22 May 2019 Trends in the Field Service Industry – Is your business losing ground?
By Stéphane Poirier, Marketing Director at Nubik
If you are at the helm of a field service organization, your main objective is to deliver repair services to your customers quickly and efficiently. However, in order to achieve that, many things have to happen in the background. You have to plan schedules, set up contracts, train your technicians, dispatch them according to their skill level, and so on.
Clients are becoming more demanding, competition is fierce, maintenance cases are getting more complex… In short, you have plenty of challenges to deal with each and every single day.
Let’s discuss some of the most significant trends in your industry. We are convinced that at least one of them will point you in the direction of some highly useful solutions for your business.
Automation is your friend
Field service automation has long been shown to help increase revenue, reduce costs, grow productivity levels, as well as ensure quality, precision and consistency among other things, which is why it is one of the key profitability factors in the field service sector.
If you have not yet joined the movement, you need to know that your field service automation software will automate tedious and complex tasks such as planning, shipping, SLA contract and warranty management, inventory management and more.
While the automation of your systems and processes is indeed a “must have”, there are other challenges to be faced. Before field service personnel can be dispatched, the issue has to be identified, the solution documented, the required parts purchased and the repair instructions have to make their way to the technician, ideally before he or she is actually on site to fix the problem.
A new type of solutions using the entry of a support ticket as the trigger to generate an intelligent system process now allows your maintenance activities to become this proactive.
You also need to be able to access a workforce that is better suited to the increasingly complex demands of the trade.
| Recommended reading: 4 “must ask” questions for any field service project |
The Workforce is Undergoing a Transformation
A new class of “liquid” technicians is appearing on the market, who have a skillset that allows them to be extremely flexible, to adapt to changes in their environment and to solve a large number and a wide variety of issues. It is no longer enough to be proficient at one skill. Technicians are now required to excel in many areas to get booked on a schedule which includes a variety of field service calls. Hence the name “liquid workforce”, since the dispatching of those skills is, figuratively speaking, completely fluid.
In the last few years, field service companies have also targeted the training of flexible skills in order to provide better customer service. In addition to having the technical knowledge to diagnose and repair issues quickly, modern-day field technicians must be able to manage client expectations and even identify on site opportunities to upsell and to add new sources of revenue.
Crowdsourcing and Subcontractors to the Rescue
Hand-in-hand with a “liquid” workforce, the change towards a participative workforce is already happening. A growing number of field service organizations are now using subcontractors and third parties to execute their work orders. This is also a profitable way to access the skills you need in your office without having to hire full-time employees.
With more capacity, field service organizations can now develop new territories without needing to set up more offices and warehouses, offer additional services that they were unable to provide in the past and find quality resources when work orders are piling up faster than what their technical staff can handle.
Continuity Thanks to Technology
Preventive maintenance is becoming a thing of the past. This is a fact. Companies that still operate under this premise are putting their survival at risk, because successful organizations are now counting on predictive maintenance powered by the IoT (Internet of Things) to expand the limits of their maintenance quality improvements.
In fact, the IoT now allows them to monitor the state of their field equipment proactively. An increasing number of intelligent devices are being connected to a central hub which enables a bidirectional link and optimizes maintenance activities on an ongoing basis. Technicians can configure alerts that will be sent to the operator’s console if the behavior of the equipment changes, giving them the ability to react following a predetermined set of actions to mitigate potential damages. They can also find out ahead of time if a machine is failing and quickly identify the part that needs replacing.
Gone are the days when you had to rely on the technician’s expertise and, more specifically, on his or her judgment, which was akin to reading the future in a crystal ball, in order to detect looming potential malfunctions.
| Recommended reading: Connected machines gain experience and knowledge with time.. |
Some companies are even using innovative applications to simulate device behavior so technicians can test the potential fixes in a secure sandbox before implementing them in the production environment. This is where things like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mobility technologies play a role in helping technicians dispatched in the field.
These technologies, paired with IoT functionality, provide real-time information on the equipment and help guide the technicians through the repair process step-by-step. Technicians can even access details remotely about the device to be repaired, including repair history and diagnostics, without having to disassemble the machine.
If you add it all up, remote access can also help the business save time and money.
Moreover, these technologies are useful in situations where a technician has been dispatched but is encountering an issue or needs a second opinion. Instead of deploying a second team, your organization can use augmented reality glasses to connect the onsite technician to a team located in the central office.
| Recommended reading: Blog post dedicated to this type of application |
When you provide your technicians with real-time data, you allow them to access the customer’s key information or maybe even similar cases occurring anywhere in the world. You can also guide them remotely to improve their correction rate at first occurrence, or open a direct communication link between the technician and the client to help them work out the issue from a distance. This could be the first step in a process that will improve the rate of problem fixes.
In the end, clients are looking to minimize the number of equipment failures and expect their issues to be resolved in record time. We think that attempting to do business without Mobility, VR, AR and IoT technologies is suicidal in today’s field service marketplace!
Take advantage of this data
The evolution of field services into a predictive maintenance model highlights the importance of data analysis and its ability to provide organizations with actionable information on ways to improve their workers’ performance and productivity, to pinpoint device malfunctions before they actually occur, and most importantly, to improve customer satisfaction.
To take full advantage of the data collected, you will need a field service management system that is able to process this information and use it to offer recommendations focused on the data. If, in addition to the above, the decision processes are optimized with artificial intelligence and automatic system learning, you will gain a visibility and foresight that can be highly profitable.
Give yourself the means — tools, systems, technologies and processes — to make informed decisions and to optimize the key aspects of your field service organization.
Also remember to pay attention to your most valuable resource, your people. The workforce is evolving as quickly as the skills which are needed for developing technologies, and your best technicians are sometimes found outside your organization, in other words, with subcontracting partners.
Don’t wait too long before adapting your business to these new success factors. Otherwise, your company’s health will decline… sooner than later.
| Recommended reading: Blog post and infographics on the benefits of technology for field service activities |