"The Move Toward Mobility is Critical"

Chris Westlake, VP & GM of Service, RK
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Chris Westlake, VP & GM of Service, RK

Technology Trends Driving the Service Industry

First is the ever-growing impact of technology.  New customer and field service employees are increasingly tech-savvy; they have been connected their whole lives. Internet of Things (IoT) offers connectivity with countless devices ranging from company sites to customer equipment to technicians’ mobile devices that enable real-time visibility into operational performance.  Service mobility is now a top driver for speeding up business cycles, increasing productivity and reducing revenue leaks.  Big data capabilities enable predictive analytics and better insights into quality and productivity.  

“We need to provide our teams with the right tools, information and support to enable them to succeed”

Second, customers want partners who can help them solve their business problems.  Service providers are moving away from traditional preventative maintenance and routine repairs to outcome-based services like flight hours or number of chips manufactured.

Third, companies are developing increasingly complex service programs uniquely tailored to a customer’s situation, which can vary greatly depending on each customer’s region, facility, and types of equipment.  The objective is to provide the best mix of services to customers in order to meet their business needs and increase profitability.  This requires tighter than ever integration between Service marketing, sales and delivery.

Challenges of Navigating Increasingly Complex Technologies

Equipment is becoming more complex, often part of a system with a software component associated with it.  Extensive product and applications knowledge is required.   Technology assists us with faster learning curves through availability of knowledge, ability to communicate with peers, access to performance support, and easier to use productivity tools for field technicians. 

Lack of knowledge about customer installed base.  This can be remedied by partnering with a solution provider to develop an accurate "as-maintained” installed base view that can positively impact many areas of cost of service, from technician skills to scheduling, parts planning, inventory levels and ability to perform remote diagnostics and repairs.  Filtering out meaningful information and true intelligence amidst increasing volumes of data. High quality analytical tools combined with a structured, well-managed analytical process can help organizations avoid getting overwhelmed by “noise” and find real trends and cause-effect drivers.

Mobility 

We need to provide our teams with the right tools, information and support to enable them to succeed. Engaged teams deliver higher levels of customer satisfaction. Mobility is now a basic component of Field Service. Companies without it are at a competitive disadvantage.  

  • Mobility enables many productivity enhancements such as:  
  • Ability to have an accurate view of the customer and relevant equipment before going to the site.  
  • Faster ability to log, assign and accept service cases, including directly from the field.  
  • Ability to update service orders, request tasks, access knowledge and close out service jobs.  
  • Ability to scan installed or extracted parts/components without logging into enterprise applications.  
  • Use of virtual specialists and peers, combined with access to knowledge bases to for faster resolution times and higher firt-time fix.

RK Service has utilized mobile technology to gain better visibility into field performance, increase productivity, enhance performance support provided to our team and accelerate first-time issue resolution. Overall quality and customer satisfaction have improved as well as a direct result of more timely data collection and closed-loop quality feedback. 

We should make sure the technology has been adopted across the entire organization for maximum benefit. Recognize that our teams are made up of people with different skills and abilities with respect to technology.  Our teams need to become comfortable using it. Next phases of mobility will likely include improvements meant to shorten the the user adoption curve like larger devices, better user interfaces, wearables, addressing network speed and more personalized interaction with each user.    

Advice for Budding Technologists 

Some of the best advice I ever received includes “Focus on fewer, bigger things” and “Succeed by taking on things others won’t!”  I will let you figure out which came from a company executive and which came from a fortune cookie.  

Take full advantage of service conferences.  These are excellent opportunities to learn from knowledgable speakers, network with your peers and see how they are solving the same problems you face.  The solution providers in attendance are great resources to help you as well.  Surround yourself with lots of smart people and ask a lot of questions.  

Don’t be in a rush to buy the coolest new mousetrap out there.  Make sure your processes are robust and followed.  Implementing a state-of-the art system on top of bad processes will still yield mediocre results.  Also make sure you have used everything you already paid for in your current system.  

It does not have to be all or nothing.  Don’t be afraid to experiment!   Read Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries.

When it comes to problem solving, use a disciplined approach.  Define what problem you are trying to solve.  Get the data and determine root cause.  Then develop the sustainable short-term and long-term corrective actions with appropriate metrics to ensure success.    

IoT and 3D printing are becoming major disruptors already, with robotics used in the repair process in cleanroom and difficult to access environments the next wave.  Wearables will continue to improve and become a critical part of every service organizations spend.  

Read Also

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Integrating IoT into Field Service Strategies

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