Are you immediately thinking ‘ I am!’? Perhaps you should consider the following points before jumping to that conclusion!
1. Can you tell who is doing what and when they are doing it?
Regardless of the size of your organisation, when you have mobile technicians, there will always be times when you can’t see who is doing what and where they are. At these times, are you in control? Can you see all the relevant information on one screen? The first step of any control system is to collect all the information and clearly display it on one screen. This system will get rid of the need to call your mobile technicians to check on their whereabouts or the status of their current job. You won’t have to stick pins in a map. One system to bind them all, one system to control them.
2. Can you dispatch work to field technicians remotely?
Not only do you need to know where your technicians are, but you need to know what they are doing. Have they successfully located the customer’s address? Have they started work? How is it going? Are there any unforeseen issues that you need to be aware of? All this is very important information. If they’re ahead or behind schedule, this could affect the plans for the rest of the day. Get this information and you can adjust schedules accordingly. You need this information in real-time, you don’t want to wait until your technician calls you on his way to his next appointment, to tell you he’s going to be late! With a real-time system you can have that vital advance warning, giving you time to dispatch a different technician or contact the next customer and warn them of a delay. Lack of contact with a client can be very damaging for a business reputation. With a good system in place, you can make changes to the plan, juggle your resources, all from a computer screen, without lots of time-consuming phone calls.
3. Who decides which job goes to which technician?
It never fails to amaze me how many organisations are run based on favouritism. Perhaps you have a dispatcher that has been with you for years. His intimate knowledge of the territory makes him invaluable, but he will also have developed personal relationships with each technician. This can often mean that favourite technicians will get an unfair allocation of work, maybe when other technicians would be more qualified for a particular job. This human factor can often override company policy. Work needs to be dispatched fairly and evenly, and the best person for a particular job should be taken into account when a task is going to be particularly complex. We also often find that it is the technicians themselves that influence who gets which job. For example, some will prefer to work particular times or days, others will want to work closer to home and others may simply choose to make unusual visits to the depot for a coffee! While it can be good for morale to take into account the working preferences of your technicians, it mustn’t be the deciding factor in who does which job.
The fundamental factor of controlling a workforce, is visibility. Seeing where everyone is at any one time, and knowing all the details of what they are doing so you can make changes and react fast in an emergency situation.
So, do you still think you’re in control of your workforce?