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Field Service Workers Face Unique Challenges When It Comes to Collaboration

March 5, 2020

Collaboration isn’t a concept that should be confined to office spaces. In fact, the industries that can benefit most from these solutions are operational, meaning their workflow consists of immediate physical actions that require the orchestration of people, assets, and locations much more than the typical office-bound enterprise.

Industries such as logistics, public safety, manufacturing, and construction are made up of distributed teams with field workers in a variety of locations. The right collaboration tools for such teams address several specific challenges field service workers face on the job.

Top Collaboration Challenges for Field Service Workers

For field service teams, collaboration isn’t optional. Being able to communicate and coordinate actions is the only way they can achieve objectives quickly, safely, and efficiently. When these teams become disconnected, the consequences might include lost customers, profits — or even lives.

Here are some of the challenges these teams face when it comes to collaboration and how field service technology can address them:

1.  Geographically Dispersed Teams

Remote or distributed work is often part of the job. But when it comes to collaboration, that work presents a unique challenge for field service teams. From utility workers to border patrol, individuals or small groups might work at great distances from central command — but must still be able to coordinate their actions with the larger team. The stakes are especially high for individuals entering hazardous areas (such as an oil field or a first-response situation) where they might need others to remotely provide contextual data.

Some industries also need to coordinate across distributed facilities, as is common in manufacturing. When a factory deals with downtime or production failures, every minute lost is costly. But the experts who can fix the issue might be a plane ride away — especially if the failure involves highly specialized or legacy equipment. Planning a rapid response will require collaborative field service technology that offers a unified workspace and incorporates all relevant data. This technology should also allow users to communicate easily despite being miles apart. Whether a team is addressing an issue that deals with protecting lives or one that ensures productivity, the ability to connect remotely is critical.

2.  Integration of New Technologies

Many industries have started to deploy Internet of Things devices and increase their use of photos, videos, and new forms of data, even as they continue to use legacy equipment. Low-power sensors and surveillance cameras have great potential to expand the types of data and metrics available in field services. Suppliers can gain granular insight into shipments, and security teams can deploy additional eyes and ears across their domain.

Despite considerable advances in data-collection capabilities, however, integrating and utilizing all of this collected data presents an enormous challenge for field service teams. What data is critical in the moment — and what data should be stored for later? How can the right real-time data be made available in a way that genuinely supports decision-making? For instance, imagine that sensors in a refrigerated truck reveal that a sensitive shipment is overheating. Will that information make it into a manager’s hands quickly enough for them to give the driver directions to address the issue? IoT devices are the competitive, forward-thinking choice — but in the short term, they can raise more questions than they answer. The right field service technology provides teams with actionable alerts based on real-time data so they can truly take advantage of IoT devices.

field service workers examine machinery

3.  Hazardous Conditions

For many industries, hazardous, urgent, and highly variable conditions are part of the job. Certain actions can have enormous consequences for these teams. When dealing with dangerous conditions, workers need access to the right people and information to make fast, yet informed decisions. For public safety teams, for instance, an active shooter situation is typically addressed by the security person nearest the incident. That officer needs immediate access to law enforcement agencies, to know the exact next steps, and to keep everyone informed along the way. Collaborative field service technology can make all of this possible by delivering real-time information, enforcing specific workflows, and allowing teams to share a common operational picture.

Other types of field service teams face less urgent, but equally serious danger daily. Mining and oil field companies deal with heavy equipment and unpredictable conditions every day and need reliable ways to inform and enforce strict safety protocols. Although this is a continual challenge for such industries, meaningful collaboration is the first way to ensure that operations remain both secure and productive.

Field service workers face consistent challenges when they are on the job. When coupled with collaboration capabilities, the right field service technology will help connect geographically diverse teams, make integrating new tools easy, and enable meaningful collaboration that ensures safety and productivity in the field.

To learn more about how the right technology can help connect field service teams, check out “A Buyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools.”