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3 Ways Paper Forms Hinder Modern Field Service | TrueContext, formerly ProntoForms











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3 Ways Paper Forms Hinder Modern Field Service

A service technician places a phone call in a yellow hard hat against a truck using paper forms.

Large field service organizations deal with massive amounts of data – data they must collect to increase technician productivity and keep pace with ever-changing compliance regulations. However, many still undertake this data gathering process using paper forms, leaving a gap between what they are doing and what they should be doing in the pursuit of profitability.

Low data integrity      

Paper forms can hinder efficient data routing throughout the organization across field service-intensive industries. Teams frequently work under time constraints in remote locations, exacerbating the problem. Additionally, paper is highly susceptible to damage and loss and, in fact, often left on the floor of work trucks.

Data collected by field engineers fuel today’s business decisions, so focusing on accuracy is a top priority.  Inaccurate measurement or miscommunication in the field can hurt visibility and, consequently, decision-making, among other critical processes. This can lead to an inability to correctly diagnose, repair, and install assets for engineers, resulting in increased costs, reduced productivity, and lower customer satisfaction.

Graniterock, a top producer of construction materials in California, was quite familiar with this issue. In a highly competitive industry where razor-thin margins are the norm, improvement is a constant imperative and higher efficiency is the way to stay afloat. Their equipment and safety processes took seven days to complete per inspection. Switching to a real-time notification system eliminated this time from their operations. Whenever OSHA asks for safety reports from a project, the company’s safety team can quickly generate them, completely doing away with the peculiarities of paper, such as rummaging through filing cabinets or diving into a warehouse full of boxes.

For the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), accurate training documentation is a top concern for meeting regulations. The company frequently conducts internal and external audits to catch any inaccuracies before developing. In the past, administrators relied on paper forms for attendance and training records. This was a time-consuming process that not only led to lower job satisfaction and reduced effectiveness but also significantly increased the likelihood of errors. The team often wrestled with processing backlogs, compounded by having to redo work they had already completed. Data could often be rendered unusable, leading to repeated visits and unnecessary additional truck rolls.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada saw a dramatic improvement, including enhanced safety standards, better compliance with training regulations, reduced data entry time, minimized paper waste, and the creation of instant reports for management and audits. These benefits have led to safer mining operations with deeply documented training. IOC aims to collaborate with its LMS provider to further streamline training activities.

Inefficient data processing

Field service doesn’t stop once the engineer returns from the field — assuming the form is legible and accurate. Paper forms must also be collected, reviewed, and entered manually, increasing the risk of human error. Any errors, such as missed signatures and data entry mistakes, can have far-reaching consequences on critical business functions like inventory management, invoicing, and customer satisfaction.

This was a key focus issue of Johnson Controls (JCI), a global HVAC, electronics, and automotive parts organization. JCI required a solution to realize its digital transformation goals of empowering teams, generating customer-facing documents, and offering enterprise-grade capabilities. Johnson Controls wanted to equip their field technicians with digital tools and data to improve their professionalism, efficiency, and customer service while driving recurring revenue streams.

JCI needed a flexible platform for in-house developers to create custom apps for their diverse business workflows. This would enable easy adaptation and scaling based on customer and engineer feedback.

Johnson Controls used custom field intelligence apps to improve visibility, iterate quickly, and eliminate paperwork, allowing them to focus on delivering excellent service. Engineers could now capture and share asset photos and history with instant changes to the app, allowing them to share knowledge across the organization better.

Unsustainable format

Field service personnel have long used paper forms to record essential data and information, especially in areas that are tough to reach with technology. However, many organizations today realize that paper forms pose significant sustainability and environmental concerns. It’s little wonder why sustainability is a key performance metric in so many organizations today.

Paper production and disposal significantly contribute to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions; using paper forms only exacerbates these issues. 

Field leaders agree: “Paper is the enemy.” 

For so long, paper has overstayed its welcome in most any business today, and within field service operations specifically, so much so that leaders have dubbed it the enemy. Find out why.

TrueContext Editorial Team

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