10 FIELD SERVICE PLANNING MYTHS THAT COST YOUR BUSINESS
4 min. reading time
10 December 2021 ·
ispatch and scheduling teams are only human, and humans make mistakes. However, myths, out-of-date knowledge, and incomplete thinking throughout field service planning and in Finance and IT departments become expensive errors in the long run. We've compiled a list of 10 such traps that persist in planning field forces and technical field service.
THE SHORTEST ROUTE IS THE BEST
It stands to reason: if a field force needs to get a lot done, it should use the shortest possible routes. But the shortest route is not automatically the fastest. Depending on the terrain or vehicle restrictions, choosing the shortest route can lead to a dead end. Our route and tour planning software therefore does not choose the shortest route by default, but accounts for your organisation's KPIs and the fastest route for the best outcome.
DISPATCH THE EMPLOYEE WHO IS CLOSEST TO THE APPOINTMENT
If there is a works order to be completed, the field employee or field service technician who is closest should go there. This sounds sensible, but it has its pitfalls. Do they hold the knowledge and necessary skills for the appointment? Do they have the right tools with them, and the spare parts and materials on the van? Is the employee available for the window, or will they cost more in overtime? Are others idle at the moment and do they have enough fuel? What is the cost of pushing the appointment to tomorrow, or moving another order? Optimised field service planning considers all of these factors.
FIELD PLANNING IS EASY AND ALL WITHIN OUTLOOK
This can be done; if you work alone and/or you have no requirement for dynamic scheduling. This rarely matches anywhere near to the reality in the field. Appointments are postponed at short notice, cancelled, or take more time than planned. Especially if you work in a team, field service planning with Outlook is simply not flexible. A good indication of your success with Outlook is how long you spend gathering further information from customers and field resources on the phone. (Read more about the traps of Outlook.)
WAZE AND GOOGLE MAPS ARE SUFFICIENT FOR ROUTE AND TOUR PLANNING
Online route planners like Google Maps and Waze are great tools for personal use. They reliably guide us from A to B. In professional field work, that's simply not enough. You must plan several (intermediate) stops and take more into account than just the route. Time dependencies can hardly be mapped with domestic route planners, let alone complex planning that coordinates the tours of several field staff with each other. (Read more about how these tools are not enterprise ready.)
GREAT FIELD SERVICE PLANNING MEANS CONTROL OVER YOUR DAY
Unfortunately, no. You know the saying; no plan survives first contact with reality. There are always sudden changes in field service, whether due to customer cancellations, emergency assignments, absences due to illness or ad hoc assignments. That's why an intelligent route and tour planning system serves not only as an efficient planning tool, but also as an operational control tool. This software continuously optimises field service planning in real time. What is a real time optimisation event? Consider the example of a customer no-show after dispatching a field resource. Question how quickly can you react? once the day has begun.
NOTHING BEATS YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
Do you know the overconfidence effect? Unfortunately it is typically very human to overestimate our skills and knowledge, especially with local/patch/postcodes. Sure, experience in field planning is immensely important, but human calculation skills are limited. Even the task of determining an optimal field tour with 10 target addresses for just one field employee is beyond our computational capacity (in this case, there are more than 3.6 million possible sequences). Such tasks can only be solved by smart algorithms.
TOUR PLANNING IS SIMPLY OPTIMISING COSTS AND DRIVING
Good tour planning saves costs and kilometres. But in many cases, just looking at cost savings is a mistake. An example; sometimes you must appease a disgruntled customer and include what 'should be an unprofitable tour' to do so. It also makes sense to leave an order that can be reached quickly but creates little value, namely if you can instead fulfil an order that costs more travel time but also creates much more value. Good route and tour planning not only optimises your costs, but also maximises your realised order values towards growth.
TOUR PLANNING IS TAKEN CARE OF BY OUR ERP OR CRM SYSTEM
Yes and no. There are ERP and CRM systems that have integrated field service scheduling functions. But the main focus of ERP and CRM systems is not optimised tour planning. Stand-alone best-of-breed solutions are designed with superior ERP and CRM features for tour planning. Interfaces make them easy to connect to your business-critical systems, as in the case of our software by connecting to, for example, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics.
AUTOMATED FIELD PLANNING REMOVES OUR DECISION MAKING ABILITY
With FLS VISITOUR software, you can choose between manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic scheduling and route planning. Even with the fully automatic pathway, you ultimately decide on the actual daily organisation of your field staff. The system is a smart team member, not a rigid paternalistic tool. You have the choice to intervene at any time, fix and postpone orders. Again, the software works exactly according to your individual company specifications.
HIGH VALUE SOFTWARE IS EXPENSIVE
With many configurations, hosting, and service options, what is a high price? Calculate against what they save in costs, effort, driving time and CO2 through best-of-breed scheduling optimisation. Professional solutions are a means to remaining profitable and pay for themselves quickly.
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