This example is based on a 10% reduction in broken calls due to lack of part availability. This results in 25,000 fewer broken calls requiring return visits per year. If each return visit takes an additional 2.5 hours of technician time (part ordering, return trip drive time, and additional on-site work time), that’s $3.1M in gained technician productivity annually. That’s also a big reduction in dissatisfied customers.
One of the best investments a field service organization can make to improve their part availability and improve the productivity of their technicians is to reduce the need for return visits. Prophet by Baxter is the industry leading solution for field service inventory planning.
What Makes Field Service Inventory Planning Different?
Networks of physical warehouses are relatively static, both in position and the overall number of locations. Technician workforces are more dynamic. Technicians are mobile and change product responsibility. Technician territory assignments can also change frequently to maintain workload balance. These attributes create a unique set of problems.
- Turnover: It’s not unusual for a technician workforce to have 10% turnover in a year. If the overall organization size stays stable, that’s a loss of 100 trained technicians a year in a workforce of 1,000. Newly added technicians don’t necessarily service the same population of customers and products as the technician they replace, so field service managers regularly shuffle technician territories and assignments to match their workforce and customer base.
- Incomplete or Incorrect Demand History: Technician inventory can’t be efficiently planned using only each technician’s individual “demand history.” Demand history based inventory planning will always be reactive; as there is no plan until that individual technician has experienced demand. When demand occurs before there’s a plan, broken service calls and return visits are the inevitable result. A combination of incorporating installed base knowledge and team/territory assignment knowledge into the plan is critical for success.
- Training: Technician training requirements change over time. As new products are introduced, a limited subset of technicians may be trained to service those products. Understanding which technicians are candidates for parts based on training and call assignment rules is critical.
- Plan Stability and Excess Avoidance: Technicians are people, not buildings, and have limited inventory storage space. Technicians will notice an unstable inventory plan that adds, removes, and re-adds the same part within a short period because they must book those transactions themselves. Plan instability costs money in transportation expense and lost technician productivity, and erodes confidence that a centrally managed plan is doing a better job than they could do on their own. After a time, technicians will demand overrides or simply stockpile additional parts, creating excess and reducing the effectiveness of an inventory optimization strategy.