Understanding and Driving Field Organization Sustainability
In an era where sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity, several industries are undergoing significant changes to meet environmental challenges and implement sustainable practices in the supply chains. Field service professionals play a pivotal role in this transformation, especially if operating in areas that may be required to renew fleets with electric vehicles (EVs), measure CO2 emissions, or embrace more remote service options.
In this scenario, the utilities industry is no exception as it is undergoing a significant shift, where sustainability requires not just operational adjustments, but a fundamental evolution of core products and services. Some of these changes will directly impact consumers (e.g., installing solar, or ground-source heat pumps instead of gas boilers), while some will remain invisible to them (e.g., switching from natural gas to hydrogen blends, or power generated by wind as opposed to coal).
Furthermore, incorporating ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) reporting into consolidated business practice is increasingly crucial, pressuring organizations, especially utilities, to deeply consider sustainable business practices. This is particularly true when their customers are fully or partially public companies.
Modernize infrastructure by leveraging technology
Modern infrastructure demands modern tools. Simply put, maintaining an offshore wind farm on paper and spreadsheets alone is no longer an option. The network must be able to cope with updated infrastructure (e.g., wind turbines or solar panels) from an energy storage and transmission perspective. By way of example, wind turbines and solar panels necessitate sophisticated solutions for optimally planning upgrades, repairs, and replacements. As a result, smart assets located in remote locations become paramount for performing effective maintenance when it is most appropriate.
Fortunately, the same technology that has efficiently guided organizations and field technicians to save fuel, time, and aggravation of risks due to detected issues, is now paving the way for the new era of environmental sustainability.
By harnessing sustainability strategies within Field Service Management (FSM), organizations can align cost reduction with emissions reduction, just to name a couple of the benefits within easy reach. Further examples include optimizing routes for electric fleets, which becomes much more important if combined with tracking diesel fuel spending in the era of range-limited EVs. Furthermore, remote collaboration has shifted from a luxury driving first-time fixes to a standard tool for minimizing on-site visits.
Sustainability in Field Service Management
Sustainability has three key elements in the context of Field Service:
- Sustainable power generation as a core offering, combined with emissions reduction
- Collaborative engagement in sustainability
- Uptime and first-time fix enhancement
1. Sustainable power generation as a core offering
To serve both operational efficiency and core offering sustainable business models, the solution adopted by future-oriented organizations must leverage connected data — for example, to empower field technicians with everything they need to complete a job, as well as generate planned maintenance in line with condition and usage of the asset.
For example, consider an organization operating a wind turbine in the tempestuous North Sea. By leveraging the turbine’s IoT information, the business can react in a sustainable fashion to this piece of equipment. This might involve energy consumption as the business can track weather to indicate when it may want to power down that turbine (preserving its longevity or affording an opportunity for maintenance there, versus another place in the network) or when to ensure the turbine is online (i.e., to capitalize on high winds). This holistic approach encompasses more than simple task assignment and allows for a more comprehensive optimization process in terms of inspection, maintenance, and repair activities.
2. Collaborative engagement in sustainability
More stakeholders are becoming involved in sustainable practices (i.e., think about the rise of positions such as Head of Sustainability). Additional suppliers and manufacturers are giving their contribution to the corporate business with a view to its sustainable development, as well. In this sense, they might manufacture specialized leak detection and pipe maintenance technology, hold specific green credentials, or have insights into installing and configuring new renewable power sources.
Consider an individual with a new EV who needs a charging station installed in their driveway. How does the installing organization understand the vehicle type and required charging speed? What about usage over time, upgrades, and maintenance? One of the key challenges to help organizations evolve to this new normal is enabling them to execute for now and tomorrow, simultaneously, while sacrificing neither and adopting a holistic and successful approach.
3. Driving uptime and first-time fixes
Driving uptime and first-time fixes inherently has a positive effect on carbon emissions. Again, existing technologies provide near-limitless options, including remote and augmented capabilities, while collaborative technologies, which enable field technicians to consult an off-site expert, have double effect.
The on-site technician can be walked through the service and complete it efficiently, while the more knowledgeable technician at the other end of the line is available as a resource to more technicians. In other words, this practice drives first-time fixes by empowering technicians with every possible resource to complete the job themselves, regardless of experience level. For example, guided job debriefs (e.g., a step-by-step of how to close a job down) means people new to the job have the ability to capture exactly the same data as a tenured member of staff. As a consequence, digitizing data capture and contextualizing it using a Field Service platform also promotes process consistency throughout the company.
Environmental impacts and technological advancements should synergize to empower organizations to achieve their sustainability objectives and navigate ecological transition. The UN sustainability guidelines establish a firm foundation for this endeavor, including vital elements, such as affordable and clean energy efficiency, innovative infrastructure, sustainable communities, and climate action. These priorities harmonize, rather than compete.
Field Service operations expert with 10+ years of experience helping organizations evolve their Field Service operations across industries including utilities, oil & gas, telecommunications, and transportation.