Field Force Apps Enable Enterprises to Employ Android® Mobile Devices for Blue Collar Field Service, Inspection and Audit Work
Android Field Position Gains: Rapid Consumer Mobile Device Market Share Growth
With the popularity of the iPhone, it is easy to forget that more than half of the smart phones out there are Androids. Even though Apple has been the pioneer and early leader in smartphones, the Android OS has been making huge market gains in the consumer space. In fact, according to a study released by Gartner on Wednesday, Android’s OS continues to dominate the OS market, earning 79 percent of second-quarter market share this year.
We are seeing the same market trends when it comes to tablets. Apple’s once dominant tablet market share is diminishing as Android has raced ahead to be the world’s most used tablet operating system. Google’s Android-based tablet devices now dominate the segment, with 62.6% share of the market in the second quarter of 2013, compared to just 38% of the market in the same period last year, new data from International Data Corporation shows. This means a lot more consumers are buying Android devices, both tablets and smartphones; a huge change considering that just a year ago Apple’s iPad was the only tablet generating serious sales.
The fact that Android is making such an impression on the consumer world means that more and more blue collar workers will own these types of devices already, and since BYOD is all about people bringing in their own mobile devices to work, you’d expect a similar breakdown in the enterprise. Instead, it’s almost the opposite. This is in part because the workplace is not totally a BYOD world. Regardless of recent consumer versus enterprise trends, Google Android has emerged as the OS that businesses and developers are taking a second look at, primarily due to its popularity in the consumer smartphone market.
Will Android’s Consumer Popularity Translate to the Blue Collar Field Workforce?
Could Android’s surge in the consumer space translate as well to those companies employing blue-collar workers, such as field service technicians?
The path from success in consumer mobile devices to success in the white collar enterprise working world is clear. Consumer Android mobile devices, like the Samsung Galaxy and the HTC One, already have the ability to do much of what a typical white-collar professional needs them to do. The transition to an industrial, blue collar setting, brings many more challenges.
Manufacturers of rugged Android mobile devices claim that consumer-grade devices aren’t durable or capable enough for the field, citing the ability to survive drops to concrete, water-proofing, temperature and humidity operating ranges, and more. To address the durability concern, manufacturers of consumer Android devices have responded with their own semi-rugged products. Field forces now have many Android mobile device choices for rugged field work. Making the most of Android for blue collar field work, however, also requires apps designed for field force work.
Mobile, Scheduling and Field Management Apps for Android
Beyond the device itself, the field force enterprise must also take into consideration the specifics of the work done and data collected by their field workers, and look for ways their Android tablets or smartphones, coupled with field workforce automation software, can improve worker productivity and management access to field performance data.
Applications built with field workers in mind are making it possible for companies considering Android as an enterprise mobile platform to deploy applications to their field force, whether they number in the dozens, hundreds or thousands.
Indeed, apps are the biggest enablers of Android implementations when it comes to working in a blue-collar work setting. It truly is the specific features of the software that drive both adoption and return on investment in a field service setting.
How Android Equips Blue-Collar Field Workers
What do blue-collar field workers typically do and how can an Android device equipped with field service software benefit their productivity?
Most blue-collar field workers install, maintain, and fix equipment and infrastructure, and record the time, materials, tasks and other important information about the work itself. Implementing mobile field service, mobile inspection, and audit applications on an Android device is easy and is the best way to get the most out of your Android device.
How can Apps Equip Android Devices for Blue Collar Field Work?
What can mobile field service software, inspection software and audit apps do to equip an Android device for the work it will be asked to do in the field?
- Automatically connect technicians to the centralized field service scheduling function of the organization:
Consumer-grade Android devices must be scheduled from a centralized location, and are not connected to scheduling capabilities “outside the box.” But, Android devices equipped with mobile field service software would allow technicians to be scheduled regularly without back and forth phone communication between techs and schedulers. With field service software, work order management can be organized by field technician availability, location, and skill set, whether they are on or off-site.
- Rapidly capture free form notes information:
Working in the field often ties up your hands, which makes electronic keyboards difficult to use. Field service apps often allow free-form note taking, image, video and other data collection to not only be collected, but to be stored in the service management system automatically as centrally-accessible customer history. Mobile field service software also allows for other data capture methods, such as Android’s voice recognition capabilities.
- Ability to track spare parts / inventory usage in the field:
Field service software available for Android devices can help field service technicians, and the broader service organization, to track what parts were used on the work order and in what quantity.
- Field asset management for customer equipment:
Exceptional service organizations keep detailed data on every customer asset in the field, as well as make that data constantly available to both technicians and administrators. Service firms should know when a specific asset was installed, the customer name and location, serial number, components, service history (and parts used), warranty coverage, meter readings and any other information related to their service offerings.
- Inspection forms / paper forms replacement:
Field service organizations can eliminate paper in the field by moving paper or disconnected spreadsheet-based forms, such as safety inspections, time-sheets, checklists, QC inspections or audits to the Android device. For example, mobile inspection templates can be created to mimic paper forms with drag and drop ease, then be completed on the Android device and automatically synced to the back office.
Connecting the Back Office to Make Android an Integral Piece of the Field Force Management Equation
As with laptops before them, Android tablet or smartphone devices will only go as far for blue collar field workforce organizations as the quality and capability of the apps that run on them.
The roll-out of mobile devices running Android for the blue collar field workforce is the leading edge of an organization-wide initiative to boost efficiency and access to information. Mobile applications for field service management, inspection and audits for Android devices have become a critical tool for businesses in a wide variety of service industries, helping to solve some of the most common challenges for offsite technicians and the administrators who support them.
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