Field Operations processes are a central component of every Utility organisation’s value chains, and their efficiency has never been of greater significance than it is now. The composite challenge of improving productivity, engaging geographically dispersed teams and planning jobs ever more efficiently and effectively, will simply not go away.
Regulation continues to become more and more challenging, and consumers continue to become ever more sophisticated. These twin factors put increasing pressure on the need to improve all processes within Field Operators, whilst also working within the boundaries set by the multiple challenges of managing escalating costs and maintaining the very highest level of safety at all times.
The Field Operators environment in the Utilities sector is one that is constantly evolving and subject to high demand pressures.
Some key areas of consideration when reviewing how to drive improvements within Field Operators in the Utilities sector include:
Can the whole be greater than the sum of its parts?
Field teams are ultimately the product of their inputs and in order to achieve improvement, attention must be given to both upstream and downstream processes.
The improvement required within the field teams is significant, but if these are made in isolation then they will likely prove to be short-term, resulting in unsustainable improvement.
By considering the wider environment of field teams, such as planning and off-line support, substantial and longer term improvement can be achieved.
Understand the end-to-end process
Utility Field Operations processes are complex, with multiple inputs and dependencies often from both various internal departments and external sources. In order to drive true improvement, a holistic view of the entire process should be mapped; outlining the intersections and connections between each process component and department.
Separating departmental decisions and processes leads to inefficiency, as resources are allocated and decisions can be made in isolation, and without consideration of the wider impact.
With these insights, the approach to the required improvements can be made logically and in line with the areas of greatest need and potential impact.
Consider the wider logistical network
Field Operations is not solely the accountability of one operational area, there are many other critical components in creating an efficient network.
The locations of the store, depot and third party suppliers are all essential considerations to include in any review of field operation processes.
Using gut instincts and organisational rules-of-thumb to plan assignments can lead to longer travel times and costs, missed time windows and reduced customer satisfaction – both in terms of feedback, potential complaints and SIM scores.
Steps can be taken to understand and create a wider logistical network which works in harmony with field teams in order to facilitate, not hamper, the efficient delivery of productive outcomes.
Engage your people
Field Operations are people critical and require a complex network of relationships, all working in harmony. Creating effective and sustainable improvement through change first requires the engagement of employees – at all levels – in the organisation, as well as the removal of silo thinking and behaviours in teams and functional areas.
With barriers removed, increased and open communication can take place, leading to increased understanding of organisational processes and their interdependencies. A greater understanding of the need for improvement motivates stakeholders to work towards change. This is born out of increased transparency of problems and a shared vision. In addition, the improvement in the flow of information and ideas will generate quicker results.
By including each individual in the drive for improvement through transparent communications and engagement, it will decrease resistance to change, strengthen relationship networks, and help ensure positive and lasting organisational change.
There is always room for improvement
The constantly evolving nature of Field Operations processes within the Utilities sector means that there is no permanent ‘one best way’ solution. Fuelled by the increasing complexities of the customer environment and regulatory requirements, achieving a state of perfection can be both difficult and daunting, but that shouldn’t discourage attempts to attain it.
Only by continuously striving for improvement over the long-term can real, sustainable improvement come about. Regular inputs from stakeholders, strong leadership, engaged and empowered employees, and an infrastructure of change delivery, are all essential components in the journey towards continuous and positive change.
As this mind-set starts to permeate throughout an organisation, managerial support will help ensure that an attitude of continuous improvement be incorporated into an organisation’s culture – this is the ultimate goal for those seeking to continuously drive sustainable improvement in the Field operations process and Utility organisations as a whole.
Field Operations is a crucial component to any modern Utility organisation. Considering these key points for improving Field operations processes will be of benefit to your Continuous Improvement strategy and pursuit of Operational Excellence.
This article explores the challenges within field operations , including the ever-increasing requirements of both the regulator and the customer, and how they could be met.