The field force automation term refers to the use of technology to capture information and record information in the field without the use of paper forms. It usually refers to the automation of work performed by service technicians, auditors and inspectors that traditionally used to complete the paper work in the field, and then send or return the papers, forms or information back to the office for data entry and processing.
Using hand held devices in the field to complete inspection, various checklists, maintenance activities, or any other field activity is at the core of field force automation. One of the challenges of field force automation as part of a back end system is developing a simple user interface for the tablet, PDA, smart phone or the hand held device. The more simple the interface, the easier it is to make the switch to a mobile device.
Furthermore, deploying a successful field force automation solution takes more than issuing the field technician or inspector with a mobile device or a tablet. It involves having a solution that integrates and addresses all the activities performed by the field force with the management system back in the office.
The Android operation system by Google is becoming very popular on smart phones and tablets in the workplace and lately is likely to become an integral part of field force automation.
Only a few companies have developed solutions based on the Android operating system that automates field force activities as part of back end systems. These solutions may include: inspection software, CMMS, asset management, facility maintenance and other inspection solutions. Android Tablets that run a field force automation application allows for the management of work orders, assets, inspections, maintenance tasks and other service tasks in real time, saving on data entry and processing time and enhancing field force productivity.
The data captured by the field force personnel such as checklists, photos, signatures, parts, recommendations, corrective actions, follow up and invoices can be sent immediately to the office through wireless connectivity using SIM cards or WiFi hot spots. The back end system will then be updated as necessary.