Magazine Article | April 27, 2012

The Move Toward Next-Generation Remote Service

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Bill Pollock, chief research officer, The Service Council,,

Some challenges may present themselves, but remote service is the way of the future. Heidelberg overcame those challenges, and you can, too.

The results of our 2012 remote services benchmark survey, conducted by official research partner Strategies For Growth, depict a marketplace that has widely embraced the importance and use of remote service. For example, the survey confirms that more than two-thirds of respondents (70%) currently use remote service in support of their service operations, with another 13% planning to implement within a year.

Moreover, 33% of respondents cover a majority of their installed base of equipment via remote services, supporting an average of more than 10,000 units in the field. This
data suggests that once an organization implements a remote service solution, it is likely to roll it out to a high volume of its installed base.

But why go the remote service route when the traditional means of dispatching field technicians to the customer site has worked so well? Survey respondents indicate that the top factors driving their remote service initiatives are consistent with all other key components of service delivery — namely, to meet customer demand for quicker response/resolution time and to improve service organization productivity and efficiency (each cited by 52% of respondents).

Challenges To Adopting Remote Service
While there's no single challenge that stands out with respect to adopting remote service, there are a number of challenges clustered around key considerations including cost, application, management, security, and scalability. For example, between 28% and 32% of respondents cite cost issues relating to system design, development, and integration; the ability to translate their remote service solution into increased service revenues; and managing data collection across an increasing number of devices and network connections. However, one thing that respondents have made very clear is that any of these challenges can be mitigated — but only if the benefits and value propositions are targeted to address them head-on.

The Heidelberg Experience
One company that has successfully faced each of these challenges is Heidelberg, a global provider of solutions and services for the print media industry. The Heidelberg experience provides a real-world example of how one organization has been able to attain its goals through its use of remote service. Headquartered in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, with production sites in 7 countries and 250 sales and service units in 170 countries, Heidelberg supports about 200,000 customers worldwide through its comprehensive solutions in the fields of sheet-fed offset printing and digital printing. Heidelberg's Services Division delivers the company's portfolio of technical and professional services for "an absolutely stable production and maximized machine availability," including routine maintenance within the scope of service contracts, service parts supply, and consumables.

To Heidelberg, "remote service is not a tool set or contract option — remote service is our culture." For the services business, remote service is positioned as a "mandatory element in any contract to provide the highest machine availability with the most efficient service processes." Heidelberg now leverages remote service capabilities in all of its offerings, including technical services, stable production and availability, and consumables. Other areas supported through its remote service solution include business development, people development, productivity optimization, and process optimization.

Heidelberg has successfully moved through all phases of remote service, from the early phase of simply maintaining the devices and/or machines themselves, to the advanced stages of using connectivity to optimize device operation, to providing the desired portfolio of valueadded services. The ability to scale the system to grow along with the business (and customers' demands) has played a critical role in the company's success. Heidelberg attributes much of its success in moving from a devicecentric, to a process-centric, and finally to a user-centric business model on its ability to integrate remote service into its overall services mix.

The lesson learned from the Heidelberg experience is that remote service is neither a solution looking for a market nor a technology waiting to be recognized. It is already here! Choosing the right solution that addresses your organization's top challenges and provides the right mix of benefits can also pave the way toward meeting — and exceeding — customer demands; improving internal performance, productivity and efficiency; and contributing positively to profit margins and the bottom line.