Written by 6:00 am Digital Transformation

How the Internet of Things will change Field Service

James Smith, Research Director for Field Service conference producer for The Field Service Summit, organised by Copperburg explains how the IoT is set to change everything…

I’ve been using the internet for 20 years, and in that time it’s changed how people connect with one another.

When I started there were 77 million online users.

Now there’s 3.2 billion.

But the Internet of Things (IoT), also known as the industrial internet, has much further to go – and is set to change how everything connects with everything.

From connecting 3.2 billion people, the IoT will connect 41 billion devices, and that’s just in the next 5 years.

An order of magnitude bigger than today’s consumer internet, the industrial internet will transform industries. It’s only a matter of time before it transforms yours: cheap bandwidth, cheap sensors, clever analytics and pervasive smartphones and wearables – in truth the IoT era is already here.

During research for this April’s Field Service Summit in Oxford, I caught up with some of our speakers to take a closer look at how IoT will change field service operations.

The ‘Service Web

“Field Service is undergoing a revolution. New sensors and sources of data mean that firms are able to offer ever greater and more sophisticated services and solutions to their customers,” explains Professor Andy Neely, Head of Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing & Founding Director of the Cambridge Service Alliance.

“Original equipment manufacturers in all sectors seem to be waking up to the challenges and opportunities of field service not just for their products, but also for their competitors. This, coupled with developments in big data analytics, make field service a fascinating place to work today.”

When everything is connected, it will be those service companies that best understand their customers who capture the most value.

“IoT is not just a technology transformation, it’s an industry transformation that requires competing industry players to work collaboratively to realise the true benefits on offer,” says Stephen

Leading service organisations have moved from a purely reactive service delivery model to a proactive or preventative model and are already reaping the rewards

Competitive advantage will not come from responsiveness or cost; it will come from becoming a strategic partner to your customers – and the field service team will be the elastic cord that binds together vendors and customers.

“It is also important is to rethink both the back office and customer interaction – the large call centre will disappear, to be replaced by control centres, staffed by more highly skilled people able to interact with equipment remotely,” he adds.

“Sending a service technician will become a last resort; only happening when physical intervention with equipment is necessary, but how does the service organisation ensure that they don’t become commoditised as well and move up the value chain to become trusted advisors with strong customer relationships?”

“The biggest challenge facing most service organisations is how to increase their service profitability and increase revenue,” observes Mikko Keto, Senior Vice President, Performance Services, Metso Corporation.

Focusing just on spare parts maximises profitability but tends to limit service growth. Too much field service work and profitability can become too low. Finding the optimum mix is the holy grail of services…

“Focusing just on spare parts maximises profitability but tends to limit service growth. Too much field service work and profitability can become too low. Finding the optimum mix is the holy grail of services.”

“The real power of IoT lies in the data that is produced,” says Marc Tonen, EMEA Product Management, Astea International.

“Field service management solutions take the data collected from machine-to-machine monitoring and turn it into actions – actions that mean faster repair times, less time wasted on travel and reduced asset downtime.”

“Leading service organisations have moved from a purely reactive service delivery model to a proactive or preventative model and are already reaping the rewards.”

If it’s clear to see where the initial value will be created – the real prize will be won by field service organisations able to retool their teams to move into the role of strategic advocacy.

“There is a need to enhance the customer experience through field service interactions,” says Aly Pinder, Senior Research Analyst, Aberdeen Group.

“Technicians not only find themselves responsible for fixing downed equipment, they also have to have the tools, skills, knowledge, and expertise to deliver value to customers as the brand advocates for the business.”