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Horizontal Application

Field Force Automation - also called Field Service Dispatch or Computer-Aided Dispatch

One of the most popular applications of mobile computing is field force automation. Traditional methods of service dispatch rely on receiving service requests at a central service center and then a service supervisor deciding which service representative ill service which call. This approach has many problems - lack of responsiveness, inability to change schedules on the fly, delays in ordering parts from the field electronically and having to complete the transaction only on return to the office. Companies such as IBM and Xerox have relied on computer-aided dispatch for many years.

While pagers and cellular phones have been and are still being used for communication between field service people and the dispatch center, much greater productivity gains can be achieved by computer-aided dispatch and giving handheld devices to service personnel. Data on work completed, time spent on each job and materials used can be entered into an automated system on the spot. Spare parts can be ordered automatically. Based on this collection of data in the field, dispatch center supervisors can keep track of service personnel. They can re-assign personnel to higher priority jobs or where the customer is complaining. 

Many classic case studies exist for organizations, such as IBM, Xerox, Sears and others where thousands of service personnel use handheld computers or notebooks to order parts, record work completion details and then transmit this information through wireless networks.

More recent trend (2000-2001) is to equip field force with handheld devices (PDAs like Palm Pilot and Windows Pocket PC) with wireless network connectivity. In early 2001, Sun equipped about 50 of their field service engineers with a special appliance from Symbol (with scanner). Eventually all of 3500 field engineers would be equipped with this device. a Java and XML-based application called FETools was developed. See case study index for more. 

A number of companies offer complete solutions for this application, which can be employed by any industry. The following vendors are noteworthy:


Related Resources:
Vertical Application Index
> Horizontal Application Index
> Case Study Index


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