Technology, Disruption and a Post-Covid Future

It is often said that a disruptive influence can re-energise a market, driving change for the better by forcing companies to innovate and adapt. There has perhaps been no greater disruptor in history than the coronavirus pandemic. It is true we have seen innovation and ingenuity in almost every sector as companies pivoted in response to the challenges we’ve all faced – often though we are not thinking of new ideas in the heat of battle, the thinking was complete some time ago, we are now just putting our foot to the floor to make it happen ASAP…


One industry that was already under significant disruptive pressure prior to the pandemic was the print industry, which has been going through wholesale changes as our world increasingly becomes more digitally centric. 


“In the print industry, we are all actually selling against the thing that made our business so significant in the first place,” explained Ged Cranny, Konica Minolta. 


“One of the things we realized at Konica Minolta four or five years ago was the machines are getting more reliable plus we also had an ageing workforce. I walked into the room and told everybody I wanted to run the service department with no engineers. My management team looked at me as if I had gone mad. I said to them, if we achieve this, everybody in the world will look at what we’re doing. So we started to look at what tools were available and what we could do.”


It was the forward-thinking approach of Cranny that positioned Konica Minolta as an organisation that, while being impacted by the lockdowns as much as any other within their sector and beyond, have been able to show the kind of agility that bodes well for their future. 


“I think if you look into the majority of the contracts that were in existence that they were already offering such services, so this isn’t necessarily new..”

– Rajat Kakar, IBM


It is companies such as this, who had already set out on their digitalisation journey that Rajat Kakar, IBM Executive Service Leadership, EMEA believes will be the organisations that flourish in the future. Those who have yet to do so will need to catch up sharply Kakar believes. 


“In terms of remote services being the new default,” Kakar states. “I think if you look into the majority of the contracts that were in existence that they were already offering such services, so this isn’t necessarily new. I think the markets need to move a little bit faster in adapting to some of the tools we have.”


It is certainly an important pillar in the future direction that Canny believes his organisation and others should follow. 


“Traditionally 11% of all the calls we do is and installation,” he explains putting the case forward for a remote-first approach. 


“We do that by default, and we do that two and a half thousand to three thousand times a month. If we can support the customers to do that, if we can have the machine set, so when the delivery arrives, they unbox it, unpack it, and then place a phone call to us we do all of the linking, which is easy for us to do – there’s an 11% reduction in site visits right there.


“An engineer can sit there in his house easily talk to the customer, help them with the setup and talk to the machine directly if need be and set everything up remotely. We can change that contract so that when we talk to customers, it’s remote by default.”


The potential savings for service organisations, while simultaneously delivering a faster customer experience are potentially massive, however, Kakar also believes that remote service is only a starting point for what service delivery will look like for the not so distant future. 


“I believe we should start thinking about self-healing a lot more..”

– Rajat Kakar, IBM


“If you launch an engineer, it is quite expensive; you can reduce the cost by utilizing remote support. Then from an OEM standpoint, I believe we should start thinking about self-healing a lot more.”


“The younger generation today is already focusing on self-help,” Kakar continues, “the interaction that they want is quite limited. If you’re able to build up data lakes with regards to solutions, where people have access to this data it can be achieved. Whether it’s part of a public pool or part of a private pool that is monetised is a question for each company. IBM is using Watson to make sure that solutions can be provided. The partners that we work with are implementing that as a standard now.


“And as AI (artificial intelligence) becomes more prevalent, you will see people have a greater tendency to not only rely on remote support but look into the area of self-help. How can I fix this stuff? And can my device or can my solutions solution self heal?”


It is an interesting indication of where many in the industry believe we will eventually head towards. Yet it is not necessarily the right option for all organisations. 


“With regards to self-help, I think it depends on the situation and the products that you’re working on,” responded Tony Chapman, General Manager, Customer Services, Siemens


“In our case at Siemens, a lot of what we work on requires specific engineering skills and training – it’s not something that just anybody could deal with.


“We’ve talked today about human safety a lot in this Think Tank, I’m not going name the company we work with, but they have their team on-site who thought they could fix things. When we went back three months later, and found they’d put an asset in a very, very dangerous position.


“Even simple things like crossing the line in a neutral wiring we’ve seen on-site put the wrong way around.  So that the basic self-help still needs the right skill-set.”


All members of the Field Service Think Tanks are speaking from their own personal opinions which are not necessarily reflective of the organisations they work for. 

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