Businesses are beginning to recognize that they now operate in the “on demand” economy, where consumers expect immediate fulfilment – both in the sense of wanting satisfaction as quickly as possible, and in the sense that they wantaccess to the goods they want, when they want them.
However, this development has resulted in complex issues. Online reviews, social media, order tracking, and the growing appetite for immediacy; technology is creating new opportunities for consumers and companies, but the strain on front-line workers behind the scenes has never been greater. As the world becomes increasingly digitized and connected, the field operations industry needs to similarly transform – or run the risk of overworked employees and unsatisfied customers.
Galvanizing with mobility
What was once seen as an industry full of manual laborers with clipboards is fast becoming one filled with technology. According to the Future of Field Operations APAC Vision Study, 74 percent of the surveyed organizations rely on paper-based systems for over one-fifth of their field operations, but this is set to change with almost 35 percent of the surveyed organizations expected to become less reliant on paperwork by 2023.
Based on the study that was conducted over 2,000 mobility decision makers globally, it was discovered that 58 percent of the surveyed organizations in APAC are expanding mobile technology to enterprise-wide usage, and this is further expected to reach 97 percent by 2023. Meanwhile, from 2018 to 2023, the usage of handheld mobile computers with built-in barcode scanners is expected to grow by 41 percent, while mobile printers and rugged tablets are set to grow by 60 percent and 57 percent respectively.
Regardless if it’s a mobile computer, rugged tablet or a mobile printer, mobile devices can enhance the efficiency of front-line field workers by helping them to operate faster and more accurately. For instance, field workers can leverage their ruggedized tablets or mobile computers to read detailed equipment schematics, delivery orders or task checklists to keep workflows moving in a wide range of environmental work conditions. Receipts can also be printed out via mobile printers for on-site services rendered, as a form of payment record for consumers.
Meanwhile, organizations can allocate work to their nearest available field worker to shorten the wait time of consumers. The availability of mobile devices further enables customers to track the real-time location of their goods deliveries or services, thereby contributing to an overall better consumer experience. In fact, 77 percent of the APAC companies surveyed unanimously agreed that mobile devices can increase employee productivity and efficiency.
Mobile-first organizations are coming out ahead
Another major finding from the study is that mobile-first organizations in APAC are generally early adopters of emerging efficiency boosting field operations technologies. And the biggest industry disrupters are set to be droids and drones, with senior decision makers listing them as the biggest game-changers. There are examples of this technology in action already at play elsewhere in the world; companies have begun trialing drone delivery, while many are looking into driverless delivery vehicles, augmented reality and robotics.
“Cutting-edge” concepts like droids and drones essentially bypass traditional means of delivery on the ground, allowing for greater flexibility in choice of route, facilitating faster delivery for time sensitive orders and even meeting the customers growing need for immediacy. Customers who may have suffered due to their rural or inaccessible location will be more connected, meaning they too enjoy the evolving on-demand economy. Reducing reliance on delivery vehicles has environmental benefits in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and less roadway congestion.
Based on the results of the Future of Field Operations research, mobile-first organizations in APAC are expected to increase the implementation of sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) and intelligent labels from 76 percent to 98 percent from end 2018 till 2023. Use of augmented reality applications, which can improve efficiencies in detail-oriented workflows such as merchandising, is also expected to rise from 68 percent to 95 percent in the same time period. Last but not least, we can expect to see the use of blockchain – to track goods’ chains of custody or document service by multiple partnering firms – similarly rise from 68 percent to 96 percent.
Clearly the field operations industry is undergoing massive change. As the on-demand economy continues to expand beyond our imagination, the consumers thirst for immediacy is only growing. As such, pressure is mounting on field operations workers. It is only through harnessing new and innovative technologies that organizations can lessen this burden, whilst ensuring maximum profit and most importantly, satisfying their customers.