By Heather Ashton, IDC Manufacturing Insights
Many of the industries that rely on field operations to deliver valuable and necessary services to an installed base of machines, devices, and equipment are highly regulated, both from government oversight and industry-specific groups. Medical Devices, Oil and Gas, Mining, and Aviation are a few of the segments with complex equipment that bear a higher burden of regulatory requirements than others. We are seeing an increasing reliance on field service management applications, especially mobile apps, to facilitate some of the compliance and regulatory requirements that manufacturers, operators, and third-party inspection providers maintain.
Recently, I was part of a panel on Addressing Compliance in Field Service at Maximize in Las Vegas, the annual user group conference for ServiceMax, a provider of cloud-based Field Service Management solutions. The discussion on the panel was lively and included engaging questions from the audience, a mix of IT and line-of-business leaders across highly regulated industries who are tasked with managing compliance using a field service application as part of a comprehensive approach.
Among the first topics the panel tackled was the variety of ways compliance plays out in different industries, and how field service management applications are helping with adherence to regulatory requirements. In environments like medical devices, where technicians must repair equipment like MRI suites at hospitals, the test and validation process is important, including sign-off from the technicians that they are leaving the site operational, detailing what parts were replaced and what work was completed. Often there is a dual sign-off between the technician as well as the site manager to ensure that both parties are in agreement about the work that was completed and the efficacy of the equipment. This requires completing checklists, recording all parts and services performed, and capturing digital signatures from both parties. Mobile apps for field service are essential to making this process efficient and seamless. An earlier article I wrote looks more closely at the impact of mobile on field service.
This conversation led to the importance of maintaining an installed base record for all equipment in operation. With many of the regulations in place in industries like aerospace and medical equipment, having up-to-date, as-maintained records of products is imperative. The challenge is that often this information is locked in different back-end systems, making a single view of the product difficult to obtain. Field service applications that support bi-directional communication with databases and systems of record like CRM and ERP are helpful in sustaining a current "as maintained" record for the installed base. This is especially helpful for third-party inspection and maintenance service providers that are supporting compliance requirements on behalf of their customers.
Another topic the panel addressed was how compliance, especially health and safety matters, is often a key priority for a company, and many are using technology to positively influence workforce safety. Lubor Ptacek, VP of Product Marketing, ServiceMax, shared his experience visiting customer sites: "When I see a banner that identifies how many days the company has been without incident, I know that is a KPI for the entire company." Using a field service management application to create checklists and workflows that impose safety practices can have a direct impact on reducing technician injuries or unsafe operating environments. Integrating service technician credentials and skills with schedulers and dispatch consoles also ensures the right technician is on a job to improve safety. ServiceMax customers have reported a 15% reduction in safety incidents, a sizeable amount. And the ability for the app to be used on a mobile device is a key for this encouraging result.
Compliance and regulation are necessary aspects to many of the industries in which field service technicians operate. Identifying how a field service management application can support the myriad of compliance challenges a company faces is important, because it can greatly help with regulatory compliance and workforce safety, two metrics that many global organizations measure their corporate success by.
Heather Ashton is a Research Manager at IDC Manufacturing Insights, responsible for the service innovation practice. Ms. Ashton's core research coverage includes the customer and service lifecycles in manufacturing, including CX and UX, field service, and warranty, as well as the impact of connected products on customer engagement and service transformation. Follow Heather on Twitter @HashtonIDC.