2021 workforce management trends for the field service industry and workplaces worldwide

V3 Smart Technologies Pte Ltd.

The world is experiencing a digital transformation as a result of the pandemic from last year. What Covid-19 has taught us is that every business must go digital in order to grow sustainably when faced with volatile situations. Those which embrace digital transformation will be more resilient in bouncing back from the Covid-19 crisis and better at optimising costs.

As seen in 2020, having the tools for remote field service management was absolutely essential. In 2021, we are noting a change in workplace dynamics as more businesses are open to remote work, machine-assisted work, and most importantly, the use of technology to take efficiency to the next level.

Below are the trends we are seeing across the field service industry and workplaces worldwide, and how technology plays a critical part in keeping up with them.

1. Increase in demand for remote support, and faster and better services

The global fight against the pandemic is not over. Businesses need to continue with workplace safety and safe distancing measures using remote management tools in order to protect their workers’ and customers’ well-being, as well as secure business continuity. Furthermore, the trend of working from home is becoming a possibility post-Covid.

Adding to that, customer demand for remote support has risen along with increased expectations on service speed and quality. The latter two are difficult to balance with limited resources, so the use of digital tools such as automated scheduling, remote communications and dispatch will help a lot with speeding up response times, reducing unnecessary tasks and minimising field interactions. Having remote capabilities will also enable field staff to communicate with back-end staff easily, hence further improving service efficiency.

2. AI/remote diagnostics for predictive maintenance and asset life cycle extension

Interest in AI and machine learning is growing as more businesses become aware of their usefulness in predictive maintenance and problem solving. This works through AI coupled with IoT sensors, which will provide data on how your operations are performing and alert you when issues arise. As a result, businesses can identify issues before dispatching their staff on-site, and enable jobs to be completed much faster.

Using AI and remote diagnostic tools will also help to streamline operations and improve business planning. Overall, predictive maintenance and the ability to provide proactive support to customers should be every business’s goal. The key is to reduce on-site visits and alert staff in advance for them to prioritise work more efficiently and solve problems in a proactive manner.

In addition to AI, new technology being adopted includes AR or VR visualisation tools, which are useful for field technicians working in environments with safety hazards. With visual data such as photos and videos, field technicians can more easily diagnose issues as well as communicate with customers regarding them.

3. Automation for managing work volume

Managing large volumes of work orders was a struggle during the pandemic as workload rose due to limited resources – mostly a lack of manpower and budget. This fortunately changed with the rise of automation, where it helped businesses increase their productivity, remain flexible, eliminate paperwork, as well as minimise human errors.

Routine tasks which can be automated with the aid of AI-assisted tools include: automated scheduling, self-service tools, automated inventory management, chatbots and even AI-powered machines. By streamlining work flows through automation, staff can prioritise higher-level tasks and not be overworked with unnecessary low-level tasks, leading to higher productivity and service quality to customers.

4. IoT for data gathering and analysis

With the rising demands of customers and work orders, businesses are now more reliant on data than before, which brings us to the importance of IoT monitoring. Data analytics are vital if you want to gain knowledge on how your resources are being utilised and how your customers feel about your service proficiency.

By using IoT to gather data from monitored assets, businesses can make use of the data to improve decision making and maintenance scheduling. In the service industry where customer satisfaction is the most important KPI, IoT data analytics can help to track ratings and feedback. Through a cloud-based centralised IoT platform, businesses can collect real-time data from various sources for analysis in reports, and be certain it is accurate and accessible. They can also use the data to identify areas of growth and profit, and optimise company resources according to usage patterns based on historical data.

Key takeaways regarding the future of work and the importance of technology

The pandemic in 2020 has changed how we work and has led many businesses to realise the importance of digitalisation for business sustainability.

If you are managing a sizeable field workforce, it will be greatly beneficial to know these current trends and take into consideration what you can do to improve your own business. Below are the following key points summarising how the global workplace has changed since the pandemic, and what IT tools will be pivotal in navigating these changes which are forecasted to stay in 2021:

  • AI and machine assistance has helped supplement work – many industries are integrating technology into their workflows to support their staff and increase efficiency.
  • Knowledge is power – IoT data can be leveraged to provide information across the entire organisation to eliminate silos, enable informed decisions, and keep track of customer satisfaction and performance KPIs.
  • There may be an emergence in a hybrid workforce or distributed workplace post-Covid – the post-pandemic workforce may include staff working from home or remotely, meaning digital communication and collaboration tools will remain necessary.
  • The benefits of digital tools include improved mobility, connectivity, autonomy, and integrated data flow – all of which are important aspects for any business seeking to position themself well for success.