The Complex World of Service Utilities

Posted by Keith Doherty

Mon, Oct 22, 2012

enterprise mobilitySo many of us take for granted the basic utilities that help us every day. The lights come on, we have fresh water, and we have heat when we need it. It seems so simple on the surface. But beyond our basic light switch or faucet is a world that is much more complicated that you may think.

The utilities industry comprises a variety of service businesses that keep our infrastructure running well. The utilities industry includes:

  • Water management

  • Electrical energy providers

  • Tank and storage facilities

  • Waste and land fill management

  • Storm response units and inclimate weather support

  • Sewage and underground cables and pipes

  • Construction and road maintenance

With all of these various types of utilities come many different types of field service issues. When one or more of these challenges occur, things can get pretty tricky:

  • Keeping adequate inventory on hand to handle repairs as well as routine maintenance

  • Prioritizing work so that not only are emergencies handled quickly but also the scheduled maintenance is performed on time

  • Stocking the right maintenance items without creating an overstock situation

  • Equipping vehicles with the right tools to handle the work

  • Service technician training and updates to their certifications

  • Managing large projects while not letting the smaller requests slip

  • Scheduling night, holiday or weekend work when necessary

  • Fleet maintenance scheduling

  • Federal and state regulations and government restrictions

Imagine a situation where a road construction project needs survey verification work and also needs to get some pipe laying work completed. While it may not be the field service company’s responsibility for the survey, do they help to get the pipe installed before the survey is completed? Do you bring in additional resources to assist with the project? This is just one scenario, but there could be many others.

Another scenario might be that your workload has suddenly increased substantially because of approvals for significant utility projects for a municipality. Do you hire workers as employees, or do you bring in contractors? How will you keep your current customer requests managed while also working on this huge initiative? Will you be able to plan weekend or night schedules in addition to your routine shifts?

The utilities service industry must be prepared for a variety of scenarios to happen at any given time. Because of this, having the right processes in place will keep the service business running and maintain high levels of quality for their customers.

Processes to consider should include how you receive incoming requests from your customer service representatives, how those requests are prioritized, how dispatchers will assign requests to the appropriate technicians in a timely manner, and the steps used to track the status of work orders and how to log them as complete. Every utilities service business is unique and your processes may vary greatly from other providers. But it is important to have a set of business rules that will keep your customer requests moving in the right direction while delivering quality results.

The right field service automation system will help the utilities service company to juggle multiple work orders, reshuffle priorities during emergencies, and also properly schedule not only the field technicians but also the equipment that is needed to perform the job.

Tags: Field Service Optimization, Enterprise Mobility, Developments in Field Service Management