Adjusting to a Limited Workforce in the Heavy Equipment Industry
In 2014, Equipment World released results from a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America. The survey found that from more than 1,000 construction firms across the U.S., 83 percent reported that they’re struggling to find enough craft workers. That percentage is up from 74 percent just one year prior. Of those same firms surveyed, 61 percent said they’re having trouble filling professional positions, which includes project supervisors, estimators, and engineers. That number is also up from 53 percent one year ago.
During the economic downturn, the heavy equipment industry lost 2 million workers. Since then, it has struggled to recover this skilled labor. This creates a major concern for dealers as it may inhibit their ability to provide responsive service, potentially resulting in equipment downtime and jeopardizing the relationship with the customer.
Downtime of heavy equipment can significantly impact a contractor’s ability to complete projects on time; it could be a contributing factor in creating construction delays, increased project costs, and potential contractor defaults. Quality and responsive service, then, are non-negotiable needs for fleet manager and contractors. In an effort to compensate for a shortage of field engineers, existing workers must to do more work in less time to service current customers at the level of excellence that is required.
To relieve the stress generated by carrying additional workloads, field engineers may opt to leave their employers in favor of competing dealers that provide better balance in day-to-day operations. Companies that automate field service operations create an attractive incentive for recruitment. Dispatchers are able to route the right engineer to the job that fits his/her skill set, which helps decrease worker frustration. They’re also able to assign work to engineers based on the distance from one job to the next. This reduces drive time, improving responsiveness and worker safety.
In addition, access to detailed customer records through mobile technology eliminates the need to call the office for details in order to successfully complete jobs. Instead, they can be provided the information they need through smart devices, resulting in a more informed engineer and a better customer experience.
Field engineers would rather spend their time servicing customers and less time doing administrative tasks. Keeping up with and filing paperwork or sending emails regarding customer status significantly impacts productivity. This becomes a top concern for heavy equipment dealers as this slows their ability to report to customer locations. Rather than performing time-consuming administrative tasks in between jobs and at the end of each workday, automation enables engineers to focus on the job at hand, ending their day with the last job instead of a pile of paperwork.
Hiring and retaining quality, skilled workers is imperative to providing the level of service fleet managers and other heavy equipment customers demand. Adopting new and innovative ways to adjust to a limited workforce is necessary in order to maintain a relationship of trust with customers. In addition to ensuring that customers are serviced in a timely manner to keep downtime to a minimum, workers who are not overworked and are prepared for each job can provide a quality experience.
Introducing field service automation enables heavy equipment companies to adjust to the strains of a limited workforce. The business will benefit through happier workers and more satisfied customers.