Friday, July 16, 2010

A Mobile Work Order Process in the Field

What does an automated and "mobilized" work order system or service ticket dispatch and management system look like? Here is a scenario - A customer calls in to report a broken heating system. The office staff takes the phone call, enters the relevant information into the work order application on the desktop computer which then creates a unique work order and number.

The work order database application, with GIS integration, can compare the location of each service technician to determine which one is closest to the work location. The dispatch system can also look at the estimated availability of the nearby service technicians. In addition, the solution can quickly look up the qualifications of each service technician to see which ones are qualified for the job. 

Once the appropriate service technician is identified, the work order is dispatched to the smartphone or handheld computer used by the service technician. Included in the electronic work order is driving directions from his/her current location to the next job location. In addition to the work order information, warranty, repair, users manual, maintenance history, customer support issues and product information on file can also be dispatched to the mobile device for reference and parts inventory management.

Once the service technician arrives at the location, he opens the work order on the mobile device. Opening the work order automatically captures the service technician's name, the date/time stamp and the GPS coordinates of the jobsite and enters them into the mobile application’s work order.  In addition, the service technician can see where all other service technicians are currently located.

Next the service technician examines the broken heating system and determines which parts need replaced. He can pull out his mobile device and check whether he has the needed parts in his vehicle inventory, if not, it can automatically search for nearby service vehicles that may contain the part (GPS tracking enables this feature). If another nearby service vehicle is determined to have the required part, then driving directions can be provided.

When the service technician arrives at the service vehicle with the needed part, then the part is scanned using a bar code scanner in the handheld computer to log its removal from the vehicle's inventory and assigns it to the appropriate work order number.

Back at the work site, the service technician runs into a challenge. He has never worked on this model before and needs advice. He snaps a digital photo or activates his digital video and records a view of the equipment and problem. His supervisor reviews the images and quickly walks him through the repair.

Once the work is completed, the service technician signs his name on the mobile device screen, and has the customer sign the work order screen as well. The service technician prints an invoice on a mobile printer and collects the payment or swipes the customer’s credit or debit card. The collection is noted on the mobile work order and synchronized back to the office.

As soon as the work order is completed and synchronized, the mobile application reminds the service technician to promote a 2 year service contract. The service technician reviews the details with the customer and signs them up for a 2 year service contract. Next, the work order system reviews job locations and priorities and assigns the next optimized work order to the field service technician.

This is an example of the processes involved with a basic mobilized work order.  There are many more powerful and sophisticated features available from field service automation experts like SAP mobility partner, ClickSoftware.  I read recently about the "emergency response" capabilities of ClickSoftware that helps you understand the industry expertise that goes into an enterprise quality field services solution.  You can read more about the "emergency response" capabilities on Gil Bouhnick's blog.  Gil helps you understand the level of complexity involved in simply switching priorities and addressing emergencies while in the field.

Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
CEO/Principal Consultant, Netcentric Strategies LLC
Phone +1 208-991-4410

Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.