The rise of the US interstate road system was initiated through the Eisenhower administration with the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Since then, the United States hasn’t seen a significant effort to invest in the US Infrastructure system.
- The United States has some 230,000 bridges that collectively stretch over 6,300 miles, in need for repair or replacement.
- Amtrak has billions of dollars of ‘’needed’ track repair. The electric grid system has experienced significant challenges, resulting in rolling outages.
- In many rural regions, internet access is still hard to get or even unaffordable, affecting nearly 35% of Americans.
- With limited travel due to the COVID pandemic and the increase in electric vehicles, the gas tax has seen a steep decline in the recent years, leaving road repairs (directly funded by such taxes) behind in their schedule.
The Biden administration has proposed a significant public investment in the US infrastructure to address these problems and as a bi-product, spur job creation and the economy. Setting aside any political feelings on the matter, we can expect this proposal to lead to increased investments and activities in the impacted fields.
The plan, outlined in more details in this White House briefing, proposes investments in key sectors, including telecommunications, roads, energy, real estate, etc. Some of more specific projects are focused on infrastructure inspection, road construction, cell tower service and construction, high speed internet access install, oil/gas services (i.e., capping orphan wells, decommissioning abandoned mines, replacement of lead pipes), retrofitting services related to schools, commercial buildings, and homes. This plan will translate into a significant increase in activity and revenue potential for companies in these sectors.
One thing that is certain is that this infrastructure plan will lead to greater opportunities and higher demand for service organizations across these industries. In light of this historical investment, field service organizations should be considering how they can capture these revenue opportunities. What could an organization do to prepare?
Engagement with Government Organizations
Much of this opportunity will come through federal programs, in the form of federal grants to states and localities, and other similar government-funded vehicles. Given the rigorous procurement process these programs follow, organizations should think through the best approach to engage through these public bid programs. Some of the following options should be considered:
- Engage in a General Services Administration (GSA) contract vehicle program. These services can be made available easily by federal government institutions. The GSA will likely have a heavy role in procurement of these services.
- Find other federal contractors with existing GSA contracts. There is an opportunity to integrate your services offered through their contract vehicle as a partner.
- Have a similar approach with State and Local government organizations, where you already provide such services geographically.
Bids, Inspection, and Reporting
With proposals being reviewed under a microscope, the ability to provide a tangible plan to deliver these services efficiently will be key. Organizations will need to demonstrate not their capabilities to complete the work but also how they plan on doing it efficiently, in order to maximize the return on investment. How will you ensure that you are maximizing every dollar that you are given? The first step is to have a strong technology infrastructure; one that enables the distribution of work, the collection of field information on completed projects, and the optimization of productivity and efficiency over time. This is a great way to demonstrate to governmental authorities that you are well prepared to be effective in your delivery.
There has previously been well advertised missteps in government oversight of funding. It’ll be critical for service organizations to showcase an end-to-end delivery system, helping to provide clear reporting and metrics to report status, share work details, and give visibility into the timely delivery of quality work to the “customers”. Addressing the gaps in your field service delivery is a must have for such infrastructure work.
Given these opportunities will most likely be presented in a bid procurement process, price will be an important consideration factor. In order to ensure consistent profit delivery, organizations will need to put consistent effort to streamline and improve their operational efficiency. The first step should be to invest in a robust and flexible field service automation system. This system will help you to maximize the utilization of resources for the projects and improve field productivity all around. Automation is a major enabler to productivity and profitability. Few tangible opendations value automation can drive:
- Helping your back office team to automate low value-added work and focus on
- Ensuring your field teams are spending as much time doing actual work, and minimum time driving, looking for data, standing around at a site, or waiting on a part to arrive.
- Providing more predictability into resource needs and visibility into real-time field progress
These opportunities will put more pressure than ever on the need for resources. Human capital investments will be central – an organization is only as good as it’s people. In order to prepare and be successful, maintaining a pool of skilled workers will be paramount. Hence, organizations will first need to assess their personnel and their respective skills and capabilities. This will inform on the necessary training required to help workers complete their work in the most effective way. There are few additional questions field service executives will need to keep top of mind:
- How will you train your people across disciplines?
- What is your hiring strategy and onboarding?
- Should you roll-out a new line of business?
- What do I need to do in order to prepare for success?
Utilization rate is a key metric to keep an eye on, as it is a lagging indicator of the need to onboard new workers. Enabling your management team to gain real-time visibility into field metrics in critical. Choosing the right field service management solution for your organization will help to consolidate field and back-office data in real-time and enable your leadership team to make more informed human resource decisions.
There are many other factors that should be considered in preparing to take advantage of this new infrastructure investment opportunity. Being well prepared now and planning to take advantage of these opportunities will lead to a more profitable and effective approach that you will come to appreciate.