Four steps to becoming a data-driven service organization

It’s more important than ever for field service organizations to have strategies in place to measure performance, and becoming data driven is the best way to make those measurements clear and actionable.


It’s more important than ever for field service organizations to have strategies in place to measure performance, and becoming data driven is the best way to make those measurements clear and actionable. Courtesy: MSI DataRunning an equipment maintenance or service operation without reliable data is like driving in the dark; instead of following a clear path and growing consistently, businesses without consistent data collection are blind to what makes their organization successful.

Highly distributed operations such as refineries, pulp and paper, mining, and transportation are obvious candidates for an automated service management approach, as field work is fundamental to their business model. Their assets and equipment are situated across wide geographic areas and require efficient condition monitoring, inspections, testing, repairs, and installation. Similarly, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and third-party service providers require mobility in the delivery of point skills, specialized services, and domain expertise to remote customer sites and assets.

Collecting information through mobile streamlines is how data is collected across the industry, making it less onerous overall. With a mobile field service management (FSM) system, technicians can perform inspections, clock their hours, and take notes for specific jobs.

To manage maintenance processes, most manufacturing plants have at least a first-generation system in place to handle field service scheduling, dispatch, service parts management, and some degree of mobility. Companies still relying on spreadsheets and manual processes to manage service are losing out on huge business opportunities to identify problems, collect data, and integrate with a back office or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

The following steps reveal how maintenance businesses can use an FSM system to collect business intelligence on a mobile device and integrate with the rest of the organization to make field operations more efficient.

1. Break down barriers to information access

The best way to make data accessible to the right people in the company is to integrate each piece of the service puzzle. An integrated FSM system allows technicians to connect, collect, and centralize data for easy access across many areas of the operation, including:

  • Work order and job tracking
  • Service level agreements and contracts
  • Parts tracking and inventory
  • Customer equipment, assets, and history
  • Technician schedules, skills, and availability
  • Customer site and call history.

Recent studies have found that service organizations utilizing FSM software complete more work orders and turn more profit than companies using paper or manual methods. Using an FSM system, the entire process—from data entry, to collection, to analysis-is integrated with the rest of the office operations, and information flows predictably from system to system.

2. Empower technicians to collect field data

Because technicians are collecting data in the field, it benefits the whole company to equip them with a mobile device and service app. Collecting information through mobile streamlines is how data is collected across various jobsites and locations. Because techs can instantly sync information to the back office, business benefits include:

  • Reduced administrative time in the back office
  • More accurate entry of data
  • Invoice and receive cash from customer sooner
  • Ability to submit completed work order information to customer for approval before they leave the job site
  • Access to training material while on site.

By employing the power of the field workforce for data collection, field service companies can get real-time feedback concerning the projects and equipment they're working on and gain insights into how to improve.

3. Benchmark, then act

Having the right data is the first step in determining where you stack up against your competition. But that's just the beginning. According to Trimble Transforming Service Delivery Insight Report, "high level trends and benchmarking can be used in performance management while real-time data means managers can make instant decisions based on robust and reliable intelligence."

Access to service data isn't enough. Follow these three steps to go from benchmarking to action:

  1. Plan: How much will the job cost?
  2. Measure: Based on the data collected, how much did the job actually cost?
  3. Analyze: If the job cost more than the plan assumed, how can you account for those costs? Did the job take longer than expected? Was the technician's training insufficient? Did it take the tech too long to get there? Did he have to go back for necessary parts?

Planning what data you need and how you'll use it is as important as collecting it in the first place. Often, companies don't even know they're having problems until they see the data, which allows businesses to identify trends, opportunities, and, which forces them to reexamine their assumptions.

4. Deliver the right data to the right person at the right time

After collecting, measuring, and interpreting field data on the plant floor and elsewhere, it's important to get the results to the right people at the right time. A variety of roles can benefit from access to consistent field data, including:

Executives—With a big picture view of service performance and metrics to guide informed decision making, executives can leverage analytics to make better business decisions and enhance field service performance.

Service managers—Use data to drive smarter decision making and increase service efficiency.

Service technicians—With the right tools and insight, techs spend more time on billable hours and less time entering data, traveling, and returning to the office for parts or training materials.

Schedulers/Dispatchers—Time and inspection data give dispatchers more insight into how long jobs will take, making them better able to schedule the most jobs per technician per day.

Stakeholders—Corporate offices, equipment manufacturers, and retail distributers can use data-backed findings to unveil what customers want and adjust their sales and/or production strategies accordingly.

Customers—With their own portal to view equipment performance, service levels, and technician and ETA updates, customers won't ever be surprised or disappointed when working with your business.


It's more important than ever for field service organizations to have strategies in place to measure performance, and becoming data driven is the best way to make those measurements clear and actionable. According to the Trimble study, only 1 in 5 service organizations believes they get the field service data they need to do their job fully. Businesses that take advantage of data on the plant floor to improve maintenance operations and beyond will gain the upper hand as maintenance intelligence becomes a key differentiator in 2016.

- Joanna Rotter is the content marketing manager at MSI Data, a field service management software provider and creator of enterprise field service app, Service Pro. MSI Data is a CFE Media content partner.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
November 2018
2018 Product of the Year finalists, mild steel welding: finding the right filler, and new technique joins aluminum to steel.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Summer 2018
Microgrids and universities, Steam traps and energy efficiency, Finding help with energy projects
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
November 2018
Analytics quantify processes, Fieldbus networking and IIoT, Choosing the right accelerometer

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me