New mobile solution gives service engineers accurate, timely customer information
To address current economic conditions, a growing number of manufacturers have adopted two goals: improve customer service and boost the revenue stream from service. The good news is that it is possible to work toward both goals simultaneously by deploying a field service solution that equips service technicians with mobile devices.
To address current economic conditions, a growing number of manufacturers have adopted two goals: improve customer service and boost the revenue stream from service.
The good news is that it is possible to work toward both goals simultaneously by deploying a field service solution that equips service technicians with mobile devices, says Sumair Dutta, senior research analyst, strategic service management, at Aberdeen Group. The reality is that such an endeavor is not as simplistic as it may sound. Indeed, most organizations continue to struggle in their efforts to mobilize and empower field workforces, he says.
"However, those companies that have successfully extended the back-office to the field with convenient, well-integrated workflows typically experience significant gains in service profitability from the deployment of mobile solutions," Dutta says.
"When technicians using mobile devices can access a field service solution that is tightly integrated with an enterprise solution, the company is able to substantially improve revenue from service because those technicians become considerably more productive and efficient," Dutta says. "That, consequently, allows the company to improve customer satisfaction—and, ultimately, loyalty—because its technicians are able to respond quicker. Equally important, they also are better able to resolve issues during the first trip to the customer's site rather than having to go back for follow-up visits."
Enterprise business solution supplier Epicor Software recently introduced Epicor Mobile Field Service to allow customers to improve field service efficiency and productivity. The solution, which is the first offering in the company's new Epicor Mobile product line, delivers comprehensive role-specific functionality and synchronized enterprise resource planning (ERP) data to field service teams, says Rodney Winger, senior director of product marketing for Epicor.
Epicor Mobile Field Service is designed to meet the requirements of field-based service engineers whose success is linked to accessing accurate and timely enterprise information. For instance, in-context and easy-to-use workflows, global positioning system (GPS) support, document attachments, and step-by-step task 'wizards' simplify job fulfillment and data entry while on-location. Additionally, service-call job rosters, labor, equipment, materials, and inventory data can be managed, modified, updated, and tracked using a mobile scheduling and dispatch console—or directly within the Epicor business solution.
"What this means is that management and mobile field workforce both have the tools, information, and communication necessary to be efficient, cost effective, and deliver high levels of service," Winger says. "Field staff can wirelessly execute jobs as management and dispatchers allocate and re-allocate work and assets in real-time."
Jonathon Bonnici, systems implementation manager with Tieman Industries, says that while improving revenue from field service is important, maintaining high levels of customer service is critical. The company, based in Keon Park, Victoria, Australia, manufactures liquid road tankers, dock products, freight and scissor hoists, tail lifts, and vehicle disability access equipment.
"Our business provides support at remote locations for very specialized products. If a customer calls at midnight because a machine broke down and is disrupting their productivity, it's vital for our service technicians to be able to get to the location quickly, and make the needed repair efficiently," Bonnici says. "Use of Epicor Mobile Field Service will allow us to better manage our assets in real-time and make life easier for employees on-location. And because it's tightly integrated with the Epicor 9 ERP system, it will eliminate the IT work necessary on the back-end to integrate and maintain the two solutions."
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.