Six recommendations for building the perfect field-service technology stack

Choosing the right software solutions to manage your field-service business is not something to take lightly. These field-service technology recommendations will guide your decision and get your technology stack selection started on the right track.

05/14/2016


Choosing the right software solutions to manage your field-service business is not something to take lightly. Courtesy: MSI DataThere's no question, technology has become necessary to building a successful product-support operation. Today's field-service leaders need various platforms and applications to understand customer history, view product support detail and monitor remote equipment for errors or outages.

Fierce competition and escalating overheads increase pressure on field-service companies to improve their delivery methods and, more importantly, keep their underlying technology infrastructure up to date.

To take the next step in boosting productivity and growing revenue, each piece of the field-service technology stack can be a great enabler. Basic processes like appointment scheduling and route planning can be automated, and analytics provide new insight into business operations including real-time performance dashboards and resource-forecasting tools.

Before you start purchasing and piecing together the right features, here are some recommendations to help you know what to look for and get started on the right track.

1. Deploy software in the cloud

While cloud technology is nothing new, research conducted by Field Service News and Click Software found that, as of 2014, only 23% of companies were running their field-service management (FSM) software in the cloud. However, 100% of companies using a cloud-based FSM solution said they would recommend cloud over an on-premises solution.

Benefits of cloud vs. on-premises deployments include:

  • Lower cost—reduce overhead during low usage
  • Fewer resources—IT personnel no longer need to maintain in-house servers.
  • Flexibility—add or reduce resources automatically
  • Scalability—detect load and add capacity
  • Security—data is backed up with failover servers.

2. Inform the service process with smart, connected equipment

Smart, connected products offer major improvements in predictive maintenance and service productivity. Having access to product data coming directly from machines helps organizations reveal existing and future problems and enables companies to schedule timely repairs.

Nothing is worse for equipment end users than unscheduled machine downtime. Feeding data from sensors into a back-office service system through the cloud gives manufacturers and dealers the insight they need to proactively service equipment before it breaks down.

Courtesy: MSI Data

3. Invest in best-of-breed software solutions over systems that claim to do it all

Piecing together best-of-breed software solutions rather than customizing a large enterprise management system to do field-service work equips businesses with industry-proven software that's the best in its space. With specialized systems to fill each of your major enterprise-software needs, you'll have the flexibility and functionality to provide exceptional service in the field while maintaining the rest of your everyday business processes inside the office.

4. Recognize that technicians' roles are becoming more technology-focused

As a company's technology infrastructure becomes an even more important indicator for success, service technicians will need to adapt to and be able to use technologically complex equipment and tools. Not only will new service techs need to understand technology that's in equipment, they'll have to be able to use the FSM technologies, like mobile apps, to streamline the service process, achieve higher first-time fix rates and complete work orders more efficiently.

Another reason to invest in modern service technology: Young technicians want to work for companies with the latest and greatest software and devices. Are you thinking forward enough to recruit top young talent?

5. Understand that customers are in control

Field-service customers are no longer just the recipients of messages about a company's products and services. Today's customers demand a trusted, ongoing relationship with their service providers.

With a complete field-service technology stack, service organizations will be equipped to deliver the service customers have come to expect. Here are some examples of customer-driven product-support demands that require an automated, mobile solution:

  • They want to define their own service.
  • They want zero equipment downtime.
  • They want to understand how their machines are functioning.
  • They want a lasting partnership with trusted service companies.
  • They expect short estimated-time-of-arrival windows.

6. Benchmark your technology stack

Determine what technology pieces other companies, including competitors, in your industry are using. If you're missing commonly used pieces, you may want to revisit your technology plan and determine what you need to help you meet your KPIs and revenue-generation goals from service for 2016.

Conclusion: Be prepared to make service a major revenue driver

In the last decade, there's been a seismic shift in the corporate mindset from seeing service as a cost center to seeing it as a profit center. In fact, according to a recent Salesforce study, 2016 Connected Manufacturing Service Report, which explores the role technology plays in the service departments of U.S. manufacturing companies, "Products will become 'loss leaders' within the next 10 years while services will be revenue drivers."

Make sure you're focused on building a technology stack today that will deliver the results you want tomorrow. 

- 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. This article originally appeared on MSI Data's blog. MSI Data is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media, edunne@cfemedia.com.



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.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

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.
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.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
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.
click me