Routines are a part of everyone’s daily life, whether it’s getting up in the morning, punching a checklist of daily tasks at work, or cooking dinner at home. But routines are often overlooked by companies with mobile workers, when automating and optimizing routine tasks can be a boon for business.

In my life, there’s no process that’s quite as regimented as the one that starts my day. The alarm clock rings at 5:45 a.m. I hit snooze once, twice, and then rise at 5:59 a.m.
The coffee pot starts brewing (automatically) one minute later. And without going into too great detail, an identical series of steps will ensue for the next 30 minutes, until I turn the key in my ignition at 6:31 a.m. and begin my drive to the office, arriving at 7 a.m.

But let’s say that I need to meet an important customer for a cup of coffee at 6:45 a.m. one morning. I simply reset the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier, and that’s that. I never consider a way to brush my teeth faster or put my shoes right by the door to save time finding them. My morning routine is set in stone, and I take for granted that it’s as good as it can get.

Now think about your field worker and the “routine” of tasks that go into their typical service call. If your business is typical, you’re asking all your field workers, or are being asked yourself, to become more productive and profitable. What do you do? It’s human nature, and I am living proof, to seek the path of least resistance and just “reprogram the alarm clock” by asking those workers to work longer, harder, and faster. But, we all know this is unsustainable.

I’d like to recommend a different course of action. If you take a step back and look in detail at the routine of seemingly minor tasks that you and your workers take for granted, then you will see small opportunities for time savings that can make a big difference over a full day of calls and a full fleet of workers.

Take, for instance, mobile inventory. I spoke to an executive with a major office equipment service organization a few months back, and he mentioned that at any given moment, his repair pros have $2.2 million worth of parts on their trucks, tracked entirely by paper forms. When one of his team takes a part off the truck, they write the name and serial number on a form. Have you ever transcribed a serial number? It can take two or three minutes to transcribe, check, and fix errors. That paper form has to be returned to the home office and manually entered into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

What if that driver had a mobile computer with a 2-D bar code reader? With a push of a single button, they have captured that part’s data perfectly and transmitted it back to the main system. Total time: 5 seconds. Multiply that time savings by every occurrence in a day, by every worker in the field, and enough time accumulates to make another call or cut back on overtime.

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Avatar photoField Technologies Online provides is a resource for the optimization of field workers, service and assets. The publication's goal is to provide companies in the field service, transportation/distribution, government, public works and utilities industries with information on mobile technologies that can be used to improve productivity and drive efficiency.