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Advantages of Automating your Field Force with Tablet PCs

Certain industries – notably agriculture, utilities and logistics – have always had large populations of personnel working in the field, but today workers in virtually every industry are more mobile than ever. They’re working remotely, and they’re literally on the move. Many field workers now rely on mobile devices such as a tablet PC to add agility and automate their work.  

utilities field service rugged tablet pc mobilityNonetheless, adoption of mobile tools that can streamline work flow and improve productivity in the field is far less widespread than you might expect. That’s good news, actually, because it means the door is still wide open for companies struggling with today’s rapidly-evolving and highly competitive environment to substantially increase efficiencies.

Is it time to automate your field force?

Embracing mobile technology and automated processes enable you to capture broad benefits and reduce costs, making it easier to retain customers and turn a profit. Increased automation allows your people to be more productive because they’re performing tasks that matter rather than tedious, time-consuming manual paperwork. They’re working faster but making fewer mistakes.  

Automation – used in tandem with a tablet PC or rugged tablet PC -- enables you and your field force to:

  • Schedule individuals and routes on-the-fly, eliminating the need to check in personally at the beginning of a shift and easily communicating changes if they become necessary.
  • Access equipment manuals or other reference materials instantly from the field without dragging around bulky books and wasting time looking up the right information.
  • Remotely diagnose and even repair mobile devices or field equipment.
  • Please customers, by providing on-the-spot signature capture and payments, provide receipts and eliminate waiting lines.
  • Manage inventory and assets, with real-time visibility regardless of location.

Thoughtful assessment lays a solid foundation for successful automation.

As is true when considering any significant business investment, some careful thinking is required in order to make the most valuable decision. Your goal is to create a composite picture of what your mobile workers do and how they do it.

Start with a thorough assessment. What are the routine daily needs of your mobile workers? An old-fashioned “time and motion” study that looks at specific tasks they perform and combinations of tasks will help pinpoint where automation can make the most difference. Next, identify specific challenges or barriers that obstruct their ability to get work done, or do it efficiently and accurately.

Then consider technology alternatives to find the best fit. Those that will be most productivity-enhancing and cost-effective are those that can solve multiple problems rather than just a single issue. Streamlining counts, and device proliferation – choosing an array of “helpful” tools -- can be counter-productive. You’ll have too many things to buy, figure out, handle and maintain. And equipment that doesn’t effectively resolve problems or make work easier won’t get used anyway.  

So ask yourself exactly how each option will actually help an employee. Is it the best solution? How -- and how well – will it interface with other equipment or processes?

Paperwork and manual entry are notoriously prone to mistakes and omissions. They take up precious time, and the work is often redundant. You no longer have those time and cost luxuries.

Exactly how automation can bring the greatest improvements to your operation depends in large part on the questions we’ve noted here. But virtually every field force can benefit from at least some types of automated procedures, working more swiftly and more surely, tablet PC in hand. 


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