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Field Service Industry and Augmented worker – The missing link to finally allow the technician to self-check the key stages of its interventions

Affected by COVID19 , companies have organized themselves and implemented their Business Continuity Plans (BCP): massive recourse to teleworking, prioritization of field interventions to focus on essential operations and emergencies, urgent search for new sources of supply in order to avoid stock-outs on sensitive parts, replanning of resources, implementation of health measures to protect staff who have to provide the services maintained in spite of containment, …

COVID has very different consequences depending on economic sectors

These measures have proved their worth. They enabled the containment period to be spent under “acceptable” conditions, but their impact on the business was very different depending on the nature of the business and the services provided. A drop in activity within the same group can result in reductions ranging from 20% to more than 80%, or even a complete shutdown for certain subsidiaries.
While whole areas of economic activity have come to a complete halt, such as tourism and, to a lesser extent, transport, where air travel experienced an unprecedented decline, others have suffered very different fates.
  • Utilities activities (water, gas, electricity) have shown their resilience and ensured continuity of service as they are necessary for the smooth running of the society
  • The same is true for activities that were previously considered to have low added value (cashiers, cleaning, maintenance, etc.).
  • The health professions and the entire medical profession have been strained
Finally, some of them have seen their business grow very rapidly as a result of sudden changes in consumption and work habits. The big winners are the GAFA, whose stock market prices have evolved very favourably.
This strong disparity, far from ending with the recovery, will continue. Businesses have begun to reinvent themselves or will see this happen in the near future.
This situation, as unprecedented as it is sudden, also opens the door to new opportunities. This is the case for the Field Service Industry, which by the very nature of its business, will very quickly need to regain some leeway and adapt to the new demands of its customers.

Field Service Companies: a world apart

The Field Service Industry differs from the industry in many ways, but one in particular sets it apart: its activities are by nature geolocalized.

Their services are generally:

  • contractually defined with great variability in terms of content and duration (from spot to multi-year). They are grouped together for their production in agencies or operational units whose location depends in fact on the sum of the contracts to be carried out in a given territory.
  • units with a volume effect. The more the number of interventions increases, the more the number of technicians or agents increases in a proportion that varies from one activity to another.
  • based on individual performance. Often of modest size and repetitive (replacement of a meter, installation of boxes, …), these interventions are carried out by a single technician or a small team. The company’s operational performance is the arithmetic sum of the unit performance of each of the thousands of interventions carried out.
  • carried out remotely and autonomously. Geolocalized, these interventions (small maintenance, repairs…), carried out on the client site, private person or company are of limited unit value. The cost of controlling them would make them economically unviable. The only solution: trust and rely on the “expected expertise” of each of the parties involved.

Their technical and economic performance depends on 4 factors

  1. Doing it “right the first time” at each intervention: the unit cost of an intervention is such that the costs of non-quality (missing part, customer not present, technical bp, …) are prohibitive. It is therefore imperative to prohibit any re-intervention. But how can we be sure of this when hundreds or even thousands of interventions are carried out daily throughout the country?
  2. Validate the different steps in real time: every intervention includes a succession of more or less complex technical gestures, all of which need to be carried out professionally in order to ensure that the service complies with the company’s standards and the customer’s promise. What tools, methods and means are available to the technician to ensure the quality of the work carried out at each stage?
  3. Improve individual performance: the population of field agents is very diverse in terms of experience, training, motivation, etc… Moreover, the conditions of intervention are never the same (travel time, bad weather, technical problems, …). Training only allows to fill a part of these performance gaps for this population, but over time. The gaps are measured and analysed, but all this is done after the fact. The damage has already been done… How to improve the individual performance of a technician every day without exploding costs?
  4. Integrate new technicians/subcontractors more quickly: in service professions, turnover is one of the important factors affecting the economic performance of companies. The latter have made many efforts to reduce it without managing to curb this problem. Recourse to subcontracting is the rule in order to absorb peaks in activity, order variability and even absenteeism. How can training be provided to restore the expected nominal performance level as quickly as hoped?

Two complementary visions of time exist side by side: a calendar vision and a physical vision.

The perception and value of time differs between management and field staff.

  • Management and administration are governed by fixed calendar boundaries (month, quarter, year).
  • Operations, and more precisely Execution, are punctuated by the physical dimension of their responsibilities and the temporality of the daily or at best weekly Schedule.

Controling and Management regularly hunt for Non Value Added Time (NVAT), using levers such as more precise planning of interventions, repair of vehicle parts stocks, GPS tracking of vehicles, reduction of unproductive trips, etc…

This is followed by action plans launched to mobilize management: reduction of staff, reduction of the number of supervisors, sharing of support functions, etc…

And yet success is not often achieved, either because it takes much longer than expected to achieve results or, more often than not, because the level of performance remains far below expectations.

These action plans follow one another, the teams are tired, worn out by the succession of these plans “coming from above”, “thought for them”, waiting for the next one…

If management and controlling think about reporting, KPI, …, what about the technician?

What does he see concretely? A succession of interventions? Keeping to the schedule? The pace?
What is his time horizon? One day? The intervention he is carrying out? The end of the week?.
Whether the month ends on a Wednesday or a Thursday doesn’t change his daily routine, or his life in fact. On the other hand the month becomes concrete for him with the payment of his salary.

In order to provide a rapid response to operational performance issues and ensure that the proposed actions make sense for technicians, shouldn’t we start from the technician’s point of view? from his vision of time, his daily life and the nature of each service performed?

But with what method? What tools? What means?

The Augmented Worker at the service of operational performance

Starting from the technician and the services provided, it is necessary to focus on a crucial stage, the Justice of the Peace of operational performance: Execution.

The other stages are not minor, far from it: they condition the good execution of the service but do not guarantee it. This is the role of the technician or field officer who must take up this challenge every day and at every intervention.

In a very macro way, the objective of the operations is to transform any order, service order, … into invoices whose collection will be facilitated or not if the quality of the services performed is in line with the customer’s expectations.

Turning an Order into an Invoice: The End-to-End Macro Process for Service Companies

The performance of the operations will be judged, from a financial point of view, by its capacity to deliver the service ordered in compliance with 1. the expected technical and economic standards 2. the client’s quality expectations (SLA) and the commitments made, the responsibility for which falls to the technician or field agent delivered to himself.

The Augmented Worker and related techniques, a combination of Computer Vision (CV) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), is there to enable the technician to ensure that each intervention will respect the 2 concrete operational criteria for which he is responsible, both internally and externally.

The Augmented Worker is the first tool that allows you to manage the content of the service provided

The implementation of Augmented Worker in operated service companies is a major step forward. It fills the main gaps in all management systems that aim to improve the performance of operations:

  • inability to assist field agents in the daily execution of their tasks
  • identification/analysis of defects a posteriori without allowing them to be corrected except at prohibitive costs
  • treating any intervention as a management object without being able to target the relative performance of the technician or the various technical actions performed

The Augmented Worker :

  • is addressed directly to the Technician: These tools are above all concrete operational aids that have been thought out and designed to be useful and meaningful to him. Their use is simple and obvious.
  • is made to facilitate the execution of his tasks: it simplifies the daily life of field agents, too often left alone in the face of the difficulties they encounter. It is a self-control tool for its use.
  • ensures systematic visual control of all the key stages of the task : all the technician has to do is to take a photo at each stage considered as key with his smartphone.
  • allows him to validate in real time each of the key steps of the task in progress: the Augmented Worker application loaded on his smartphone, analyzes the image in real time, analyzes the work that has just been done based on predefined visual criteria, validates the task or indicates to the technician the defect(s) to be corrected. The latter can immediately intervene and make the identified modifications.
  • validates the task once it has been completed: once all the steps have been completed, the Augmented Worker automatically validates the task and closes it. The FSM (Field Service Management) system with which the AW application is connected informs the technician of the next task to be performed.
  • ensures an automatic feedback of all data (qualitative, contractual, …): The AW application is responsible for reporting all qualitative and quantitative data. On a meter he will have been able to read the values indicated, the references of a label, … which will have been captured during the stages of the service performed. Everything has been done on the run of the river. No additional data entry is necessary.

But more than that:

  1. It respects the intrinsic performance of the technician by adapting its speed of execution: The AW follows the technician’s work rhythm without imposing a particular pace. The technician remains in control of his work and his performance.
  2. It is the only tool that allows the implementation of continuous improvement (quality, reliability, expertise but also speed of execution) at the technician’s level: The AW, designed to match the interventions carried out and the technician, systematically validates his work. A real aide-memoire for the technician, his performance will naturally improve by around 10%. The difficulties encountered will enable specific progress plans to be drawn up: coaching, operational follow-up, reinforcement, adapted training plans, etc.
  3. It allows the impact of improvements to be measured in real time (objective economic case): When a step is not validated by the AW, corrections are made on the spot by the technician. The AW measures very precisely and in real time the contribution of the system on the performance improvement. An intervention for which a step has not been validated by the AW would certainly have required a second intervention. The gains are quantifiable and objectified throughout the day.

The Augmented Worker allows you to “get it right the first time.”

Among all the benefits brought by the Augmented Worker, there is one that is crucial: “Doing it right the first time”.

Let’s take a concrete business case in the context of connecting buildings to fibre optics. This case involves several thousands of interventions per day throughout the country.

Among the results obtained:

  • A re-intervention rate divided by 3.
  • A 20% increase in additional interventions, in just a few months,
  • 100% of the interventions verified qualitatively.
  • 100% of contractual photos now filled in, the number of reservations made by customers having been reduced by 35%.

It brings direct and immediate benefits at the level of each Technician.

  • Step-by-step validation of interventions on key milestones
  • Focus on their real added value
  • Drastic reduction of Rework
  • Reduction of field Time without Added Value
  • Real-time direct support for technician performance
  • Real-time ROI measurement: tracking of corrections
  • Immediate deployment (Cloud)

…but also indirect benefits

  • Automatic feedback of informations about quality, customer, performance,…
  • Management of subcontractors
  • Newcomer training
  • Reliable invoicing
  • Reduction in the number of reservations and challenges

The Augmented Worker is an answer to the chronic pains of service companies.

 The rework is one of the most visible and important pain

Many service companies suffer from the same chronic pain: REWORK. It is this 2nd or even 3rd dreaded intervention that is plummeting the accounts and making the intervention go from profit to loss. The rework rate can reach very high levels. We have seen cases where the rework rate can exceed 50%, if this rate is measured accurately. How can you be profitable under these conditions?

The dilemma of small interventions

The lower the added value of the interventions, the greater the fear of rework and its impact on profitability. Companies are faced with a technical and financial dilemma

  • Technical: how can we make sure that these thousands of interventions go well?
  • Financial: how to ensure that the cost of monitoring is not prohibitive in relation to the added value of an intervention?

Inadequate steering and management control systems

All the reporting systems are at least monthly at best. At most, they can see the success or failure of the measures taken in the previous months. As a real a posteriori recording chamber, they do not allow a quick and efficient readjustment in line with the granularity of the intervention or the technician’s skill level.

If the Augmented Worker is the answer expected by the field, it does not however question the other functions that condition the Execution or even more broadly the operational organization and the support functions.

There are still a lot of leads to be dug

  • Steering of interventions and middle management modes
  • Reduction of reporting based solely on items under the direct control of the data subjects
  • Decoupling of Steering (physical, ITV type) and Reporting (temporal: months)
  • Planning: 1 more ITV per day?
  • Supply Chain Service: no shortages

Replay Webinar [FR] – Augmented worker for the field services, how to optimize each intervention thanks to the augmented technician and accelerate the exit of crisis of Covid 19?

To learn more about the use of Augmented Worker in field services, watch the replay of the webinar co-hosted in June 2020 by Aloïs Brunel (Co-founder & CPO – Deepomatic) and Marc Minisini (Managing Partner – Bengs).