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Ten big field service trends to watch in 2016 (part one)

Feb 8 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 2968 Views • No Comments on Ten big field service trends to watch in 2016 (part one)

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As the last remaining vestiges of tinsel are tidied away from the corners here at Field Service News Towers, our Editor-in- Chief Kris Oldland dusts off his crystal ball and begins a new series looking at what is going to be the key trends for field service companies this coming year…

As the Editor of a trade magazine, you know you’re always going to be asked to put some kind of list together come the start of the year predicting the big trends in the market, and you know invariably some of them you’ll get right and some of them you’ll get wrong.

Last year was no exception, I suggested that the Internet of Things would start to become an integral part of field service operations, which in some ways it did (there are certainly more case studies of field service IoT implementations now than there were a year ago), the Cloud would finally come of age as a platform for field service management systems (which our own research showed to be partially true, there is a growing move to the Cloud but it remains a gradual shift) and that 2015 would be the year that 3D printing would make a true breakthrough (woefully optimistic as despite huge potential I’ve yet to see a genuine application for 3D printing in a field service environment.)

As I look through this year’s list I find that the trends I’ve highlighted are, in the main not so much about brand new emerging technologies or concepts, but more their evolution from fledgling ideas to real-life applications now soaring in full flight.

Yet as I look through this year’s list I find that the trends I’ve highlighted are, in the main not so much about brand new emerging technologies or concepts, but more their evolution from fledgling ideas to real-life applications now soaring in full flight.

Therefore for once I’m feeling more confident that most of this list will come good by the end of the year.

Indeed, I would go as far as to say that if the last few years have been all about exciting innovation, as twenty first century technologies drive us into a Gene Roddenbury inspired brave new world, then 2016 may well be the start of a period of maturation, and fulfilment.

Is 2016 the year we finally stop talking about how things are going to be in the not so distant future and start realising that this is how we are going to be doing things in the here and now?

Only time will tell, but for what it’s worth, here’s how I see the year panning out…

Servitization will become a common way of doing business

On the outset a radical shift in business thinking, driven largely from the UK with an American English spelling, servitization has a number of different monikers including ‘outcome based solutions’, ‘through life-cycle services’ and ‘advanced services’.

The concept itself, which in reality can be dated back easily to the 1960’s and less tangibly so even earlier, involves the shift in thinking away from the traditional transactional nature of manufacturing a product to sell, and then providing services to ensure the upkeep of that product, towards an approach whereby a product is manufactured with the view of delivering a long-term service.

Other big name examples of servitization also come from companies as diverse as Pearson, Caterpillar and MAN Trucks (UK) but for some time the examples of truly servitized businesses beyond these headline hogging few were in short supply.

The (perhaps overly used and certainly overly simplistic) often cited example is ‘Don’t sell drills, sell holes’ something that many switched on sales people will be fully aware of as solutions based selling has been a staple of the consultative sell in the twilight of the last century and the early dawn of this one.

And at it’s heart that’s what Servitization is really all about.

However, it is doing so on a company wide scale, taking a neat, piffy one liner and reinventing the whole company structure around the premise.

The all time most cited example of servitization has to be Rolls Royce who in the sixties working with American Airlines adopted a servitized approach, coining it ‘power-by-the-hour’ and in doing so re-wrote the rules for the aviation industry.

Other big name examples of servitization also come from companies as diverse as Pearson, Caterpillar and MAN Trucks (UK) but for some time the examples of truly servitized businesses beyond these headline hogging few were in short supply.

However, in part due to the ongoing work from academia by the likes of Tim Baines (Aston), Andy Neely (Cambridge) and Howard Lightfoot (Cranfield) but also driven heavily by the emergence of the Internet of Things, Enterprise Mobility and Machine to Machine communications, we are finallystarting to see servitization beginning to really come to the fore.

At last year’s Spring Servitization Conference hosted by Baines and his colleagues at Aston University we saw academia and industry on the same page

At last year’s Spring Servitization Conference hosted by Baines and his colleagues at Aston University we saw academia and industry on the same page and companies ranging from global PLCs such as Air France KLM and recycling and mining giant Metso through to family owned transit packaging firm Nicklin all taking the steps towards building a servitized business operation.

With servitization bringing the promise of both greater long term profits as well as a better service for the clients (leading to longer-term contracts – which of course provides stability for a business,) it is little wonder that companies such as Sony are beginning to adopt the model and there is a definite feel that the concept is now gaining momentum.

For us in field service this is perhaps a double edged sword.

On the one hand it means that service now sits proudly at the top table as an absolutely critical part of a business strategy.

On the other however, it means that we need to be 100% on top of our game, as a fundamental factor in a servitized business model is that unless the client has uptime, the service provider isn’t getting paid.

However, the simple fact is that servitization is coming to an industry near you and it will perhaps be those companies that neglect to pay attention to the phenomenon that may come under threat.

Look out for the second part of this feature where we look at the impact the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality may have on field service in 2016

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