Time, as they say, is money. Trained personnel are at a premium around the world, and companies must automate and continually improve their processes to optimize those resources. At vHive, we’ve helped tower companies survey tens of thousands of sites, digitizing their assets autonomously. Here’s what we’ve learned about ensuring time spent in the field is well-utilized, for smooth operations and maximum benefit.
Preparation is key to optimizing time spent in the field. Before the truck rolls, make sure your field operatives have everything they need to get the job done.
- Verify that the tower exists. It may sound humorous, but mistakes have certainly happened. Before going out, operatives should verify the coordinates given. Tools like Google Earth, Google Street View or others can provide some preliminary information.
- Verify that operatives can easily identify the right tower. On sites with multiple towers in the vicinity, it’s important that the field operative knows exactly which tower to survey. Here again, verification of the site will prevent confusion. We’ve seen many examples where the data found in the existing files is not an accurate representation of what’s actually on the site. Any additional confirmation such as site photos and tower drawings may help identify the right tower and eliminate the need to revisit the site in case of wrong identification.
- Provide the right credentials and certifications, in accordance with local regulations. Make sure field operatives can show all the documents that regulations may require: a license, liability insurance, or flight authorization permits.
- Provide enough equipment – especially batteries. There may not be a place to stop and charge batteries between one site and another. Bringing a supply of batteries that can support an entire day’s work may save a preventable second day on the road.
- Ensure access to the site. It’s frustrating for both a field resource and a customer to lose a day because the pilot can’t access a site. Landlords should be updated prior to arrival. Keys, when required, should be readily available. Field operatives performing a survey on behalf of a customer should have the relevant paperwork and identification to support their activity if questioned.
- Keep your options open. Create a “redundancy safety-net” within your field operations teams to ensure that your essential operations will still continue seamlessly.
Applying good project management to field work optimizes time in the field and ensures that you have good records to correct any issues in the future. These few steps can help both the company and the field operative get the most out of their site visits.
- Estimate the time required correctly. There are many factors to consider when calculating the time required for a day of surveys. The number of towers to be surveyed that day will be determined by:
- Size and shape of the tower
- Travel time between sites, including traffic at the time of day;
- Weather conditions;
- Time to access the site (i.e., getting permissions from a caretaker, or gaining access to a roof site);
- Buffers for any unexpected issues
- Create a “catch-up” or “mitigation” plan. Things go wrong – and for cases where meeting a deadline becomes impossible, manage an effective risk and recovery plan to make sure that operations continue to run effectively.
- Communicate. Make sure that throughout the project, field operations contribute to on-going project management tools and communicate fully to the responsible function. Also, implement a transparent communication plan, both internally and externally. Keep all stakeholders informed of project risks and potential impacts at all times.
- Gather project data. Good data will make this field project – and all future projects – easier. Field operative should provide information about the time spent on each tower so that all stakeholders know what has been surveyed, where there were problems, and what may need to be resurveyed soon.
Surveying hundreds or thousands of towers within a limited period of time does not leave much room for errors. Returning to the same tower more than once due to an error has quite an impact on the project’s P&L and timeline. An effective implementation plan based on exhaustive planning and a proper risk management plan is essential to guarantee the delivery within the committed KPIs. Make sure you get it first time right.
Time is money, so it is worth optimizing time spent in the field, to lower costs and help guarantee good data. vHive’s digital twin software makes field surveys as easy as possible. Following the recommendations above – gained from experience, surveying tens of thousands of towers across the globe – will ensure that the entire process of field operations runs as efficiently as possible.
Over time, autonomous drone surveys and the insights that they generate compound, contributing to stakeholders across an organization and creating benefits throughout the production cycle. The process of digitization starts out in the field. Make sure your company is set up for a smooth operation right from the start.