Zebra Technologies Corp. has introduced new touch computing solutions, industrial tablets and mobile printer. It also showcased a vision study. Zebra commissioned an APAC survey of leading organizations with field operations in five service categories: field service, fleet management, field sales, direct store delivery and merchandise courier services.
The survey asked how the organizations are evaluating and using mobile technology designed for business use, and emerging technologies to respond to market and technological trends impacting field operations.
Three trends driving field operations changes
- Performance and convenience expectations are growing
E-commerce and mobile connectivity give customers more ways to order goods and services. Online feedback platforms allow them to hold service providers to higher performance standards:
- Global e-commerce retail sales are expected to reach $4.48 trillion by 2021 (Worldwide Retail and E-Commerce Sales: eMarketer’s estimates for 2016–2021). Global business-to-business e-commerce sales are much higher, estimated at $10.6 trillion in 2018 (n-depth: B2B e-Commerce 2019. Statistical Digital Market Outlook–Trend Report).
- In the future of field operations survey, 66% said e-commerce is driving the need for faster field operations.
- 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, 88% trust online reviews, as much as personal recommendations, and 86% hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.
- Mobile technology replacing paper in the field
- 58% are expanding mobile technology to enterprise-wide use — reaching 97% by 2023.
- Today, 74% of organizations rely on paper-based systems for over one-fifth of their field operations. By 2023, almost 35% of organizations will be less reliant on paperwork.
- From 2018 to 2023, the use of handheld mobile computers with built-in barcode scanners is forecasted to grow by 41%, mobile printers by 60% and rugged tablets by 57%.
- Emerging technologies and faster networks are disrupting field operations
- Adoption of transformative field operations technologies is substantial: sensors, RFID and intelligent labels (66%); blockchain (59%); and AR or VR (57%).
- More than one-quarter of decision makers view these technologies as disruptive: AR/VR (43%), blockchain (22%) and sensors, RFID and intelligent labels (20%).
- 66% say 4G/5G is one of the top factors driving field operations investments
Empowered customers and technological evolution driving mobility adoption
Whether in B2C or B2B, customers rely on the convenience of ordering service calls and product deliveries online, creating expectations for greater convenience throughout the entire customer experience. Now, customers are tracking deliveries and appointments online, and planning personal or business activities around service. They also expect faster deliveries and service. Digitally empowered customers are using technology to keep field organizations honest. Online reviews and social media posts are already pivotal to competitiveness and growing in importance.
Mobile technology, faster networks and increasingly robust digital security equip field teams to answer these challenges:
- Teams can review equipment repair histories before leaving on their routes, and quickly access online documents, specifications and parts inventories or order parts deliveries, if they encounter problems later.
- Machine learning-based software applications can collect data from sensors in a localized IoT, enabling condition-based equipment maintenance or stock monitoring, or optimized travel times for service or deliveries.
- These applications provide teams with data-driven indications of required equipment maintenance or merchandise replenishment, so they can proactively set appointments.
- Mobile technology enables field teams to process mobile payments for customer convenience and shorter cash flow cycles.
Data-driven, mobilized field operations offer beneficial workflow disruptions like these that can raise service to match or even exceed customers’ growing expectations.
Key benefits of business mobile technology
- Employee productivity/efficiency increased to 77%
- Customer/partner satisfaction is more than 75%
- Order fulfillment accuracy is 54%
- Revenue/Sales are 60% and increasing.
How leading organizations are transforming field operations?
Fifty seven percent of survey participants agreed that their field operations strategies are ‘mobile first’, an indication that they are aware of how adopting mobile technology can improve their teams’ performance. This mobile-first group is transforming field operations in three ways.
Scaling mobile technology and support technologies enterprise-wide
Mobile-first organizations indicate that they recognize the efficiencies mobile technology can offer their teams. For example, with their large screens and ruggedized design, business tablets make it easy to read detailed equipment schematics, delivery orders or task checklists and keep workflows moving in a wide range of environmental work conditions. Having seen how these mobile devices help individual workers perform at a higher level, leading organizations are seeing opportunities to achieve economies of scale. They’re scaling mobile technology enterprise-wide and boosting efficiency and the accuracy of inventory, repair and maintenance procedures, merchandising and last-mile delivery.
* Mobile investment is a top priority with 44% of mobile first operations and 19% in the remainder of the survey.
* Mobile-first organizations are leading the way with technology, whether in mobile computer or rugged tablet use. For cloud computing and storage, digital security and device management, mobile first operation is higher.
* Mobile devices deployment is currently 2,446 for mobile-first operations.
Evaluating TCO of mobile technology as a standard practice
A key driver of productivity, efficiency and cost-savings in field operations is ensuring ruggedized enterprise devices replace traditional consumer ones. Overall, field operations decision makers believe in the value of conducting a TCO analysis of enterprise devices. More than three-quarters of respondents usually or always conduct a TCO analysis of business devices prior to making a capital expenditure. Only 34% of respondents believe that consumer smartphones have better TCO than rugged devices.
Utilizing emerging field operations technologies
Leading organizations are also early adopters of the emerging field operations technologies, such as AR, that can enhance the efficiency of detailed workflows, such as merchandising. Other technologies they are adopting, such as RFID and blockchain, boost efficiency and data granularity in tracking goods and their chains of custody. Mobile-first operations are combining mobility scaling, building out the IoT, and integrating 4G and even faster 5G networks into their operations to get even more value from these technologies.
On a global scale, the survey indicates that leading organizations are equipping their teams with mobile technology to improve work performance. The data also revealed a few regional differences in approaches to better performance.
Asia Pacific– 44% of respondents consider truck loading automation will be among one of the most disruptive technologies, compared respectively to 28 percent globally.
Europe, Middle East and Africa– 70% of respondents agree e-commerce is driving the need for faster field operation.
Latin America– 83% agree that faster wireless networks (4G/5G) are driving greater investment in new field operations technologies, compared with 70% of the overall sample.
North America– 36% of respondents plan to implement rugged tablets in the next year.
Mobility and edge computing technologies can power higher performance
Field operations teams are tasked with serving customers who are increasingly empowered to seize value when making purchase decisions. To build brand loyalty, field operations decision makers must continually figure out how to help their teams do their work faster, more proficiently and more cost-effectively.
In our increasingly connected world, organizations have endless possibilities for transforming field operations with new mobility and edge tech driven workflows. The technologies that can power new workflows already exist or will soon be available. Achieving better field operations performance is a matter of selecting the best combinations of mobile technology and software applications.