legacy paper-based systems it is easy to see why fulfilling SLAs and retaining their workforce can become challenging.
Without visibility of assets and their performance, field staff can only be reactive to issues and failures when they arise, causing large operating expenses, interrupted service delivery and delays for essential upgrades and projects.
What does field service management mean for utilities?
We’ve established that asset management represents a unique challenge the utilities sector must overcome to achieve great efficiency in their mobile workforce as well as meet the demand of a growing population. One of the ways to achieve this is by utilising mobile technology, like field service managment, to improve the visibility of assets and better connect field staff to back office systems. With real-time access to information field staff are better able to make decisions on what actions should be taken and be more pro-active in the management of assets.
Field service management and dynamic scheduling align both the workforce and assets to ensure availability and efficient completion of work tasks, by enabling the ability to track daily progress and schedule or reschedule field staff as and when required without affecting the timeline of the rest of work. Not only does this provide greater control and visibility for managers but it also provides efficiencies in other vital areas. A field service management solution eliminates paperwork as forms can be completed on their devices, images can be captured and compliance filled out with a few taps of the screen.
All of this information is captured on their mobile devices and automatically centralised, providing actionable insights that can be used to more effectively manage assets and make better business decisions. With the ability to complete forms on the device compliance is enhanced.
The Future of Asset Management in Utilities
We’ve established that mobile technology represents an opportunity for the utilities sector to improve their asset management but the technology to drive connectivity between the worker, assets and the organisation is continuously developing.
IoT and asset management represents an exciting development in the utilities sector, the technology already exists to monitor the use of assets and begin to predict when they need servicing, reducing failures and lowering costs as maintenance is more cost effective than replacing the assets. It also helps to save time, as jobs are automatically created for field staff, utilising their time and skills in a more proactive way, rather than reacting to each job and task.
Utilising sensors and analysing data automatically to create jobs and tasks will continue to drive benefits that are essential in tackling the challenges the utilities sector faces.