IFS made several announcements at IFSWorld this week for companies that operate field service teams. The first is a new version of the IFS Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) solution. The second a concept from the IFS Labs of how companies might leverage drones in the near future.
New Mobile Workforce Management
New functionality within IFS Mobile Workforce Management version 5.8 takes advantage of larger data sets. They have brought some increased machine intelligence into the product. The first of these is an improvement to automatic shift planning and rostering. This is aimed at solving the problem of despatching engineers to cover sick colleagues. The new feature allows users to reschedule the entire shift plan with a single click based on the company’s requirements and constraint.
This feature is further improved by the solution taking advantage of historic data. Allocated jobs do not have set times, instead the solution learns and adapts using historic data to adjust the estimated times to improve accuracy. This helps to ensure that workers have a reasonable workload to complete on each day. It reduces the risk of workers finishing too early or too late, where the decision either increases costs through overtime or decreases customer satisfaction.
Taking further advantage of Big data
IFS also state that they have included bog data optimisation. What the release states is that it has: “better support for large datasets, including support for aggregation and de-aggregation of planning data, extended options for filtering tasks and time-slicing as well as intelligent support for allocating processor time.”. The press release does not mention exactly how this is achieved. There does not seem to have been a big technology change around MWM, though it may just be an indication that IFS are taking better advantage of the Microsoft stack within Azure.
The data output is now displayed on new dashboards. These offer visual insights that will appeal to users looking to upgrade to the new version. IFS product director for service-, asset-, and project-based solutions Jørgen Rogde commented, “The new version of our dynamic work scheduling solution represents a major product investment aimed at helping our clients streamline and automate their scheduling processes while maintaining and enhancing the flexibility of the solution through new options for cloud deployment and big data management. It will help our customers use their resources more effectively, ultimately saving them time and money.”
Looking to the future
IFS have also let their research scientists out of the lab. They are showing visitors to IFSWorld what they have worked on over the last year. Amazon and Google are both testing drones for deliveries. The lab rats have seen an opportunity for customers in other industries. The idea is that drones can easily fly to locations that humans find difficult to access. This is important for service companies that work in remote regions.
Power line maintenance is an example of what the new technology can help with. Using a bot to fly along a specific route allows it to detect breaks in the cable. It also highlight other risks to power lines such as plant growth. This flags an alert back to IFS applications via the IFS IoT Business Connector. It is capturing several sets of data. This includes geolocation to enable field engineeers to quickly get to site. More importantly it also captures photos to help the user determine the best course of action is for each specific location. This cuts down the cost of visual inspections and also lowers the risk of the task in dangerous locations.
IFS Labs director Bas de Vos said: “At IFS Labs, we look beyond the current needs of businesses to anticipate what solutions will be required in the future. There is enormous potential in drone technology, and by presenting this proof-of-concept, we have demonstrated that IFS is ready to help companies not only conceptualize but more importantly also derive value from new innovations so they can digitally transform their businesses.”
This is not the only new concept technology demonstrated at the event. The Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, wearable technology, beacon technology, and 3D printing were all demonstrated by the IFS Labs team.
The new Mobile Workforce Management solution contains some features that customers will like. It is the concepts that IFS is championing that make it more interesting. Software companies are expected to deliver improvements to their software solutions. IFS Labs are not just working on improving the software. They are looking to enhance both the software and the business proposition for the companies that they support. The concept of drones carrying out visual checks for companies is a concept that will apply to several industries. There are challenges for some, especially where drones might be required to fly over inhabited areas.
The solution currently seems only to pass back triggers and images for humans to make decisions. In the future there is no reason to believe that machines won’t carry out some of that analysis themselves.