Field service of the future is automated, autonomous and above all, connected. Actually, scratch that. That’s best-in-class field service of right now.
In place of a call from a customer for servicing or repairs – an automatic, detailed notification from the machine itself. Manual updating? Not any more: inventory changes reflect on their own, in real time. Diagnosis by a technician? How about machines that self-diagnose.
This is field service enabled by the Internet of Things. Sounds futuristic, but it’s far from it. In fact, more and more organisations are beginning to adopt IoT technologies. The results are enhanced efficiency, lowered costs and the one-touch approach to business more and more customers are coming to expect.
IoT and field service: from first steps to the future
As early as 2015, Kevin Ashton, who founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted at a European customer service conference that field service management was the first industry being transformed by IoT. In fact, IoT is considered by many to trace its origins precisely to field service applications.
So, what are the benefits of embedding IoT technology in a field service business? Here is some food for thought.
Another miscommunication? Answer: automation
Your customers aren’t mechanical experts. Nor should they be. However, when something goes wrong, your customer isn’t always able to provide a clear description of the problem, or what needs to be done.
The result: delays and frustration, technicians dispatched with the wrong parts, or no need for a dispatch at all.
With IoT, however, issues are instantly clear – because reports are generated automatically by intelligent software. This means problems can be isolated instantly and addressed efficiently.
Consider the following scenario. A customer phones in because a piece of equipment has stopped working. He says that a certain part is definitely to blame. A technician is dispatched, carrying just that part. After arriving, it becomes clear that the problem lies elsewhere. Another component is needed – one the company doesn’t happen to have in stock. The customer becomes frustrated – he’s losing business every moment the machine is out of service. The technician is in an awkward position too – the best she can do is return with the right part in a few days’ time. In the interim, the customer has sought the help of a competitor.
With IoT-enabled devices, this situation never need arise.
Inventory, meet insight
Consider a twist on the above scenario. Ever run out of a part you could have sworn was in stock? Ever promised a customer a fix using just that part? With IoT-connected devices, this problem becomes a thing of the past, because the system sends out a signal when new parts should be ordered.
Moreover, technicians can get a view of company inventory instantly, even if they’re in the field. The result is an end to well-meaning but empty promises. It also means companies never over or under order, optimising warehousing.
Know thyself: Self-diagnosis means fewer unnecessary call-outs
IoT devices understand themselves. Meaning? They can self-diagnose, and report on their performance. By isolating specific faulty components and monitoring overall system operation, AI gets to work locating the root cause of issues being experienced.
The result is a reduced need for in-person visits by a technician, saving time and money. It also means that when a technician does need to be dispatched, the right part is always in-hand.
For many, the capabilities of IoT-enabled devices still seem a little futuristic. Moreover, a business-as-usual mindset may lead to a reluctance to change. In the unlikely event that a company has a total monopoly on the market, it’s true – there’s no need to change, as customers simply have to use that firm’s services, no matter the quality.
However, for most businesses, steep competition is a reality. Meaning: companies are always looking for ways to do things faster, better and more cheaply and turn to the providers best able to meet their needs. And if there isn’t a competitor yet, new technology is making it easier for companies to enter new markets – and quickly.
Many companies quick to adopt the new digital capabilities that began to emerge in the early 2000s reaped the rewards. That opportunity for first-mover advantage is now playing out again. Field service companies that get on board with IoT-enabled tech today may be poised to stand out from the rest of the field in a big way.
Want to find out more? Have a look at an IoT-enabled field service solution that’s tailored for you.