Field Service Engineers are Becoming an Increasingly Scarce Resource

Published in Field Service News Magazine

While embracing new technologies such as AR and AI to drive productivity is desirable, the reality is that in the shadow of a very real ageing workforce crisis, doing so may be a matter of survival for many field service organizations…

So far in this series of excerpts from an exclusive Field Service News White Paper, we have focused on how technology allows us to move towards a more effective and efficient iteration of service operations across our industry. An approach to service operations that offers faster resolution towards customer and asset issues and allows us to become a genuinely data-driven and proactive industry.

It is, of course, essential for us as an industry to grow, evolve and improve in such a manner. All sectors are seeking to go through a similar development as they move through the digital transformation process.

Yet, for the field service sector, this evolution is not just desirable but essential.

As an industry, we are facing a truly existential threat in that our field workers are becoming an increasingly scarce resource. An ageing workforce crisis has loomed in our industry for many years, and we now see that crisis unfold in real-time.

The situation has, of course, been exacerbated by the pandemic both in the face of economic and cost of living challenges leading to an ever-increasing spiral of costs for the recruitment, development and retention of staff and also new societal movements that have to a degree become the bi-product of these challenges – such as the anti-work movement.

However, long before the pandemic, the writing was on the wall for our industry as the threat of an ageing workforce was already evident in every sector and every corner of the world where field service engineers and technicians were working.

As such, the importance of bringing good new engineers and technicians into an organization is more challenging and more critical than ever, and it is an equation that is hard to balance.

While we are seeing a handful of organizations succeed by breaking out of the existing parameters and developing innovative approaches to finding new talent, the fact is that we as service organizations are going to have to face up to the reality when it comes to our field engineer and technician resources that we will need to start achieving more with less.

However, while this, at first glance, may seem like a daunting prospect that we collectively face, the tools we have already discussed within this paper, i.e. AR to empower remote service delivery and layers of AI-based automation across the entire service cycle to drive efficiency holds the key to achieving this.

aces, the recruitment and we face as a sector…”

In a period where controlling costs becomes an absolute focus for many companies, this is more than a bonus; this is another compelling reason for the shift. Similarly, the major emphasis on sustainability and the increasing regulation in this area is another critical driver toward remote service delivery.

However, it would be naively idealistic to paint a picture where remote service replaces on-site service delivery entirely. There will always be those jobs that require physical intervention.

Yet, even if we reduce the number of jobs that need to be handled on-site, the same drivers and benefits we’ve listed above in adopting remote service tools can still be applied to improving the efficiency and productivity of our on-site workers.

For example, image recognition AI can dramatically reduce the time it takes to complete the administration aspect of a work order. Similarly, shifting to a more data-driven proactive approach to service and maintenance makes it possible to group jobs closer together geographically.

Once again, by increasing our efficiencies in this regard, we can simultaneously ease the strain on the workforce by boosting productivity while also reducing the time spent on the road for our field engineers – again boosting the bottom line and our green credentials.

And, as we have seen in the previous sections of this paper, such endeavors are more likely to succeed if using next-gen FSM solutions with such advanced technologies and capabilities included natively.

Indeed, when technicians and engineers are positioned to become valuable commodities, who will likely have multiple employment options to select from, then those companies who demonstrate a willingness to invest in their field workforce with the latest technology will likely succeed in securing their employment.

Further compounding this benefit is that tools like Augmented Reality and AI-based triage can dramatically reduce the time it takes for a recruit to go from the classroom to becoming an effective and productive team member.

When it comes to the most significant challenges our industry faces, the recruitment and development of the next generation of field service engineers and technicians will undoubtedly be one of the greatest we face as a sector.

If we are to meet this challenge and overcome it, we must embrace the technology that will empower us.

Therefore, leveraging the next-gen systems and the technologies natively embedded within such systems will be critical for our sector moving forward.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.