Everywhere you turn, smart devices are changing the way we live, work, and communicate (hello, Alexa). And while a device that can give you a weather report, find funny cat pictures, and help you choose a Friday night movie may be fun (and may even save you time), the real question for businesses is this: How can technology innovations improve your bottom line?
Almost every industry has applications of technologies like:
* Artificial Intelligence (AI)
* Machine Learning
* Internet of Things
* Big Data
But if those technologies can’t generate a sufficient return on your investment, they aren’t worth your business’s attention.
That’s why we’re excited about the many ways these technologies can improve performance for employees in the field. If AI (or any other tech) can help your employees finish jobs faster, make more sales, or reduce expenses, that’s something you need to know about.
How Technology Changes The Way Employees Work in the Field
Technology for remote work isn’t just for electricians and contractors. It’s applicable across a wide variety of industries and job functions, from transportation and logistics to healthcare and manufacturing. Here’s why:
The technologies we listed above can be applied in many ways to streamline work both in the office and in remote settings. They’re becoming more user-friendly, helping employees do their jobs faster, facilitating more effective and time-sensitive communication, and much more. In short, they’re changing the way we work. Here are some examples:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI handles complicated or intricate jobs with greater precision than human workers. It reduces the potential for error and helps employees complete their work faster and more accurately.
An application of AI, machine learning uses past data to “learn” and improve functions such as equipment management, quality testing, or supply chain management.
Internet of Things
IoT connects devices and collects data in real time. This makes it possible to track goods, improve quality control, monitor performance, and much more.
Using the data collected from IoT, AI, and employee input, data analytics can measure progress, monitor productivity, and predict future performance.
Employees in the field often don’t have the time or ability to sit at a desk and input data or respond to communications. Mobile connectivity helps them complete sales, get customer signatures, track job progress and completion, clock in and out at different locations and more, all from a tablet or smartphone.
Let’s Get Specific: Examples of Technology for Remote Work
All those benefits are great, but we still need to answer our initial question: How can these technologies improve your bottom line? Or to rephrase: What are some specific ways you can apply them to get higher ROI for specific jobs?
Let’s take a look at some examples.
IoT solutions can track vehicles and monitor driver activity, giving you greater insight into the performance of your fleet as a whole and of individual carriers. Technology can track delivery routes, improve sustainability by supporting fuel conservation efforts, send alerts for routine maintenance needs, and log data like fuel consumption, miles, vehicle speed, and more.
And even more importantly, you won’t have to manage any of this data manually. Your vehicles themselves become tools to monitor and manage performance, ultimately reducing costs and enabling faster deliveries.
Logging data by means of AI, mobile devices, and IoT helps you assess work patterns and equip your team to be more productive. For example, an electrical contractor could log tasks and share information about projects using a mobile app. Team members coming behind him to work on the same project can easily see what has been done, what problems still need to be addressed, and where maintenance can prevent downtime. Mobile data collection also serves as a knowledge repository so that when an employee leaves the company, the work he or she did and the knowledge they possess about the client remains available.
That’s just one of a multitude of applications for data analytics. You can collect data from any device that is connected to your network, whether that’s an AI-enabled piece of equipment or an employee’s tablet.
Speaking of mobile apps, you can use them to keep employees connected so they can share the latest iterations of a project, communicate with coworkers in other locations, and make notes on a project. Apps can be designed to access building schematics, project documentation, 3D models, inspection forms, audit checklists, pricing information and quotes, record keeping and much more. When all this information can be accessed via mobile, you eliminate many of the errors that happen when employees have to fill out their documentation from memory or haul around reams of paper for reference.
Smart Supply Chains
What if you could trace each link in the supply chain so you always knew exactly what resources you had available, when you could expect shipments, and where your products were at any given moment? That’s what IoT and machine learning can do for your supply chain logistics. Smart containers, fleet management, and AI applications give you all that data at your fingertips so you can more effectively predict customer demand.
Technology is vital for an effective sales process, and it helps you close deals faster by making key information more accessible. For example, data visualization enables sales reps to access key client data, KPIs, and activity trends on the road, and a well designed mobile app can facilitate faster quotes and proposals and makes it possible for clients to sign contracts anywhere with eSignatures.
Machine learning is one of the most exciting new technologies in the manufacturing space, and it’s one you’ll want to keep an eye on as it continues to evolve. Here’s why. Forbes reports that machine learning applications can:
* Improve semiconductor manufacturing yields up to 30%
* Reduce scrap rates
* Optimize fab operations
* Reduce supply chain forecasting errors by 50%
* Reduce lost sales by 65% with better product availability
* Increase defect detection rates up to 90% with automated quality testing
All of these applications help employees on the shop floor optimize overall operations and produce a higher-quality product, while at the same time reducing production cycle times and lead times.
Flexible Work Policies
This one may not technically fall into the category of “field work,” but it’s still an important consideration. In 2017, 3.9 million people worked from home at least half the time. If some of your employees are among them, you need remote work solutions that can keep everyone productive, engaged, and connected. Here are just a few ways technology can accomplish those goals:
Group chat and notification apps: Use a messaging app to facilitate communication among coworkers in different locations.
Videoconferencing: This one has been around awhile, but it’s still essential for team collaboration among remote workers. It’s also perfect for working with freelancers or contractors.
Project management: Keep everyone on the same page with tools that assign tasks, share documents, manage scheduling, and track time.
Let’s go back to our original question: How can technology help you improve your bottom line? Innovations like the ones above help employees in the field improve productivity, reduce error, streamline processes, access data, and stay connected with coworkers. That means they’re making better use of their time, getting more done, and keeping clients happy.
And that’s good for business.