What is idle time? And how does field service management software help?

Danny Laycock
April 15, 2024

Idle time can be a silent drain. For field service management businesses, this can mean lost productivity and increased costs (not ideal). However, with the right tools and strategies, it's possible to turn these idle moments into opportunities for efficiency and growth.

In this article, we'll explore how field service management software reduces idle time and boosts overall business performance. We’ll cover how to identify idle time and provide practical, software-driven solutions to keep your operations running smoothly and efficiently.

Let’s get into it. 

What is idle time in field service management?

Images showing idle time on scheduling, clock and phone

Idle time in field service management is periods when workers or equipment are unproductive during working hours. This can range from waiting for the next job to delays caused by unplanned maintenance of equipment. 

It's an issue which impacts both the efficiency of operations and the bottom line of your business.

The impact of idle time is significant, often leading to increased operational costs and reduced customer satisfaction. When your workforce or equipment isn't used to its full potential, you're essentially paying for time that doesn't contribute to revenue generation.

And when idle time adds up, over time it can demotivate your team, potentially leading to a decline in job satisfaction and employee retention.

Understanding the ins and outs of idle time is the first step towards addressing it, so let’s look at what causes it first.

What causes idle time in field service management?

Now, the key question is, what actually causes idle time? Common culprits include:

  • ❌#1: Inefficient job scheduling and routing: When jobs are not scheduled optimally, engineers may find themselves waiting for jobs or travelling longer than necessary between sites.
  • ❌#2: No mobile app for engineers: Without mobile access to information engineers might not be able to find access codes for entry or have to hang around because they arrive before customer opening times or there is restricted access within certain hours they’re not aware of.
  • ❌#3: Lack of real-time information: Without up-to-date information on job status, engineers can end up waiting for instructions, parts, or equipment, leading to unnecessary downtime.
  • ❌#4: Equipment breakdowns and maintenance issues: Unplanned equipment downtime due to breakdowns or maintenance can lead to significant idle time, especially if it stops the entire operation.
  • ❌#5: Poor communication: Poor communication within the team can result in workers waiting for responses or clarifications, thus reducing active working time.

To sum up, recognising these causes is vital. It means you can put plans in place and focus on the areas that will have the most significant impact to reduce idle time. 

Next up, we'll explore how field service management software can address these issues and transform idle time into productive work.

How field service management software reduces idle time

Field service management software is your best chance at reducing idle time. Why? Because the tech is specifically designed to streamline operations and minimise downtime. 

Let’s delve into some key features that make a difference:

#1: Advanced job scheduling and route planning tools

These features enable optimal job scheduling, ensuring engineers are assigned jobs in a way that reduces travel time and waiting periods. For example, intelligent algorithms can account for factors like location, engineer skill set, and job urgency. It will also take into account constraints like opening hours when scheduling. 

#2: Real-time information and updates

With live updates, engineers receive instant notifications about job changes, equipment needs, or other critical information. This minimises the waiting time associated with getting instructions or clarifications. And it means back office staff aren’t waiting on engineers to hand in completed job sheets. Instead, everyone can access the same information in the cloud. 

#3: Predictive maintenance and equipment tracking

The right software can monitor equipment performance and predict maintenance needs, reducing the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns that cause idle time.

#4: Enhanced communication channels

Top field service management software ensures that everyone in the team stays connected and informed, reducing delays caused by miscommunication or lack of information. Field workers are armed with a mobile app, and back-office staff can see job progress because everything is stored in the cloud. 

#5: Customisable processes

The best field service management software offers the flexibility to tailor processes, ensuring maximum efficiency. Whether it's adapting follow-on job processes or fine-tuning reports, this customisation minimises unnecessary steps and keeps your team focused on what they do best. 

#6: Client portal integration

Integrating a customer portal into your field service management system transforms the way you interact with customers. Customers can log jobs, check the status of ongoing work, and communicate directly with your team through this portal. It reduces the back-and-forth, and frees up your team to focus on service delivery. It's a win-win: customers enjoy greater transparency and autonomy, while your business benefits from reduced administrative burdens.

#7: Reporting and business information

With advanced reporting and analytics capabilities, you can dive deep into your operations, identifying exactly where and how idle time occurs. These insights are invaluable; they help you make strategic decisions based on real evidence, allowing you to fine-tune processes and remove inefficiencies. Over time, this continuous improvement cycle also creates a highly efficient operation, where every minute is optimised for productivity.

#8: GPS and fleet tracking

As well as allowing for smarter scheduling decisions and significantly reduced travel times, GPS and fleet tracking surfaces insights like driving patterns, for further optimisation of routes and schedules.

Bottom line: With field service management software, businesses can tackle the main causes of idle time head-on. This leads to a more efficient workforce, better resource usage, and ultimately, improved customer satisfaction. 

Getting started with field service management software

If your business is suffering with too much idle time, it’s time to take back control and invest in field service management software, like BigChange. 

Here's a guide to getting started:

#1: Identify your specific needs: Understand the unique challenges and requirements of your business. What parts of your current operation contribute most to idle time? Answering this helps in choosing software that best fits your needs.

#2: Research and select suitable software: Look for software that offers features such as advanced scheduling, real-time updates, predictive maintenance, and efficient communication tools. Prioritise user-friendly interfaces and good customer support.

#3: Plan for implementation: Implementing new software requires careful planning. A good place to start is to consider how it will integrate with your existing systems. 

#4: Training and adoption: Ensure your team is well-trained on the new system. Adoption is critical, so encourage open communication about the software's benefits and address any concerns promptly.

#5: Monitor and evaluate: After implementation, continuously monitor the software’s impact on reducing idle time. Plus, get feedback from your team and make adjustments as necessary.

Put simply, starting with field service management software is a strategic decision that can significantly reduce idle time and enhance overall operational efficiency. 

Reduce idle time with the right field service management software

Are you ready to transform the way your business operates and say goodbye to costly idle time? Take the first step towards optimising your field service management.

Remember, the right field service management software can help you avoid common mistakes, keep your team on the same page, and give you the flexibility to manage your schedules from anywhere. 

For more benefits and a quick overview of how to reduce idle time with BigChange, book a call with us now! 

Or feel free to use our savings calculator to work out whether investing in tech stacks up financially.

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