Field productivity trends

Six field productivity trends to improve your service business in 2016.
By Joanna Rotter February 25, 2016

Six field productivity trends to improve your service business in 2016. Courtesy: MSI DataAs we shift to a service-based economy, many businesses are beefing up their product support departments in order to stay competitive. How the newest trends and technology will impact the field service industry in 2016.

In 2015, field-based businesses saw the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the boom of Big Data. The growth of new business practices and technologies over the past year have made it easier for service organizations to streamline the scheduling and service process and deliver greater equipment uptime.

Now, as we enter 2016, we’ll see a continuation of those trends as businesses scramble to take advantage of the best mobile and back office software, become early adopters of IoT, and make sense of the recent access to valuable data. As we enter an era more reliant on services than products, your field service department will need to take advantage of the top technologies and best practices to keep up with demand.

Here are our best picks for what’s coming in 2016, and how you can make sure your service organization is ready for it:

1. IoT/ Telematics will Inform Customer Engagement

The IoT has been on manufacturing and service businesses’ radar throughout 2015, but it will take even more precedence heading into 2016. As more businesses invest in connected technology, we’ll see the IoT become an established industry best practice. Smart, connected products and access to in-depth equipment telematics data will provide a number of benefits for field-based businesses including:

  • Added value for equipment users who will gain insight into the health and operating efficiency of their machines.
  • Better machine availability and less downtime as IoT data triggers alerts and automates preventive maintenance.
  • Improved data analytics so manufacturers, distributors, and customers are proactively informed about equipment performance and how to make improvements.

2. Predictive Maintenance Recommendations Will Fuel Field Service Automation

With the predictive power of smart, connected devices, the field service industry will not only take a more predictive/ proactive approach to service, they’ll begin to automate the field service process. For example, sensors in a piece of equipment could automatically trigger a service call when it needs something repaired or it’s due for regular maintenance. Connected devices take the idea of proactive service work—the service business has enough insight to let the customer know when a machine needs a repair before it fails—and automates the process.

3. Augmented Reality will Guide Complicated Service Operations

Augmented reality, while often seen as a toy for gamers, is a natural fit for field service professionals. Field workers will use augmented reality devices, like smart glasses and helmets, to guide them through the intricacies of a difficult job and put them in communication with equipment and other connected products on site. Workers can pull service records, telematics records, report out-of-order equipment, and identify performance, maintenance, or safety warnings signaled by machines.

As the technology evolves, service techs will be able to look at exploded drawings of a component that they’re working on, or dial up a technology expert in an office somewhere who can show them how to solve the problem.

4. Fleet Management and Smart Vehicle Technologies will Improve Safety, Fuel Efficiency, and Cost Savings

From self-parking to self-driving, a big focus heading into the new year has been on autonomous vehicle systems that can utilize Big Data and next generation fuel systems. Harnessing the processing power of workstation grade chips in vehicles creates equipment capable of internal health detection, blind spot monitoring, collision avoidance, lane departure warnings, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, and more. Add to that vehicles with new efficient fuel systems and you’re looking at big improvements for the future of fleet management and maintenance.

5. Vehicle Technology Will Converge With Mobile To Drive More Efficient Fleets

On the topic of vehicle advancements, many auto manufacturers are adopting an integrated approach that combines mobile technology into the dash or vehicle design: "There is tremendous opportunity from the convergence of the West Coast technology and the auto industry with its huge technology depth," said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler AG, in theWall Street Journal.

6. Mobile Field Service Management will Become Necessary to Keep Up

While mobile field service technology has been around for a while, 2016 will be the tipping point when it becomes necessary in order for field service businesses to keep up.

Gartner has made the following predictions for the state of mobile in field service by 2016:

  • 2/3 of the mobile workforce will own a smartphone
  • 40 percent of the workforce will be mobile
  • Field service organizations will purchase 53 million tablets in 2016
  • Approximately 56 percent of smartphones purchased by businesses in North America and Europe will be Android devices.

In addition, according to TSIA’s Field Services Benchmark Survey, 81 percent of companies have implemented mobility platforms in the field.

This year, expect to see significant improvements in dispatch and scheduling, data capture, service history detail and knowledge management, and reducing the learning curve for new hires with the help of mobile devices and apps in the field.

  • Added value for equipment users who will gain insight into the health and operating efficiency of their machines.
  • Better machine availability and less downtime as IoT data triggers alerts and automates preventive maintenance.
  • Improved data analytics so manufacturers, distributors, and customers are proactively informed about equipment performance and how to make improvements.

Conclusion – Ask Yourself These Questions

As more organizations rely on mobile to automate the project management process and eliminate duplicate data entry, those who stick with manual, paper methods will get further and further behind. As a leader in the equipment industry, ask yourself the following questions to prepare for the year ahead:

  • How is your field service organization already taking advantage of new technologies to improve service operations heading into 2016?
  • What actionable steps could you take to get your business to prioritize product support in 2016?
  • How does your company plan to grow in 2016?
  • What new strategies will you try in order to tackle growing competitive challenges in 2016?

– Joanna Rotter is a writer and content marketing manager at MSI Data. This article originally appeared on MSI Data. MSI Data is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media, edunne@cfemedia.com