How Field Service Organizations Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Field service management (FSM) is all about crews on the move. Mobile workers are constantly travelling between different locations, relying on the company’s fleet of vehicles and portable tools like cell phones, tablets, and sometimes good old fashioned paper. But traditionally, the infrastructure supporting mobile and field employees has often been at odds with green initiatives. 

Around the world, the transportation sector is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions. And in the U.S., no other sector puts out more greenhouse gases. Transportation is responsible for 29% of the country’s emissions—more than electricity, industry, agriculture, or commercial and residential sectors. 

And with our global climate in a state of emergency, it’s essential for field service organizations to find solutions that help minimize emissions to be ecologically responsible. Some companies are addressing this need by striving to be carbon neutral and balancing their emissions by investing in sustainability programs. 

But top organizations are aiming higher: They’re striving for “net zero” emissions. These companies are taking actions to remove carbon from the atmosphere (through actions like planting trees) or even reducing and eventually eliminating emissions from their operations altogether. Here’s what they’re doing.

Centralize Operations

Office buildings use a ton of energy for heating, cooling, lighting, and powering appliances and electronics. Although office buildings can be retrofitted or built to be more environmentally friendly, the lowest-emission option is no office at all. 

A mobile workforce doesn’t need the office space that desk workers do. And if they’re not regularly interacting in person with office workers, it doesn’t matter if there’s a local office branch or not. Reducing the reliance on unnecessary regional and local offices means a lower headcount and fewer buildings, both of which reduce an organization’s carbon footprint.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

In order to reach a point where a smaller headcount is possible, you need to get rid of the bloat in your operations and processes. Automating back-office tasks like scheduling and dispatch is one of the best ways to help employees get more done, even with fewer people. 

The right field service management software is designed with a mobile workforce in mind and can eliminate the need for middlemen in processes like scheduling and dispatching. Strategic automation powered by robust AI and machine learning means you only need to step in to deal with true exceptions to your workflow, rather than every minor deviation.  

Use smarter scheduling to reduce your carbon footprint

Eliminate Paper Waste

In a world that’s increasingly transitioning to digital workplaces, paper is one of the most obvious places to cut back on waste. However, some field service organizations still use a fair amount of paper. Internally, workers might print off quotes to review, or carry hard copies of customer service histories and training manuals to have on hand while they’re in the field. Externally, mobile employees might rely on paper forms for signatures, appointment reminders, disclaimers, and more. 

Companies can reduce or eliminate these papers by switching to digital, cloud-based tools to manage critical information and documents, from employee resources and service records to appointments and forms that require customer signatures. When done right, digital records come with a variety of benefits. They’re easier to organize, easier to share, last longer, and most importantly, they don’t have the carbon footprint that comes with cutting down trees, processing them into paper, and degrading in a landfill (or your filing cabinet). 

The switch from paper documentation can be a big change for an organization, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Getting away from the default assumption that materials need to be paper-based will allow change to begin, and over time, you can phase out paper-based communications until your group is securely in the cloud.

Reduce Time Spent on the Road

One of the biggest—if not the biggest—carbon emitters for a field service business is its vehicles. Reducing the amount of time your field employees spend on the road is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your organization, and the right field service management software can help. With features like route optimization and intelligent scheduling, you can ensure every trip is as short and efficient as possible.

But it’s not just about picking the shortest route: Techniques like “nudging in” jobs, i.e., adding jobs to the queue of a worker who is already nearby, can save a lot of miles. Switching to virtual meetings and appointments can help, too. Teams, Zoom, or other video chat services are often sufficient for many internal meetings, and field workers can even use video calls to handle more straightforward diagnostics or to get a second opinion on complex jobs. 

And when a major assignment, say, in public works, involves multiple teams, appropriate job sequencing can reduce the amount of people on the ground at any given moment. In other words, rather than putting all teams on site at once, you can schedule the second team’s work for once the first team’s work is done.

Move to Cloud-based Solutions

Switching from paper records to digital ones stored in on-site servers is a good upgrade, but switching all the way to cloud-based infrastructure is even better. 

Broadly speaking, shared IT infrastructure is more environmentally friendly than on-premises servers. That’s because cloud data centers are more efficient at using space and energy, since their equipment can be used for many clients. In fact, a 2021 report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) found that the widespread adoption of cloud computing could prevent 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted from 2021 to 2024 alone.

What’s more, support and troubleshooting are baked into cloud solutions, which allows field service companies to maintain a smaller, more focused IT staff. Cloud storage platforms that are pay-per-use or self-service allow businesses to only use what they need; they can turn services like added storage space on and off as business scales. A cloud-based organization will be better at conducting work virtually, even completing tasks like diagnosing problems and making repairs.

Implement BYOD Policies

Some organizations are doing away with the work phone entirely, instead allowing employees to use their personal devices for work. This “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy cuts the total amount of devices in the pockets of employees in half, reducing both the resources needed to make, service, and maintain those devices and the eventual hardware waste that occurs at the end of those devices’ life cycles.

Of course, a BYOD policy is only possible when field workers have access to an app that works securely on every device. Luckily, as apps and mobile technologies become more and more advanced, access to secure, effective mobile apps is becoming more commonplace.

Eliminate First-time Failures

How often do your mobile workers make an extra trip because their first attempt at a repair or installation failed? Miscommunications about appointment times, missing supplies or tools, or poor workmanship can all result in the need for a second visit that could’ve been avoided. Improving your business’ first time fix/install metrics will lead to less time traveling back and forth from sites.

The best way to eliminate these first time failures is to equip workers with all the information they need from the start: up-to-date appointment details from the scheduling system, customer history from your CRM system, equipment details from your ERP or inventory management system, and more. Cloud-based systems can also ensure support is always on hand, whether it’s training manuals and product manuals or being able to quickly and easily communicate with office staff, colleagues, and managers.

Improve Communication

Another way to reduce your organization’s carbon footprint is by using top-notch communication systems. Being able to reduce the amount of time field employees spend  traveling to canceled, rescheduled, or previously completed jobs means less fuel wasted and fewer emissions produced. When workers can instead update their progress instantly though a mobile app and receive updates from customers and colleagues, they’ll always be in the right place at the right time.

Likewise, cloud-based documentation will reduce time spent tracking down old job notes or previous customer requests. When everything is in one system at your fingertips, you eliminate delays caused by missing information. And any time saved will increase efficiency and reduce the overall environmental impact of your business.

Essential Features of an Eco-friendly FSM Software Solution

A major theme in these strategies is that they rely on effective digital solutions. Field service management (FSM) software is a great way to tackle them all and reduce the carbon emissions of your field service business. 

Some of the key features to look for in a FSM software solution are:

  • Integrated systems: It’s important that your field service management software can integrate seamlessly with existing systems—especially legacy systems like CRM, ERP, and payroll systems that your organization needs for critical processes. 
  • Data collection and analytics: Real-time real-time analytics  are a great way to understand and improve your mobile workforce. Robust FSM systems will capture all the data points you need—including the carbon emissions of your fleet— to track and report on efficiency, productivity, and overall carbon footprint of your company. This can be particularly vital if a regulator asks for proof of emissions reduction. 
  • Automated scheduling and dispatching processes: To improve instantaneous communications, reduce first time failures, and automate tasks like scheduling and dispatching, your FSM software needs to have a built-in system that schedules and dispatches workers effectively. 
  • Streamlined communication tools: Having communications tools built right into your FSM platform can increase the ease with which workers conduct video calls with each other and with clients. In turn, this reduces in-person travel to appointments that could be resolved virtually.
  • Cloud-based solutions: Top-notch FSM software integrates directly with the cloud infrastructure, providing file storage that enables workers to access records, manuals, and other vital information while they’re at the job site. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with FSM Software

There are many ways that field service organizations can minimize their emissions and reduce their carbon footprints. Ditching paper, on-site data centers, unnecessary office space, and unneeded driving time can all lessen a company’s environmental impact. While these initiatives sound like a lot to take on, it’s easy with the right field service management software.

Skedulo’s field service management software is specifically engineered for a deskless workforce and offers an array of features that can help your organization shrink your carbon footprint. Robust AI and machine learning power an intuitive, smart scheduling system so your employees only take on jobs that make the most sense for their daily routes. And integrations with systems like Salesforce, Key Pay, ServiceNow, and more ensure that not only do your field employees have the information they need on site, but that central operations team members have what they need, too. 

Want to learn more about how Skedulo can help your business go green? Book a demo today.

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