Time for a new Mars route

U.S. chocolate maker Mars recently issued a product recall in dozens of countries after a problem in its manufacturing process was discovered. The company produced and distributed a batch of bars which may have contained small plastic parts. When phones in its corporate started ringing off the hook after the recall was announced, Mars jumped into action to ensure that customers did not consume a “faulty” Mars product. Potentially affected candy bars have already been removed from grocery store shelves, but the operation to retrieve the bars from vending machines throughout the affected countries presented a much greater challenge. Only vending machine operators who own and manage the machines can access them, requiring that someone visit every vending machine to remove the faulty batches and restock the machines. 

Vending operators long ago abandoned paper forms that dispatched workers to carry out their work. Today, mobile platforms are commonly used to allow planners to issue work orders to the mobile devices of field workers, providing a set of workflows to support and monitor their routes. However, in product recalls such as the one Mars faced, it is unlikely that workflows were already established and available in the mobile platform. In such unforeseen situations, it may be tempting to return to the old way of working – using paper work orders to dispatch field personnel to visit every machine throughout affected regions – but efficient alternatives currently exist to streamline the process.

Lightning-fast flexibility and vast scalability are the two main characteristics that contemporary mobile platforms should offer to handle the creation of new routes. They are summarized below:

 

Lightning flexibility

The digital mobile process is not yet available to enable field service workers to promptly remove potentially affected products from vending machines. Also, it is not feasible to spend weeks, or even months, to change the software of the mobile device. Faced with a crisis, should organizations with field-service workers solve this by returning to the old ways of paper work orders or emailed instructions? No. It takes the same amount of time – or even less time – to change the standard digital mobile process so it can handle extraordinary circumstances, as would be required to create and distribute paper or emailed instructions. So the choice we face is easy: In such a case, we would choose to adapt our regular digital mobile process to handle emergency processes. 

2016 02 24 Tijd voor een nieuwe Mars route 2

To achieve that result, Gomocha developed the Workflow Designer. As part of its FMP360 Platform, the Workflow Designer enables us to define and adapt the mobile process at lightning speed. It takes only hours, not days, to perform such tasks. The Workflow Designer is an easy-to-use solution; our customers do not need programming skills. By simple drag-and-drop functionality, we can define or adapt a mobile process, and with a push of a button, the new or adapted process is sent to a field worker’s mobile device.

When adapting the digital mobile process, we apply the regular operational procedures as previously defined. This not only suits the field worker, but this also means we are not stuck with the heavy administrative burden associated with processing handwritten or emailed notes. Taking this adapted digital mobile approach also results in another advantage: scalability.

Scalability

The challenge can be overwhelming for a vending operator in a situation such as the Mars product. The chances of a vending operator succeeding in these types of situations – with only its existing employees and its existing processes – are quite limited. If a vending operator can visit every machine within a few days (to handle a product recall, for example) using only its own field workers, it would mean the company is overstaffed in its normal, day-to-day operating environment. More likely, the vending operator would need to hire external employees. A mobile platform should support this; new users should be added without much effort.

Additional field workers should also be equipped with mobile devices. Vending operators typically have just enough mobile devices for their own employees (and a few extra devices to replace those that might break down). When in need of temporary employees for a situation such as the Mars recall, FM360 has the flexibility to use other devices for the mobile workflow. Fortunately, most people today use smart phones; when we enable those devices, this solves the problem. The Gomocha FMP360 Platform supports devices with Android, iOS and Windows operating systems. In most cases, the app can be easily downloaded from the app store. The temporary field worker logs on with his new acquired credentials, the workflows are downloaded and he is ready to go. In this case, he also knows what is expected of him, because the mobile workflow of the app supports him in executing the tasks at hand.

 2016 02 24 Tijd voor een nieuwe Mars route 3

Curious what the Gomocha FMP360 platform can offer your organization? My colleagues and I are eager to demonstrate the power of our Workflow Designer and highlight the other impressive functionality included in the Gomocha FMP360 Platform. 

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