When speaking with clients the topic of dispatching work to mobile field service workers often comes up, specifically as they evaluate the ideal dispatching method between Bulk dispatching or Drip-Feed dispatching. As with most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Each offers its share of advantages and disadvantages, but are they the only two options?
In field service management, bulk dispatching is the dispatching of enough work to a mobile worker such that it fulfills a complete work day. Once the work has been dispatched, it’s typically locked to that field service technician. This is the optimal strategy in situations where field service technicians will spend the majority of their day in remote locations and without connection to the server; it provides technicians with their work for the day and allows them to enter the work details even when they are disconnected. At the end of the day, when the technician is back in a covered zone, the data on the mobile device is synchronized back to the server.
An often neglected consideration when choosing this dispatch method is the emotional impact it has on field service technicians. When dispatching technicians their full work day, they can see what is expected of them the entire day. They will be able to see the types of work they will be dealing with, locations they will be traveling to, and that they are scheduled for a full day of activity. With this detail, technicians are able to mentally prepare for the day, which in turn, can provide them an elevated level of comfort and potentially positively impact their field service efficiency.
Drip-Feed dispatching is the process of pushing one job at a time to the field service technician as they complete their current job. The primary benefit of this approach is that the work that hasn’t been dispatched is available for further optimization, allowing organizations the ability to squeeze out more efficiencies from their field workforce as the schedule changes during the day. For organizations that have a highly dynamic field service management department, drip-feeding work to the technicians can increase utilization rates while decreasing operational costs.
Originally it was the industry that started a push towards implementing drip-feed dispatching into their organizations, due to the benefits of an increased technician utilization rate and the lowering of operational costs; but it soon became evident that some considerations may deduce that drip-feeding was not necessarily the best choice for all organizations. For example, drip-feeding jobs create a challenge for organizations where technicians are frequently disconnected from the server for long periods of time, when the field service technician completes the current job and cannot receive the next.
Once again, from an emotional perspective, field service technicians that start the day with only one visible job can experience an uneasiness with their inability to plan out their full day and mentally prepare for what’s ahead. This uneasiness may cause additional stress and complaints from the technicians, who may eventually pressure field service management for more visibility into their workday.
The third, less considered alternative: a hybrid method
The hybrid alternative is best suited for organizations who are looking to reap the benefits of the drip-feed approach but find themselves with field service technicians that are frequently out of network coverage. There are two ways in which to achieve a blend of both the bulk and drip-feed method:
- Drip-Feed Multiple Jobs – Applied to this approach, instead of drip-feeding one job at a time, the field service management system is setup to drip-feed jobs to the technician so that they always have X number of jobs sitting on their mobile device, ready to be worked. This provides the benefit of minimizing the number of jobs dispatched at any given time, while allowing for better utilized field service Furthermore, having multiple jobs on the mobile device at all times allows technicians to work in areas with no connectivity, with updates occurring as they travel between jobs and cross into connected zones. Conversely, this approach still doesn’t fully address employee anxiety issue, but does help to reduce it.
- Dispatch Tentative Jobs – Applied to this approach, all the jobs that are assigned to a field service technician are presented on the mobile device without locking them to that technician. This allows technicians to see what their day looks like at any point in time, with the understanding that it may change. At the same time, the organization benefits by being able to better utilize resources as the schedule changes throughout the day. Blending this option with drip-feeding multiple jobs makes it even more attractive. On the other hand, while technicians can see their planned work day, they will need to be comfortable with the knowledge that jobs originally scheduled later in the day are subject to change.
So which approach is better?
Well, it depends. Consider the pros and cons of each approach and determine if the cons related to the approach are meaningful to your field service management. In which case, the hybrid option offers adjustments to mitigate some of the cons, but they may also introduce their own.
The bottom line is that there is no “best” approach for all companies, there is only the best approach for a specific set of circumstances. It’s a matter of deciding which is the most beneficial for your optimal field service management organization.