Monday, February 23, 2009

Google Latitude for Handheld PDAs, Smartphones and Work Orders

Google recently announced a new application in the world of cloud computing called Google Latitude. This is a very interesting application in that it allows friends to see where friends are located, or managers to see where his or her work teams, vehicles and job sites are located.

In the past, this functionality has only been available to companies for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (or name your currency). You could find these features on enterprise quality work order management solutions or proof-of-delivery solutions for handheld PDAs and Smartphones. Google has a way of shaking the industry up by making mobile applications free.

Today, for free, a manager can implement Google Latitude on his company issued handheld PDAs and Smartphones and see where his workers are at all times. The manager, from his desktop, can view a map of the location of all of these mobile handhelds.

In a previous article I wrote about the inefficiencies caused by a lack of management visibility and knowledge on the location of their employees, job sites and inventory. Here is an excerpt on how to waste time and money:

  1. Waste time and fuel driving back and forth to the office to pick-up and deliver new work orders, tools and parts. With the high cost of fuel, reducing driving distances is a necessity. Can you dispatch a service technician directly from their home to a nearby jobsite? Can you make sure your service technician has the most common parts in the van before they travel to the jobsite?
  2. Waste time and fuel by being unprepared for the job and driving around looking for parts. Can you reduce travel time and fuel costs by being better prepared for the job before traveling? Can you ask customers for more information on the equipment such as brand, serial number, year, location, problem etc? Can you ask the customer for a digital photo of the equipment, serial number, etc., and email it before dispatching the service technician?
  3. Sit outside of a locked and vacant location wasting time waiting for the owner to arrive. Can you set up an automated phone call to let the customer know you are on the way? This avoids showing up at a vacant house or closed business and wasting time.
  4. Send service technicians to a distant location, when another service technician is closer and available. Can you use GPS tracking on the vans to better know the location of all service technicians so you can dispatch the closest and best service technician for the job?
  5. Miss opportunities to sell more services, parts and equipment to the customer at the time of work and at the point-of-work. Can you automatically remind the service technician to promote service contracts by using a mobile handheld work order system? This will help increase service contract sales.
  6. Poor scheduling and routing. Can you schedule service contract visits based on geographic location to reduce fuel costs and wasted travel time? Can a service technician complete more service calls in a day if they are routed more efficiently?
  7. Drive large and heavy vehicles when not required. If you have a better understanding of the parts required for today’s service calls, can you take a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle to the jobsite?
  8. Implement poor cash management and collection processes. Can you collect money, swipe credit cards and print receipts from a mobile handheld device to improve collections at the jobsite? Are you wasting time, paper and postage sending out invoices weeks after the work was completed?
  9. Too much administrative costs. Can you reduce the costs of data entry and administrative staff by automating the dispatch process by using wireless work order dispatch that is integrated directly with your work order management and accounting systems?Every company, upon self-evaluation, will be able to identify additional inefficiencies that can be corrected and reduced. Many of the costly inefficiencies can be resolved by automating and mobilizing field services business processes.
Google Latitude would allow an Operations Manager to dispatch and route his service technicians or delivery vans based upon current locations of his employees and vehicles.