Written by 2:52 pm Feature, FSM Technology, Editor's Pick, Home Page, Analysis, Service Operations

Are we only just starting to scratch the surface of what we can achieve with connected field service?  

How much further can we go with the effective use of asset data driving a true revolution in field service operations, and what are the barriers holding us back?

In 2014,  our Editor-in-Chief Kris Oldland wrote an article that suggested that while the industry adoption of Cloud and Mobile changed our sector by introducing radical optimization, the introduction of IoT would be a truly revolutionary technology in our industry as it would radically change the fundamental way we approach service, moving us from being a reactive sector to a proactive one.  

Since that article, the concept of connected field service has become established, and proactive and preventative service has become an established part of the field service portfolio. FSN Research has seen across a number of studies that the number of assets are IoT connected is consistently increasing, however, in many instances, the depth of utilisation of asset data remains largely rudimentary.  

With this in mind, we are looking to further explore whether field service organisations are still only just at the beginning of this revolution, how much further can we go with the effective use of asset data driving true revolution in service operations and what if any are the barriers that are holding us back? 

How critical is IoT for the future of field service operations?

There is a unique opportunity for Field service companies to shift their business models from reactive to proactive. This can be achieved through the successful implementation of the IoT. But is it critical to the success of service operations into the future.

Sumair Dutta, Industry Analyst and Senior Director, ServiceMax explains “The response varies based on the organization’s business model and the type of asset served, but the ability to collect real-time asset or on-demand asset and performance data is extremely critical for those organizations who are driving to outcome-based models and looking to become more predictive in their service operations. With that, it is vital that organizations have an IoT roadmap and plan in place for their new equipment and critical asset. For retrofitting existing installed base, the business case for investment in IoT isn’t completely established and most organizations will look to their critical installed base for these initiatives. For everything else, other modes of data collection can be sufficient.”  

Steve Mason, COO of FieldAware – GPS Insight adds “IoT is critical for the future of field service operations because it provides unique interconnectivity between all company devices, including computers, mobile devices, and vehicle assets or equipment. A major benefit of utilizing IoT is that it allows field service companies to enhance their customer experience, as stronger communication and more actionable data can accelerate response time, streamline invoicing and ensure customer issues or feedback can be quickly addressed. In addition, IoT provides predictive analytics so field service companies can schedule and conduct routine maintenance at an optimized time, reducing unproductive travel time, fuel costs, and environmental impact—all without requiring a customer to submit the request first.” 

“Companies are beginning to realize the importance of IoT connectivity—for example, IoT solutions are allowing GPS Insight to connect fleet and field service like never before. The recent acquisition of FieldAware integrates a field service suite with industry-leading telematics, video telematics and fleet management solutions to help companies achieve digital transformation.” Mason Continues 

“FieldAware by GPS Insight recently helped a client, Mobile Equipment Service Operations Inc. (M.E.S.O.), launch Uptime-as-a-Service, an IoT and mobile hub solution that leverages asset data and streamlines workflow to manage all service activities. This solution provides their managers with the data they need to plan and predict based on real-world conditions, like ensuring all vehicles and equipment are up-to-date on maintenance and scheduling repairs as needed.“ 

“IoT tech is transforming all industries, and field service is no exception. As tech continues to expand, it’s important that field service companies keep pace and avoid clinging to outdated processes that could limit their operational capabilities—IoT ultimately boosts productivity and increases profitability, while reducing environmental impact, as it improves customer retention and maximizes resources.” 

Edwin Pahk, VP of Growth, Aquant provides elaborates further “The Internet of Things (IoT) was forecasted to radically change business operations and simplify maintenance and repair projects. However, service leaders have expressed their disappointment in the hype that got ahead of reality.” 

“Service leaders across industries point to a number of barriers that are preventing them from successfully deploying large-scale IoT preventative maintenance projects. This has resulted in over-maintenance, higher service costs, more downtime, and overall gaps in service — the exact opposite of what IoT promised.“ 

“However, there’s still hope for IoT preventative maintenance. When combined with AI-driven tools (which analyze hidden data, find patterns, and deliver automated insights) that leverage both service data and IoT data, service teams can quickly and more accurately act on those IoT output signals. Proactive, predictive maintenance that’s driven by IoT sensors can only be achieved if paired with an AI-powered tool that understands the machine’s history, and can make highly accurate predictions about what will go wrong and why.”  

“While there are significant challenges with IoT, service organizations can overcome them by taking a holistic approach to data. It’s the connectivity that tie all these devices together that give IoT its power.” explains Pahk 

Rob Ballantyne, Director Product Management  at Salesforce highlights “IoT has remained an exciting capability in field service operations for some years now – and certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While it is yet to become pivotal across the board it certainly will be required to pave the way for capabilities such as: 

  • Planned Maintenance. Moving from standard, cyclical service to condition and/or usage based maintenance. Not only is this important for continuing uptime (driving customer experience), but also has implications from a resource optimisation perspective (dispatching engineers to perform the right work at the right time). 
  • Digital Twins. Everything from device monitoring for end users through to being able to assist with remote triage and service. This is critical to assist in driving first “experience” resolution, as well as reducing KPIs such as travel time or enhancing net zero goals. 
  • Metaverse – or if we dial down slightly, Augmented / Mixed Reality. Being able to conduct virtual visits to perform maintenance or upgrades. Or to be able to support a remote resource in completing a set of activities from a different physical location.” 

A growing world view of the importance of taking significant environmental action is without doubt a major issue facing the field service industry in the immediate future.

Are there ways that we can use the existing FSM technologies to bridge the gap between smart and dumb assets in the field?

Pahk explains “AI tools, like Aquant’s Service Intelligence platform, can bridge the gap between smart and dumb assets in the field. The largest opportunity that most organizations have is already at their fingertips in their existing service data. By combining historical service data and IoT data together, service teams can begin to measure and bridge the gap between different types of assets in the field and transform the way they deliver service.” 

“Smart assets only tell one side of the story. Sensor data and error codes can cover a number of problems but rarely are they comprehensive. Service data provides context about what is being experienced by the customer, so smart assets that combine service data with IoT data can provide the best insight into your business, while dumb assets can still benefit from mining service data.” 

 “Every touchpoint with the asset or the customer using the asset is a data point that creates visibility and can drive insight. This can happen via the online connections, via the phone or remote technical support (on call), in the field (on-site), or in a depot or shop environment. The capture of relevant performance across all these modalities in a central system of asset truth can provide organizations the ability to smarten their non-connected assets.“ says Dutta. 

Ballantyne explains further “Absolutely – vendors providing an end to end field service solution on one platform bridge this gap by being able to share data and insight bi laterally from the back office to field. Surfacing asset data to field techs and allowing them to capture usage and condition details which are seamlessly updated mean that maintenance plans and engineer schedules can be optimised. Or leveraging tools such as video support mean that engineers don’t necessarily need to travel to a field asset; instead, customers can drive their own service activities.” 

 Pahk says “AI tools, like Aquant’s Service Intelligence platform, can bridge the gap between smart and dumb assets in the field. The largest opportunity that most organizations have is already at their fingertips in their existing service data. By combining historical service data and IoT data together, service teams can begin to measure and bridge the gap between different types of assets in the field and transform the way they deliver service.” 

 “Smart assets only tell one side of the story. Sensor data and error codes can cover a number of problems but rarely are they comprehensive. Service data provides context about what is being experienced by the customer, so smart assets that combine service data with IoT data can provide the best insight into your business, while dumb assets can still benefit from mining service data.” 

What more could we be doing to ensure the effective flow of asset data to drive meaningful insight?

Dutta starts “The first is to champion the value of asset data in achieving service business goals, while also conveying the impact to non-service stakeholders. This is particularly relevant to commercial personnel in sales, account management, and marketing as it will have a direct impact on revenue. Other operational stakeholders such as compliance and supply chain should also buy in to the impact of this data. The second is to identify which elements of asset data are relevant to the outcomes desired by the business and the third would be to put in the processes and tools capture, cleanse, and manage the integrity of the asset data.” 

Park highlights “Simplicity is key here. Too often companies think more data means more value but that’s proven not to be the case especially as it relates to IoT.  Capturing a lot of data can also create a lot of noise, which could be difficult for companies to make use of. Don’t try to boil the ocean, start small, focus on a couple of key variables, test and expand from there.“   

“Whether a service organization is trying to hit standard KPIs or working towards a larger, IoT-powered digital transformation, AI-driven tools that provide a comprehensive look at how customers experience your products are the missing piece of the puzzle. By bringing together historical service data and IoT outputs, organizations can start to leverage their data to drive prescriptive insights.”  

Deploying a single platform that delivers end to end field service in the same place effectively unlocks a single source of truth. As long as this can be maintained in a trusted fashion from engineers, customers and back office, this provides the foundation to capture the data, which in turn delivers insight.” adds Ballantyne .

As we can see there is mixed views on the success of IoT to date given the hype around it but its universally agreed that it is critical to future success of Field Service companies. The more proactive service operations become the more success our customers can achieve, driving productivity and reducing downtime.  Bridging the gap between smart and dumb assets will be critical and this can be achieved through existing FSM technologies. Ensuring the effective flow of data can help drive meaningful insight.  

 
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