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

Feb 15 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 4044 Views • No Comments on Ten big field service trends to watch in 2016 (part two)

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In part one of this series, looking at the big trends we will see in Field Service this year we looked at way the business trend of servitization is set to become more commonplace this year.

 Now in the second part of this series Kris Oldland looks at the impact the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality might have in field service…

The Internet of Things has arrived and has two feet firmly in the field service industry

OK so this is a bit of a cheat given that in my intro I pointed out that this was the one I got right in 2015.

However, last year I mentioned it would start to become commonplace.

This time around I’m going to go all in and state that across 2016 we will see IoT implementation become a commonplace strategy for field service companies in all corners of the globe.

It was perhaps inevitable ever since ServiceMax and PTC got into bed together in May last year that we would see a fully IoT enabled, Field Service solution merge as the fruits of this union.

Perhaps one of the big myths that was firmly debunked on our pages last year was that IoT was sole domain of the largest companies only.

Yes we will have read the case studies and white papers by the likes of GE, Schneider and Phillips and yes the stuff these big guys are doing with IoT is really, pretty damn impressive.

However, there are also now a growing number of examples of smaller to medium sized companies who have harnessed IoT in order to improve the service they are delivering to their customers (and even to have moved towards a servitized business model in some instances.)

This was highlighted perfectly by leading service consultant Nick Frank in a presentation he gave during a Field Service News webinar last year.

Frank gave a number of examples of SME’s utilising IoT, often with fairly simple, and dare I say it relatively lo-tech solutions, that were as much about thinking about the service these companies were delivering and how ‘outside-the-box’ thinking could improve that service.

In fact it was a core facet in all of the companies Frank referred to in the webinar, and indeed also those companies he often refers to in his regular column for Field Service News, that they intrinsically understood what good service looked like for their customers, and they viewed the emergence of IoT as an enabler and facilitator in delivering and enhancing that service.

Of course, for some companies innovation sits within their DNA so adopting new technologies and approaches is nothing to be feared.

However, this isn’t necessarily the case for all companies, so it is perhaps the recent launch of ‘Connected Field Service’ by ServiceMax, that finally connects the IoT dots for the rest of the pack.

It was perhaps inevitable ever since ServiceMax and PTC got into bed together in May last year that we would see a fully IoT enabled, Field Service solution merge as the fruits of this union.

in our own exclusive research from October last year over half (55%) of our respondents stated they thought “IoT will become a fundamental part of field service operations in the future” whilst a further 21% went further stating that “IoT is critical to any field service organisation’s strategy”.

But when ServiceMax capitalised on the growing emergence of Salesforce as a business platform, they were a young, wet-behind-the-ears business,that slipped under their competitors radar before it was too late and suddenly everyone was trying to play catch-up.

You can be sure that they won’t be given as much grace a second time around and almost certainly other significant field service management software providers like ClickSoftware, IFS et al will soon be in the IoT game as well.

Indeed ServicePower are also rumoured to have an agreement in place with PTC so watch this space.

For field service companies though, whether they are blue chips, the smaller innovators that Frank has highlighted so well, or anything in between the ability to enhance service offerings through IoT are becoming both more accessible and more easily understood.

Indeed in our own exclusive research from October last year over half (55%) of our respondents stated they thought “IoT will become a fundamental part of field service operations in the future” whilst a further 21% went further stating that “IoT is critical to any field service organisation’s strategy”.

Augmented Reality will replace IoT as the new kid on the block everyone is talking about…

OK so if IoT is moving from the exciting cool tech everyone is talking about to the big ticket everyone is investing in, then Augmented Reality (AR) is the tech whose impact upon field service is still being outlined and explained somewhat.

However, once people grasp the concept, and the relativeease of implementation of the technology, and the quite frankly huge potential for AR to wipe significant cost lines from a field service P&L then they are almost instantly converted.

f IoT is moving from the exciting cool tech everyone is talking about to the big ticket everyone is investing in, then Augmented Reality (AR) is the tech whose impact upon field service is still being outlined and explained somewhat.

The thing is with AR that like IoT it has the potential to not just optimise the levels of productivity companies get from their service operations like mobile computing and the Cloud have done. It has the potential to completely change the way field service companies approach their service operations, and to do so for the better.

However, unlike IoT there isn’t the potential barrier of retrofitting hundreds, thousands or potentially millions of assets in the field.

In fact one AR provider that impressed me and everyone else that saw there demonstration at Field Service East last September (Help Lightning) offer their app as a download from the App store.

So what exactly is AR and why do I think it will have such an incredible impact?

Very simply AR is the overlaying of digital information onto the reality we see before us.

In field service, this has huge potential.

Often the largest single cost for any field service company is the cost of getting a highly skilled engineer, to fix that critical issue, for a key client ASAP. There is the cost of travel, accommodation not to mention the dead time lost whilst he is in between jobs.

AR allows us to get the experience of that engineer on-site without him being there. In fact we can utilize a less experienced engineer who is closer to the job, locally out sourced staff or even the customer themselves to undertake the physical maintenance whilst under the direct guidance of our experienced engineer who can be based in a centralized location, or even at home.

AR allows us to get the experience of that engineer on-site without him being there. In fact we can utilize a less experienced engineer who is closer to the job, locally out sourced staff or even the customer themselves to undertake the physical maintenance whilst under the direct guidance of our experienced engineer who can be based in a centralized location, or even at home.

Through the use of AR our remote engineer can not only see exactly what the on site engineer is seeing and talk them through the repair, he can at any point freeze the image being captured by the on site engineers device and show his less experience colleague exactly what to do with hand gestures or even on screen annotations shown in real-time.

So instead of explaining over the phone ‘the dial near the mid-centre of the asset, turn it clockwise by about 20 degrees’ he can physically point to the correct dial and show how much it should be turned and this will be seen by the on site engineer on his device.

Studies have shown that the human brain is almost 20 times more receptive to being shown something via hand gestures than spoken word and this is at it’s core the power that AR provides.

And by replacing the need to ‘fly experience in’ with the ability to ‘dial it in’ field service companies could make potentially huge savings very quickly leading to a whole rethink about how we deploy our most experienced engineers.

This also leads us onto the other big area where AR could be deployed within field service, namely training.

As millennials become more and more a part of the field service landscape, the need for digitizing our knowledge banks becomes more pressing, and whilst AR can be used as a standalone training tool, for those companies utilising it actively in the field it is a simple case to record each interaction – thus building a digital knowledge library as a by-product of every AR based service call.

Given the benefits, low-cost implementation and potentially instant R.o.I surely AR will rapidly move from exciting new concept to industry staple and I think we will begin to see that traction this year.

Look out for the part three of this series when smart glasses and rugged computing take centre stage…

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