From The Editor | March 23, 2016

Field Service Automation 2.0

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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We’ve extensively covered ways that technology can help field service organizations operate more efficiently and improve productivity. The reality, though, is that we’re seeing a shift in the motivations for field service automation. Where I used to hear “save, save, save,” now I hear much more about how companies are shifting focus and really looking for ways to leverage technology beyond the productivity improvements that a first wave of automation typically provides. Here are a few of the new themes and catalysts for technology investment that I’m hearing from the field service organizations I’m speaking with.

Putting The Focus On The Customer — Productivity Isn’t King
Sure, everyone wants to have productive workers and a field force that runs efficiently. That being said, companies are realizing that productivity isn’t the be-all and end-all of field service success. Companies are really shifting focus toward customer satisfaction — how to leverage today’s technologies to provide service customers can’t get elsewhere to keep them happy and loyal. Is productivity part of this? Sure — without productive workers, ontime visits and first-time fixes will be a struggle. But it encompasses a lot more than productivity, and today’s leading field service organizations are looking at the bigger picture.

Moving To Predictive Service
The idea that something breaks and a customer calls so you can come fix it is quickly becoming outdated. The capabilities that exist today enable service organizations to move from a reactive or even proactive model to a predictive model — to proactively schedule service before something breaks. This isn’t really the wave of the future, it is the here and now — and companies that aren’t embracing how field mobility and IoT can enable predictive service will quickly lag behind.

Planning For Knowledge Transfer
The fact that a vast majority of field technicians are reaching retirement age is a huge issue for the field service industry, especially considering that — for some — the knowledge of those older, skilled, experienced workers isn’t necessarily captured anywhere or in a way that the younger, less experienced replacements can learn from. Companies looking at how to best use today’s tools are examining how to best capture and transfer that knowledge to the new workforce. Technologies like live video and augmented reality are being used by some to help the transition and train the new workers.

Automating paper-based processes and taking paper forms electronic are great steps of automation, but if your technology use has been limited to those types of activities, it may be time to begin exploring some of the more modern ways leading field service organizations are viewing tech and using it to drive field service improvements.