Mobile Resource Management and Beyond

By Majdi Zahran

Throughout the years, companies have invested a vast amount of time and resources toward building corporate data systems and integrating corporate components to establish a solid enterprise environment.Many have established robust processes for maintenance and support of their information technology (IT) infrastructure.As a result, most corporations now have mature IT infrastructures to store, retrieve and maintain their corporate data.

For companies with advanced enterprise IT systems, delivering a higher level of benefits is paramount to realizing the full return on investment of their time and money.The next level is disseminating and providing access to crucial corporate data to the field in a highly reliable and secure fashion.Assigning the right task to the right resource with the right equipment in the right location at the right time with the right IT tools will achieve the efficiencies and flexibility that enable enterprises to better compete in their markets.

There are many market indications that mobile technology is part of the next level for an enterprisewide infrastructure, especially in the geospatial industry. Some market research firms predict the location-based services market will hit close to $5 billion by 2010.New technology, and competition between new companies, seem to back up this claim. Tracking, navigation and mobile hardware are a growing trend not only in commercial markets, but also in the geospatial market.An emphasis on security is also playing a role in the need for certain mobile applications.

All of this indicates that the next area for corporate enterprise growth involves providing real time Mobile Resource Management (MRM). This will enable better management of field crews and assets, and allow better response to customers.Companies that have a strong corporate IT infrastructure are in the best position to disseminate data to the field and back without compromising data integrity.

What is MRM?
Knowing where your mobile resources are, where they have been, and where they should be to best manage the workload and improve response to customer demand is all a part of an MRM environment.Managing resources through time and space and incorporating real-time operational needs are the essential elements of MRM.MRM can be definted simply as the ability to track the progress of your mobile resources in real-time and assign the right job to the right resource with the right equipment in the right location at the right time.An easy way to remember this is to count "the five rights of MRM."

Since the defense department made its GPS signals available for commercial use in 1993, location-aware applications have flooded the market.Those have now hit the mainstream market.Most of these applications focus on real-time or near-real-time location tracking, mobile resources, as well as visually displaying a dot or series of dots on a geographic map to indicate their position.Many people in the geospatial industry define tracking as limited to location awareness.However, there is much more to it than that. Location awareness is one important element of tracking.Equally important is the ability to track progress against a given schedule, compliance to predefined business rules, and status of jobs, as well as use rule-based alarms when job assignments are at risk due to delays or other unplanned events.

Consider the following example.At the beginning of a shift, field crews log in remotely (wirelessly or wired) and receive their pre-assigned and pre-sorted job assignments for an eight hour shift, with all the job details.Jobs can be sequenced based on location, best route or priority.By enabling remote access, field crews do not have to drive to the depot to get their daily assignments and schedules.In addition, the crew's time is optimized by basing the new assignments on jobs closest to their current location.Once all jobs have been dispatched, field supervisors are able to manage their crews more efficiently since real-time information is readily available from the field.To best mange crews, field supervisors need to be able to:
  • Know the current location of field crews (mobile resources)
  • Have the current status of the crews
  • Compare the real-time information to the already assigned schedules
  • Automatically send alarms when resources are falling behind schedule or when critical jobs are at risk (delay risk)
  • Manage resources in an adaptive (reactive) mode - if an urgent unplanned job comes in, supervisors have the ability to quickly assign it to the right resource with the right equipment in the right location at the right time and know the impact to the currently assigned schedule
  • Be immediately informed when there is an emergency in the field
  • Keep a full audit trail for playback functionality when looking for process optimization or even investigation of accidents
MRM solutions provide functionality beyond the classic dots on maps or location information.An MRM solution allows an enterprise to best manage their field resources in time and space, adapt to real-time operational needs and provide real-time information of where their mobile resources are now, where have they been, where they should be and how are they doing against their assigned schedules.Building an enterprise that extends its reach to the person in the field is the logical next step for an organization. Technology is available to make it happen.It makes sense to use all of your assets, not just the ones within the parameters of your office.

Published Monday, April 18th, 2005

Written by Majdi Zahran

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