Just how attractive is the field service industry these days? It’s a big part of the U.S. economy, a profitable business for most manufacturers and on the cusp of a dramatic technological transformation.

So writes Bruce Rogers, “Chief Insights Officer” at Forbes. Among other evidence in his latest column, Rogers cites the federal jobs report for the month of May, released Friday, which gave field service operators reasons to celebrate: of the total U.S. job growth in the last year, field service accounted for 13 percent. And there are more than five million employed field service workers (the most since summer 2009) in the United States today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Big Opportunity

There are several explanations for the rising demand for field-service workers, including the hiring rebound in manufacturing, which is closely tied to field service, and the creation of new types of field service jobs thanks to advances in technology. It’s the technology part of the equation that has drawn Rogers’ attention. “Field service automation is a management consultant orventure capitalists [sic] dream,” writes Rogers. It’s the untouched white space  in the upper right hand quadrant of business value creation.”

But as Rogers notes, field service has long been known as paper-intensive and slow to adapt to advanced technologies. “Most of these operations are run through a hodgepodge of processes, some automated, most not.” With technology, field service companies can handle everything from scheduling services, managing contracts, and ordering parts to communicating with mobile devices and streamlining fleet operations.

Businesses are waking up to the opportunity. Forrester reported this spring that field service software is among the top investment priorities for global business leaders.

A major beneficiary of those investment dollars is ServiceMax, SmartVan’s sponsor and the subject of Rogers’ post. The developer of global field service automation software has seen subscription revenues skyrocket 160 percent in the last year (and an average 150 percent growth in the last four years.

ABOUT Krysten Crawford

Avatar photoKrysten started as a legal affairs writer for American Lawyer Media before joining CNNMoney, where she covered technology, law and media. She then joined Business 2.0 magazine as associate editor and chief of reporters before moving to Fortune.com as a senior producer. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and two young kids.