The field service industry has always been one of the earliest adopters of new technologies, from the original PDAs to IoT-enabled devices. Now, a new generation of technology is uniquely positioned to transform the field service industry, promising to reduce costs and dramatically improve the quality of service organisations can offer.
Tom DeVroy, Senior Product Evangelist for Enterprise Service Management at IFS, identifies three technology-led developments set to disrupt field service and discusses how flexible and modular resource planning infrastructure will help organisations reap substantial rewards.
Effective field service is about proactively managing your workforce and inventory in order to meet the constantly sliding scale of customer expectations. As a result, field service organisations are constantly looking to improve on the key metrics to better serve customers: first-time fix rate (FTF), mean time to service (MTTS) and mean time to repair (MTTR).
1 Advanced mobility
A mobile workforce needs a mobile-driven field service strategy. In a recent study on mobility, performance and engagement, 60% of employees said mobile technology makes them more productive in the workplace.
But field service organisations are now moving beyond simple mobility, looking for more intelligence and flexibility from their mobile computing platform in order to take full advantage of next generation devices.
Native apps are a key part of this, allowing engineers to receive instant updates, access repair information or collaborate with product experts without leaving the job site. Instant messaging platforms such as Slack and WeChat also allow field service engineers to keep connected, with more information and collaboration supported on their mobile device.
Engineers are able to contact other colleagues for assistance in real-time, reducing the need to return to base for assistance.
IFS partner, XMReality, is already working on pioneering an augmented reality project whereby a support technician is able to watch and guide the engineer through every step of the repair without having to leave base.
Using smartglasses, engineers are able to see a real-time and interactive demonstration of the repair job right in front of their eyes. These skills can be leveraged anywhere and anytime with the capability of modern mobile technology, drastically improving FTF.
2 Prescriptive maintenance
Combined with business intelligence to make sense of the big data being captured through IoT, service organisations can be proactive with regard to equipment performance, moving away from calendar-based scheduling and towards predictive maintenance.
With sensors deployed on the factory floor, service organisations can monitor vibration analysis of bearings and predict when machine parts will start to degrade, then schedule maintenance proactively.
Field service solutions should be able to find and collect patterns of data from past actions and use this information to create generic rules to highlight how processes and services can be improved in the future, delivering new insight into operational efficiency.
Mobile devices are now able to run intelligent diagnostics and capture potential problems. Based on the diagnostic output, the mobile device is able to recommend a maintenance plan and the various tasks needed to be performed, before the engineer gets on site.
This technology is going one step further than just predicting when faults will occur, and will prescribe which action needs to be taken in order to fully maintain that asset.
Prescriptive maintenance will take into account budget, time and other constraints and provide an optimal order of actions and the work orders to fully maintain that equipment, all in a matter of seconds.
3 Staying ahead of schedule
First-time fix rates are an important KPI for field service organisations, but recent Blumberg research shows that the industry average for first-time fixes was under 80%, meaning 20% of jobs require additional follow-ups. Inefficient scheduling results in a lower first time fix rate and longer time to final resolution, as unqualified engineers are often sent and the necessary equipment may be unavailable.
Although not a new technology, schedule optimisation is a foundation on which new technologies can thrive. By combining scheduling with data from IoT devices, the next generation of schedule optimisation tools go much further and help to forecast field service demand, SLAs and potential resource needs, all in real-time.
IoT-enabled sensors can trigger actions when an event changes, and automatically re-schedule jobs around this. This combination allows field service organisations to improve FTF, MTTS and MTTR by consistently scheduling the right engineer for the right job, at the right time.
A new breed
Traditional field service management solutions are simply too cumbersome and inflexible to enable field service organisations to reap the benefits.
Traditional enterprise solutions can take months or years to implement, let alone adapt to an entirely new technology. The new breed of modular enterprise solutions are designed to remove the time and pain of modifying existing processes, and instead maximise the opportunities of new technology.
These agile systems negate the need to fully customise legacy systems – a costly and timely process, and are enabling organisations to quickly adopt new technology, without the risk of losing out on a competitive edge.
Strategic planners have real-time visibility to plan tasks and schedule the workforce in an industry with many unknown elements, from customer unpredictability to traffic, and even the weather.
This, in turn, directly empowers technicians, providing them with the right tools and information at their fingertips to better perform their job. But ultimately the most important stakeholder reaps the benefits, as the customer receives the best possible level of service.