10 Strategies for Utilities to Provide Exemplary Workforce Experience
Powerful forces are challenging energy and water providers globally. New technologies and changing economics of energy and water are altering the energy mix, energy-water nexus, increasing environmental and regulatory interventions, and extending commercialization across the industry in the form of personalized services and products. In addition, customers are assuming a more central role with increased demands and expectations.
In the face of these challenges, innovation has never been more critical for the industry. And yet, more utilities continue to rely on paper-based transactions with limited mobile functionality for managing their workforce.
With technological interventions in utility field services, companies can increase worker productivity, improving operational efficiencies. But succeeding with this is as much a people challenge as a technology challenge. For effective transition, utilities must combine new technologies with a focus on productivity and user experience. Field workers will more readily adopt a tailored platform that has the end-user in mind. As a result, utilities can benefit from lower training costs, reduced frictions and motivated workers.
Despite the legacy processes utilities are accustomed to work with, many of them have started investigating and applying new advances in technology to build a successful workforce experience (WX) transformation. Here are a few strategies and use cases:
Utilities can manage field crews in real-time, manage and track work orders, auto-schedule and dispatch field workers, respond to urgent events such as outages and even predict future workload. They can ensure that the right-field workers are assigned to the right job with the right tools and equipment.
Establishing worker engagement
The real-time communication between the utility back-office systems and the field workers is essential for workforce efficiency. This can be achieved through mobile, self-service technologies that workers can access anytime, anywhere. An added advantage of offline processing lets workers complete work orders and provide the necessary service, even when they are in areas with unreliable signals or are completely out of coverage.
Reducing worker hassles
Using digital technology, workers can enter data rapidly – with fewer keystrokes – and sign off on documents electronically. These capabilities eliminate paperwork and reduce the need for supervisory review. Mobility helps provide near real-time visibility into information to support better decision making and reduce the time it takes to improve results.
Optimizing asset utilization
Assets are the backbone of the utility industry. Utilities need to ensure that the asset strategy aligns with the operational output. Intelligent tools can help utility field workforce adopt a proactive and predictive approach to asset and inventory management by optimizing critical assets across an asset lifecycle while minimizing outages and risking the risk of disasters.
Determining the most cost-efficient route
Route optimization is more complex than simply finding the shortest path to deliver the field service. It needs to include all the relevant factors, such as the number and location of all the required service addresses on the route, as well as estimated time windows for service deliveries. It helps worker efficiency, reduces the cost to serve, provides accurate ETAs to customers and improves customer satisfaction.
Eliminating inter-departmental silos
Integrating operational coordination and collaborating for activities among different departments can ultimately be a cost-saving tool to deploy human capital and physical resources. For example – A field worker repairs a faulty electric power line, enters data via a smart tablet and shares the data with customer service, dispatch, and other departments. While inspecting the same power line in future, the field crew can access the prior repair information. This data can also be leveraged while defining the future scope of work or predictive maintenance.
Efficient knowledge management
The energy and water sector today is in a constant state of change. Field workers must continually adapt to these dynamic environments, regulatory changes and technological advancements. With efficient, on-the-go knowledge management capabilities, utilities can ensure upskilling of field workers without affecting the day-to-day operations and improving service delivery.
Improving reporting and documentation
Digital and mobile technologies can leverage GPS and automated time recording to optimize job site reporting, location data, and before-vs-after pictures or videos to validate fieldwork or Jobsite-related damages effectively. AI/ML-based analytics can help utility admins derive intelligent reports and insights.
Enhancing workforce safety
Digital integrated platforms can enable better situational awareness, update information about asset locations and status, and real-time notification and alerts on environment changes. More accessible field and central team collaboration through fluent, real-time communication allow workers to obtain critical information while performing dangerous on-ground tasks.
Disruptive technologies for field workers
Assistive technologies such as drones, wearables, augmented reality, and digital twins can provide tangible benefits to field workers. They can provide contextual information on-site of new network routing, underground pipe location or accurate position for new device installation. They can facilitate the workforce to communicate while performing the activity, with potential asset faults and safety notifications. The technologies can help field workers test what-if scenarios and in training simulations.
Increase in workforce productivity. Reduction in incidents improving field safety. Improvement in asset reliability. And a reduction in total maintenance costs - are just a few of the benefits realized on integrating innovative technology with user-centric field service management.
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