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Why are Productivity Improvements for Field Operations a Major Challenge?

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It goes without saying that field operations extensively contribute to the structure of Utilities Organisations, yet why do they continue to be a weak link?

Increasing the productivity of field operations is not a new challenge, with logistical planning crowned as the biggest hurdle. There is a tendency for organisations to tackle productivity improvements for field operations through purchasing new technology or outsourcing to third parties.  Conversely, a successful organisation will utilise a systematic and holistic approach to address challenges head on and achieve operational excellence.  There are 4 elements that may hinder organisations on their journey to continuous improvement:

  1. The KPI Pursuit

We live in a performance culture whereby everything requires a measurement and a metric to prove its worth. Governing bodies have created a troublesome combination of looming penalties and incentives to progress, which can hinder productivity as managers drill down on specific KPIs whilst neglecting other equally important ones. This tunnel vision calls for missed opportunities to improve productivity. Particularly within logistics, as specific job types and schedules earn higher priority than the daily distance travelled by the field operators; thus resulting in work sequence inefficiencies.

  1. Trade-Off Pressures

Privatisation of many sectors including utilities has created the capitalistic pressures of high demand coupled with the burden of reducing costs. This creates trade-offs between quality, quantity, cost and time, of which it is difficult to find a middle ground and impacts upon productivity levels within field teams. Companies can assume technology and outsourcing to third parties will solve all their productivity issues. However, new technology often acts a sticking plaster; failing to resolve the root cause of the problem in the tools or processes from which the low productivity stems. Further to this, outsourced companies may have conflicting working terms which could create a disconnect with your own operations.

  1. Decentralised Processes

The geographical dispersion of field workers can cause challenges within field operations as they operate in a similar fashion to a small business whereby there can be a lack of effective oversight of operations by management. This can cause silos within field operations, with an ‘us’ and ‘them’ working environment, killing productivity due to the lack of engagement, communication and resistance to share resources.

  1. Poor Resource Utilisation

It goes without saying that planning is at the heart of productivity improvements for the success of field operations, therefore organisations must ensure that both their planning and offline support are in place and effective. Field operators must be fully aware of the key requirements necessary for the job, and that they have access to offline support to assist with the delivery of additional parts and be able to complete all the jobs within specific distances around the same time frame. Failure in any of these areas may result in incomplete jobs, frustration for field operators and unsatisfied customers. 

Are you familiar with any of these challenges? 

Unipart Expert Practices has supported a multitude of organisations in transforming their field operations. In this series of articles our Expert Practitioners will reflect here on their observations and provide insight into how your organisation can take steps to unlock the full power of your workforce and deliver sustainable change.

The Field Generation Puzzle

The Field Operations Puzzle

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.

Access the Guide

Simon Everidge

Posted by Simon Everidge

Director of Utilities at Unipart Expert Practices

The Unipart Way: performance improvement that sustains.

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