By Emily Newton, Revolutionized
Most industries are in a state of transformation and upheaval. Revolutionary digital technologies and shifting consumer demands are forcing companies to adopt new techniques and change their priorities.
Businesses that manage fleets and frequently travel into the field to interface with customers are no different. The future of field service is bright but thriving in it requires paying attention to emerging trends, finding opportunities to gather insights, and making every opportunity to seize technology and efficiency enhancements.
Customer trends are steering the conversation. A recent research survey targeting decision makers involved with organizations reliant on field service identified these as the top priorities:
- 67% demanded faster response times as their top priority
- 58% demanded enhanced remote-service options
- 42% demanded more detailed condition and performance data for their assets
What technologies and techniques are helping service providers meet this call? Here’s a look at the most important trends for the field service sector and how to capitalize on their opportunities.
1. Big Data
There’s no understating the value of Big Data gathering and analysis throughout the industry and within individual field-service companies. The ability to answer questions about customer and industry trends, historical and real-time equipment performance, company culture, service intervals, failures and successes, and opportunities for enhanced marketing is too valuable to pass up. Here are some of those questions:
- Training: Have training initiatives been successful?
- Marketing: Does the marketing team have enough data to form accurate buyer personas?
- Industry: How are current trends in the industry impacting you and the competition?
- Service levels: Where is time being wasted during field service? Which processes take the longest, deliver good value, and aren’t worth the time?
- Enterprise planning: What kinds of industrywide trends are emerging and how can the organization shift priorities to get ahead of the competition?
Each field service company will find its own ways to capitalize on the opportunities Big Data offers, which makes it the biggest trend to watch in 2023. If you want a practical reason to prioritize data analysis across your organization, look no further than recent events. The first three quarters of 2020 witnessed 4,200 supply chain interruptions courtesy of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, a paltry 6% of companies have achieved adequate supply chain and inventory visibility. Only Big Data can reconcile ongoing needs, emerging trends, market patterns, and existing inventory with the available supply of critical materials. If you’ve been concerned about losing sales or clients because of unpredictable supply levels, Big Data can come to your aid with enterprise planning and even predictive capabilities.
2. Strategic Automation
If you’re involved with field service, you want to create a work environment where subject matter experts can spend most of their time exercising their skills and delivering value to the customer. Ideally, field service companies will use a smaller portion of their available hours dealing with backend processes and bureaucracy. There are just some of those demands:
- Customer relationship management
- Inventorying parts
- Scheduling appointments
- Generating and delivering invoices
- Determining when to follow up for remarketing purposes
Automating backend processes in the field service industry is one of the primary trends to watch in 2023. Companies that still need to do so should familiarize themselves with the types and advantages of management software platforms.
This class of software delivers value in manifold ways, like helping companies organize and understand historical and current-day maintenance data. Another example is automatically matching technicians to available jobs as they come in and then assigning new tasks to workforce members.
3. Predictive Maintenance
The management of modern fleets and other field service equipment isn’t something that can be left to chance any longer. It doesn’t make practical or business sense to lean on the run-to-failure model anymore. Responding to field calls shouldn’t be something done reactively or even proactively. What if it could be predictive?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is making a world of difference for field-service providers and enabling truly predictive maintenance capabilities. It does this in the following ways:
- Helping companies waste less time on proactive — sometimes ultimately unnecessary — field calls.
- Granting maintenance professionals more hours to respond to essential calls.
- Helping equipment last longer and cost less money to maintain.
- Ensuring that engineers responding proactively to impending maintenance have relevant information so they can trace the fault and begin service immediately.
Predictive maintenance is a major advantage on both sides of the client-provider relationship. Customers benefit from fewer service calls and a longer lifespan for their essential equipment. Field service providers can spend more hours on value-adding tasks and less on unneeded service calls and the accompanying documentation.
4. Virtual And Augmented Realities
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been some of the most surprising developments in the last few years. Many wrote these innovations off as just the latest in video-game peripherals, but they have far-reaching implications throughout the field service industry.
Current market research indicates fast-paced growth for AR and VR. By 2030, AR could be a $461.25 billion industry, and VR could be worth $87 billion. What kinds of practical value does this tech deliver in field service?
AR probably holds the most promise. Field technicians can use augmented-reality glasses to overlay digital schematics on real-world components or equipment. The ability to reference and display maintenance manuals, exploded or cross-section views, or step-by-step instructions could substantially speed up field service tasks. It also reduces the likelihood of preventable errors.
Augmented reality — also called “mixed reality” when digital images are overlaid in the real world — could make life substantially easier for seasoned field service professionals. Virtual reality has its own implications, including more robust training for newly hired individuals.
The chance to practice technical and even soft skills in a safe, low-impact environment will help individuals get up to speed faster than ever. These days, customers expect service calls to be quick and comprehensive. AR and VR provide the means to sharpen abilities, build confidence in the field, and conduct fast and effective service calls.
Understanding The Future Of Field Service
Client demands are escalating throughout the field service industry, from faster response times to comprehensive service call visits. Thriving in the uncharted future requires respect for data's power and strategic investments in automation and other value-adding assets. Bleeding-edge tech like the IoT can improve the success of tracing failures to their source and slash the time required.
Thanks to these 2023 trends, the future of field service may not even be limited to where you can drive or fly. Wise investments could result in a vastly larger sales territory, faster responses, and more loyal customers.
About The Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly explores the impact technology has on the industrial sector.