Field-based workers take on many different roles in multiple markets, and their ranks include engineers and technicians who install solar panels, water filtration or home security systems, plumbers, landscapers, roofers and electricians. Regardless of their specific skill sets, these employees need more than just tools to do their jobs. Field-based work often requires them to make purchases on the go so they can quickly complete their assignments. However, paying for such purchases out of pocket can strain their financial situations and add stress to their day-to-day lives.
Fortunately, today’s field-based workers have access to a range of solutions that enable them to focus more on their work and less on financial tasks involving paperwork and reconciliation. The following Deep Dive highlights how workforce spend management systems, predictive maintenance and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions can take away field-based workers’ financial woes, enabling them to focus on their jobs instead.
Field-Based Worker Expenses
Field-based work is projected to experience significant growth in the coming years. The share of field-based construction workers alone is projected to grow at a rate of 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the overall average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth rate for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is even stronger, reaching 16 percent during the same time frame. Some of the biggest industries that rely on field-based workforces include the construction, energy, utility, manufacturing, medical equipment and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) sectors.
Field-related maintenance work can be divided into three broad categories. The first group includes field workers who engage in preventative tasks that involve technicians making scheduled repairs to machinery or equipment. The second includes those who engage in predictive work that relies on sensors or data that indicate when systems might be ready to be examined. The third perform corrective tasks that involve fixing systems or equipment because it is not working properly.
No matter what occupation these workers are engaged in, expense management can be cumbersome if they do not have the right tools. If they need to make out-of-pocket purchases to complete their jobs, they must often save and submit paper receipts to their employers to get reimbursed, a process that can take weeks or months and put workers in tough financial spots until they are compensated. There can also be confusion surrounding what items are approved for company purchases, increasing frustrations when workers learn they will not be reimbursed. Cash flow can problems can contribute to employee satisfaction issues, with 32 percent of SMBs paying their employees late for this reason.
Problems like these can cause employees to become dissatisfied with their work arrangements, creating headaches for employers. Employees who are not compensated quickly could delay work on other projects. These are pain points that can be alleviated if employers adopt workforce spend solutions, which can streamline reimbursements, provide visibility into how tools like corporate cards are used, automate expense management processes and clearly outline approved spending, significantly improving workforce and field management spending operations.
The market for field management services is on track for significant growth because of its ample benefits. Recent data estimates it could reach $4.45 billion by 2022, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5 percent from 2016. Growth is expected to be highest in North America, with Europe following.
ERP And Predictive Maintenance Tools
Use of connected equipment in combination with ERP solutions can also help improve efficiency. Machinery, equipment and systems that are equipped with sensors can relay real-time data to main offices, indicating when a technician is necessary. This connectivity enables technicians and field-based workers to be proactive with repairs and address issues before they become severe, likely boosting customer satisfaction by preventing service breakdowns.
There is considerable opportunity for employers to incur expenses for work-related assignments with so many employees on the road or assigned to field-based repair, construction or maintenance jobs. The oil and gas industry has already embraced predictive maintenance solutions to help it become more efficient, with data from the U.S. Department of Energy revealing that these tools have resulted in a 35 percent to 45 percent reduction in downtime and a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in production.
Access to mobile-based ERP systems can help technicians understand customers’ unique needs, review maintenance history and be better equipped to address problems before arrival. Such data can also provide access to companies’ warehouses, enabling workers to determine which parts are currently in stock. This can help companies determine whether employees will need to purchase work-related equipment elsewhere to complete their jobs.
Solutions that make expense and resource tracking easier will be valuable assets for workers in the field, especially when considering the share of employees who spend much of their time outside their offices. These tools can help workers keep track of their out-of-pocket expenses and reduce frustrations with reimbursements while also granting employers increased visibility into field-based spending and giving them a better understanding of how costs are being managed. Additional tools, including ERP and predictive maintenance services, could enhance these solutions by making it easier for field workers to understand the nature of their tasks and anticipate necessary expenses.
BLS data indicates that many field-based professions will expand in the coming years. Once these workers are on the job they will have high expectations regarding the tools they need to best perform their duties.