Spare a thought for field workers this winter

Posted by Leadent Solutions on December 17, 2013

As the winter months are now upon us and temperatures start to drop, spare a thought for the many field-based workers. Not only is it getting chilly outside, but one of the common information challenges faced by them is that of access to up-to-date documents. In particular, those corporate documents which are of direct relevance to the jobs they’ve been allocated, be it the latest Policy and Procedures, Health and Safety instructions, or site and asset instructions.

As many organisations have implemented an Enterprise Content Management system (such as OpenText) it has become easier for those in the office to access the centrally managed corporate documents through those systems. This cannot always be said for the Field Worker. Are Field Workers the forgotten users?

Organisations with a significant number of Field Workers typically implement Workforce Management (WFM) tools (such as ClickSchedule and ClickRoster) to manage the allocation and scheduling of jobs to those workers and to help achieve optimum utilisation and efficiency of responses. These software tools are often used by the Field Workers on a mobile device such as a toughened laptop (such as the Toughbook), tablet,PDA, or mobile and their work orders/job allocation are issued to them through the software (app).

In many cases the WFM tool job information utilises integration points with the organisation’s master data system, for example SAP or other Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, to deliver asset or site related data to the specific Field Worker who is tasked with the job. This data might be a site map, GPScoordinates, previous job activity history, and asset serial numbers and identifiers. In order to complete the job as efficiently as possible Field Workers also need access to the latest work instructions, policy and procedures, and health and safety notices, etc. This is where access to the up-to-date corporate documents comes in.

Currently, many Field Workers rely on corporate documents being emailed to them from the (warm and cosy) office worker, this may be fine initially, but then there is a continued reliance on a manual process to update the Field Worker by email every time the central documents are updated, and also a reliance on the Field Worker to store duplicate copies on a local device. A similarly outmoded way of working is to rely on distribution of hard copy (printed) documents that are frequently stuffed into van glove boxes and down the sides of door pockets. These can be easily lost and damaged.

It is easy to see the risks that quickly stack up; including audit compliance in ensuring workers have all relevant up-to-date documentation, especially health and safety information for working at dangerous sites or with machinery. Not to mention, the impact on both efficiency and quality with which those jobs are completed if the up-to-date job information is not available. Surely there has to be a better way?

What about associating job type allocation with the key documentation (centrally managed and stored in theECM system) needed to complete the job, and providing synchronised links to those documents for the Field Worker to access through their Toughbook? In areas of limited or no mobile connectivity the document would be available offline, and if the corporate document(s) is updated the Field Worker will retrieve the most recent version through the synchronised document link. This would remove the reliance on inefficient manual processes, mitigate the audit compliance risks of Field Workers not have the most up-to-date documentation, which in turns goes some way to mitigate the crucial risks to health and safety associated with working on these sites and assets, and of improving work quality and efficiency.