In 1987, Sustainability was defined by the United Nations Brundtland Commission as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
According to Active Sustainability, there are three pillars of sustainability – Environmental, Social and Economic, and “sustainability is concerned with protecting the planet, halting climate change and promoting social development, without endangering life on Earth or leaving anyone behind.”
While not traditionally the most sustainable, recent years have seen a significant shift towards sustainability in field service management (FSM) practices. This blog post explains why sustainability is vital to FSM, and how innovations in FSM software are reaping benefits for companies in terms of sustainability practices.
Why is sustainability important in field service management?
Sustainable practices are becoming increasingly important in today’s world as more and more businesses are recognising the need to operate in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner. There are several reasons why sustainability is critical to field service providers:
1. Impact on the Environment:
Firstly, field service operations heavily rely on vehicles and equipment that consume fuel and emit harmful pollutants. Implementing sustainable practices, such as reducing unnecessary travel, utilising fuel-efficient vehicles, and pursuing renewable sources of energy, can help businesses reduce their environmental impact and lower their carbon footprint.
2. Compliance with Regulations:
Field service management software can assist companies in complying with a range of UK regulations that depend on the industry and specific requirements. For example, Health and Safety regulations such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and Environmental regulations, including the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH, can be better managed with FSM solutions.
Additionally, FSM software can help comply with Working Time Regulations, including the Working Time Regulations 1998 by accurately tracking technician hours worked. Field service management also helps companies comply with Service and Repair regulations, for example, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 through providing real-time visibility into field operations and ensuring that technicians follow standard operating procedures.
Employing sustainable practices through the use of eforms can aid in meeting these requirements and preventing future consequences, whilst eliminating the need for paper to track and manage compliance. However, FSM should always be used in conjunction with appropriate training, procedures, and adherence to relevant regulations.
3. Operational Efficiency:
Sustainable measures can also boost operational productivity and decrease expenses.
Using hybrid or electric vehicles, for instance, can drastically cut fuel expenses, and optimising routes can minimise travel time and increase field worker productivity.
4. Customer Satisfaction:
Today’s consumers are more conscious of how companies are affecting the environment and are more inclined to choose organisations that value sustainability. Therefore, by implementing sustainable FSM practices, companies can improve customer satisfaction, retention and enhance brand loyalty.
5. Social Responsibility:
Sustainable practices help to promote social responsibility. Companies that embrace sustainable practices indicate their commitment to addressing social and environmental concerns, the community and society as a whole.
How is field service management helping companies to improve their sustainability practices?
Field service management involves the management of a company’s mobile workforce, including scheduling, dispatching, tracking, and managing field workers who provide services or support to customers outside the office or the company’s main facility. FSM collaboration tools can help field service companies to reduce their environmental impact, and engage in more sustainable practices and here are some ways in which field service management is doing exactly that:
1. Digitising Service Processes Saves Paper, Ink, Costs & Waste
Paper Reduction Significantly Reduces Greenhouse Emissions
Field service was notoriously paper-intensive before the development of Workflow Management systems. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the production of paper is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries and accounts for 40% of the world’s logging. In the UK the paper industry is the 4th most energy-intensive industry and in a recent Statista report, it was recorded that the manufacture of paper and paper products in the United Kingdom produced approximately 2.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. The IEA states that the pulp and paper sector was responsible for about 2% of the UK’s total emissions in 2021. One of the clear sustainability advantages of using a field service management system is going paperless – or substantially decreasing paper-based procedures.
Additionally, FSM software also allows for a reduction in paper usage in the following areas:
- Price estimates and work orders can be generated online in real-time.
- On-site technicians can record images and notes using mobile applications.
- Customers can electronically sign documents on the technician’s mobile device.
- Using digital forms saves paper waste.
Moving away from Ink and Printer Cartridges Reduces landfill
Likewise, going paperless not only eliminates paper, but also reduces the usage of ink, and printer cartridges. Ink waste presents itself in two forms – from the plastic casing that stores the ink as well as the ink itself. According to The Recycling Factory, more than 350 million printer cartridges are disposed of in landfill worldwide each year, and of that 350 million, Over 65 million printer cartridges are sold each year in the UK alone. Of these 65 million cartridges, only an estimated 15% are recycled or reused. As well as this, up to three pints of oil are used in the manufacture of a new toner cartridge and the plastic that is contained within the casing of a printer cartridge can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
For service operations that rely on printed reports, work orders, inventory lists, customer invoices and maintenance contracts, etc., the print savings are substantial after switching to a digital field service management software, which is great for both the business’ expenditures and its environmental impact.
2. Reduced Field Workforce Emissions due to Scheduling Issues
Field service scheduling processes have previously depended on manual and error-prone workflows, resulting in decreased productivity, and profitability and typically had a negative impact on the environment due to increased emissions. Field service scheduling is a complicated procedure that must balance a variety of circumstances such as competing demands, last-minute schedule adjustments, changing technician locations, adverse weather, and unpredictable traffic. Estimation errors in travel, service time, and parts required might also negatively impact a technician’s schedule and increase the requirement for an additional service appointment for the customer. This leads to more vehicles on the road and increased fuel consumption, causing financial and environmental costs for the company. Over time, such inefficiencies and extra journeys can accumulate, increase the carbon footprint of the company, and cause irreparable damage to the environment. Alternatively, by maximising the routes and timetables of field technicians, FSM can boost sustainability.
However, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) scheduling software in FSM has played a critical role in lowering these emissions and improving workflows. AI also simplifies field service operations and promotes sustainability by maximising the routes and timetables of field technicians to reduce vehicle over usage. With the aid of advanced algorithms and real-time data, FSM software can reduce travel time, avoid heavy traffic, and minimise fuel consumption. This leads to reduced environmental impact as less fuel is burnt and fewer greenhouse gases are released as well as, cost savings, and improved productivity for field workers as they can complete more jobs in less time due to route and scheduling optimization. Distances, traffic patterns, and other factors are considered to determine how long it will take a mobile worker to drive to a customer. AI can also predict how long a job will take based on previous experience with similar activities. Furthermore, AI can predict the tools and parts needed for a job, reducing the need for a second trip.
Companies committed to sustainability must properly manage each of these aspects to minimise travel time and fuel use while increasing output. Companies can benefit from field service management software whilst improving their sustainability practices in the following ways:
- Simplifying and automating complex scheduling tasks,
- Removing error-prone manual processes,
- Increasing visibility and control of the supply chain and correct parts,
- Processing data quickly and accurately,
- Automating and optimising dispatch management procedures,
- Optimising resource-heavy consumption processes,
- Reducing the length of time taken for a field service operator to arrive at the location and carry out the necessary work.
3. Raising First-Time Fix Rates and Reducing Return Visits Improves Customer Journeys
Did you know that According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Commercial vehicles reached a record share of vehicles on the road by the end of 2021, with 5,483,319 vans, trucks, buses and coaches in operation at the end of the year, a 4.1% increase on the previous year.
The Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency released a report detailing that there were: 39.2 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain in 2021. Meaning commercial vehicles account for 14% of the total number of vehicles in the UK that year, and according to the UK Department for Transport, road transport accounted for over 24% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, of which commercial vehicles accounted for 6%. This means that commercial vehicles were responsible for approximately 1.44% (6% of 24%) of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. These statistics show how much damage is being done to our planet, due to the transportation industry.
FSM collaboration tools improve sustainability by promoting efficient service delivery and reduced transportation. Real-time access to customer data, work orders, and service histories enables field technicians to diagnose and resolve issues quickly and accurately. This not only improves customer satisfaction, but also reduces the need for repeat visits, which in turn reduces fuel consumption, emissions, and waste.
By matching the best-trained technicians working in the area with individual clients, FSM improves first-time fix rates while also saving time and fuel. Technicians can record and monitor each action on their handheld devices, reducing the need for excessive contact with the business’s back-end offices.
4. Inventory Management, Equipment Efficiencies and Maximised Health and Safety to Reduced Energy Consumption
Inventory and Asset Management
One of the significant ways in which FSM software systems contribute to sustainability is by enabling companies to track and manage their inventory and resources more effectively. Having a comprehensive view of equipment can offer businesses an even greater chance of meeting the demands of both the service and supply chain organisations, which improves overall efficiency and reduces waste. By avoiding overstocking and wasting resources, companies can reduce their environmental impact and save money. This not only allows for better asset availability and lower parts inventory but also reduces the weight in the vans which helps in lowering total fuel usage and reducing the amount of waste generated by field service operations.
In turn, this helps to conserve natural resources, minimise environmental impacts, and reduce financial costs for the company. Overall, it helps companies track, manage, and optimise their resources, thus contributing towards a sustainable future.
Maximising Health and Safety
Health and safety are crucial not only for field engineers, equipment operators, and organisations but also for the environment as a whole. It is important to prioritise health, safety, and environmental concerns in field service management to ensure sustainable and responsible operations. Compliance with machinery, processes, procedures, and equipment is necessary to prevent or eliminate adverse environmental consequences A field service management system that contains checklist capabilities, that also stores the data relating to the necessary skills and knowledge of technicians, can significantly increase compliance and reduce or eliminate the chances of major failures, which, in turn, decreases the need for multiple journeys for field operators. By reducing the number of trips, organisations can decrease fuel consumption, which results in a lower carbon footprint.
How can Simply Workflow help you achieve your sustainability targets?
The statistics in this blog post highlight the environmental impact of transportation and pulp and paper industries. To address this issue, businesses must adopt more sustainable practices, and Simply Workflow, a sustainability-focused field service management system, can help.
Simply Workflow is a 100% paperless software that enables back office staff to schedule field engineers via their mobile devices, while engineers can view their workload and from their mobile devices. The system’s digital custom drag-and-drop forms also eliminate paper and allow for digital signatures from customers, streamlining data storage for audits, jobs, and customer information.
Simply Workflow’s industry-leading scheduling tool reduces missed appointments and prevents unnecessary visits, saving time, energy, resources, and transport costs for clients’ companies whilst increasing employee productivity as they can complete more jobs in the same amount of time, resulting in improved customer satisfaction.
Simply Workflow is also facilitating the rollout of Solar Photovoltaics (PV) and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging. The system is fully compatible with the needs of Solar PV and EV installation companies and has recently seen an influx in demand from these sectors. For renewable energy businesses, where sustainability is critical, having an environmentally friendly FSM provider like Simply Workflow makes perfect sense.
Using a sustainability-focused field service management system such as Simply Workflow, companies can adopt more environmentally friendly business practices, reduce their environmental impact, improve their social responsibility, and meet customer demands. By embracing sustainable practices, businesses can enhance their brand reputation and contribute to the overall well-being of the planet.
If you would like to know more about how we can help your organisation to improve sustainability practices, please visit simplyworkflow.com or call us on +44 2843320496.