Wondering how new technologies can help you to better manage your workers in the field? A delegation from McKinsey & Company spoke during the Field Service 2011 conference in Arizona about how managers can focus on GPS technology to set a foundation for a productive workforce and great service.

Mitesh Prema is an associate partner with McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm based out of San Francisco. Prema laid out several ways successful service organizations use technology, emphasizing GPS tracking, to better manage their workers in the field.

Prema stressed how traditional, reactive dispatching just doesn’t cut it anymore. The old model isn’t flexible and doesn’t take into account real-world variability, job cancelations, or work orders that take longer than expected to complete. Dynamic dispatching gives managers new levels of control and productivity with their workforces, ensuring that technicians are consistently busy and working, not idling at Dunkin’ Donuts, what Prema refers to as “goof time.”

GPS tracking is a central element of any proactive, tech-savvy field operation. And while monitoring technician’s every move and setting up alerts that notify a manager when a technician strays off course or stops for a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee can seem a bit Big Brother-ish, Prema points out that all the data can be interpreted by computers, not managers, who receive alerts when the plan isn’t followed. Additionally, privacy laws — at least in the U.S. — are generally on the manager’s side.

Prema has long been at the forefront of a movement to monitor field service technicians’ activities as they happen, co-authoring a report titled, “Improving field service productivity” for The McKinsey Quarterly back in July of 2007. In that report, Prema, Timothy D. Morse and Jonathan Shulman listed four tracking solutions in terms of importance.

  1. Real-time routing software
  2. Call-ahead solutions
  3. Wireless handhelds
  4. GPS

While Prema and his associates have long felt GPS could be a useful tool in monitoring productivity, it wasn’t considered quite as important four years ago as Prema asserted at Field Service 2011, according to this passage from McKinsey’s 2007 report:

“Global positioning systems can help improve productivity by tracking the locations of technicians in real time, particularly if they have daylong assignments or if the time needed to complete the work is unpredictable. In most cases, however, an effective dynamic dispatch process, combined with output from the field technicians, can reduce the need for GPS.”

Perhaps as GPS technologies have become more readily available and less expensive, their use has morphed from something only to be used in certain situations — such as extremely low levels of productivity among a certain set of workers — into something that in time will be integrated into all areas of field service. Regardless, GPS certainly sounds like it’s here to stay, and might make field service techs think twice about taking extra long donut breaks.

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