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Field Service Sustainability Gets An Upgrade: How Technology Can Make Net-Zero Goals a Reality

Field Service Sustainability Gets An Upgrade How Technology Can Make Net-Zero Goals a Reality

Field Service Sustainability Gets An Upgrade How Technology Can Make Net-Zero Goals a Reality

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series—a collection of articles written by industry thought leaders in maturing software categories—Sarah Nicastro, the VP of Customer Engagement at IFS, explains the role technology plays in improving field service sustainability efforts.

Sustainability is top of the business agenda. As ambitious 2050 net-zero plans draw closer, one in five of the 2,000 largest publicly listed companies worldwide have significant headway to make, should they wish to achieve this target. With a worldwide annual output of 57 gigatons of CO2, the spotlight is firmly on scaling down carbon emissions, and field service organizations have a significant role in transforming services more smartly and sustainably.

The field service industry is at an inflection point. As it stands, the planet must drastically reduce emissions to remain on track for net-zero targets. But in 2021 alone, the world produced a staggering 40.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, with the U.S. accounting for almost one-sixth of this total output. Nevertheless, the U.S. is committed to reaching net-zero targets by 2050 and reducing the effects of climate change. Its Long-Term Strategy (LTS)  document identifies cutting energy waste as one of the crucial ways the U.S. will achieve 2050 targets.   

It’s here, particularly in field service sustainability initiatives, where technology will prove valuable in helping make these goals a reality. From moving from using digital planning tools to optimize technician mileage and reduce energy waste to advanced artificial intelligence (AI) that drives sustainable optimization.  

Planning is at the Forefront of Field Service Sustainability

The transportation industry is the most significant contributor to U.S. emissions, so it is vital to transition to net zero. U.S. vehicles produce 1,098 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in just one year—almost one-fifth of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing drive time is crucial to reducing the nation’s carbon footprint.  

While we see more and more service organizations adopting a remote-first approach, which will reduce the number of on-site visits necessary for field technicians to complete, companies agree that there’s no foreseeable future in which field service doesn’t include an on-site component. Where and when service visits remain necessary, optimized resource utilization and route scheduling provide an impactful way for field service organizations to tighten fuel consumption, to reduce energy waste and carbon emissions.  

However, this is easier said than done. Matching team resources with fluctuating demand over multiple time horizons is challenging. Managing customer expectations with unexpected delays and unforeseen events in real-time must often take priority over perfectly optimized resource utilization.  

But AI-powered Planning, Scheduling & Optimization (PSO) technology can save field service organizations many hours, countless miles, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, ensuring operations are as efficient and sustainable as possible without sacrificing customer experience. 

Send Technicians on the Best Route Possible to Benefit Costs, Waste, and Delays 

The dynamic route optimization function of PSO technology assigns jobs to technicians that will optimize drive time by taking the most efficient route. It achieves this by using AI to calculate the time needed to complete each task based on existing data for each technician so that an appropriate timeframe is given to jobs that are more complex or have a larger scale to guarantee enough time for completion and prevent overruns. Routing is also optimized based on geographic parameters, such as operating in an urban versus rural catchment area. It assigns jobs that are as close together as resource availability allows. This ensures the order of jobs is time-optimized and route optimized so each field technician travels the minimum amount of distance necessary. 

PSO: The watching eye for field service 

Real-time optimization, scalability, and built-in intelligence are essential for workforce planning and scheduling. The AI technology embedded in an advanced PSO system finds and fixes invisible inefficiencies businesses cannot see. It automates the optimization of workforce planning, scheduling, and routing for a more streamlined, efficient, and environmentally friendly version of field service operations.  

PSO automatically schedules service time slots based on resource availability and prioritizes jobs depending on the level of urgency so that the most urgent and time-sensitive appointments can be scheduled as soon as possible without interfering with pre-existing jobs. This means the right resources are available at the right time for the right job without the risk of double-booking or needing technicians to make multiple trips. 

When there are sudden changes in either demand and urgent request or resource availability—due to illness, for example—PSO can immediately absorb incoming workload imbalances by automating capacity and the movement of resources, minimizing the number of trips a technician must make, and maximizing operational efficiency in real-time. 

The Proof is in the Stats 

Businesses have reduced average technician travel time by 35-50 percent when implementing IFS PSO. One example is CoolSys, a U.S.-based HVAC/R services parent company with marquee customers like Amazon, Target, Starbucks, and Walmart. The company reduced average technician travel time by 35 percent using IFS PSO. 

As you can imagine, the travel time and mileage reduction significantly impact the environment. Take, for example, a field service organization with a workforce of 1,000 technicians that complete 780,000 jobs a year, covering approx. 14 million miles. With medium-sized trucks averaging 8 miles/gallon and every gallon of gasoline releasing 22 pounds of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, the typical field service business can produce up to 38,500,000 pounds of CO2 yearly. After deploying PSO and cutting travel time by 35 percent to 9.1 million miles, annual carbon emissions can be reduced by 65 percent to just 13,475,000 pounds per year.  

Along with these critical emissions reductions come significant business cost savings. For instance, if fuel prices average $5 per gallon, a 35 percent reduction in travel time from planning and scheduling optimization could save fuel costs that could amount to, as they do in our example, $3,087,000 per year. 

Maturing with Age: Cost and Sustainability Advantages Keep Getting Better 

Thanks to PSO’s AI and machine learning capabilities, the results keep improving as time goes on. It’s a continual learning process. The machine learning within the optimization works round the clock to enhance job accuracy—it learns how long each technician takes to perform different jobs and creates every field service engineer a fingerprint to best match each person to the most suitable job. It gives field service organizations a fully tailored-made PSO system, customized to their workforce and operations, to improve ROI over time.  

The cost-saving and eco-benefits facilitated by PSO are clear to see. Field service sustainability and optimization have been taken to new heights, enabling organizations to achieve sought-after business goals while delivering excellent customer experience.

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