In this the first part of a new series Kris Oldland, Field Service News Editor-in-Chief explores our exclusive research into IoT and Field Service undertaken by Field Service News and sponsored by ServiceMax and PTC...
We are seemingly blessed to be living in a time of such incredible advancement. Technological trends such as Big Data, Enterprise Mobility and Cloud Computing have all pushed businesses forward and often we see these three coming together in the latest field service management systems, where data is easily collected, interpreted and distributed across a business eco-system.
Such systems give engineers instant access to knowledge bases, managers continuous overviews of the performance of their teams and most importantly of all, customers an ever improving customer experience. However whilst the opportunity for improving business processes these technologies present is clear, when it comes to potential for real, genuine industrial revolution, there is another emergent technology that promises to be king and that is the Internet of Things.
Whilst the massive hype that surrounded Big Data meant that the early projects we are seeing today are perhaps a slight anti-climax, (BI on steroids - which is undeniably useful in business but just not quite the life changing scenarios that were being bandied about back in 2013) with IoT almost the opposite is true.
There seems to be less confusion around IoT, which given it’s much more tangible nature makes sense, but have we grasped the magnitude of how big an impact it could truly have on field service industries? To try and understand a little more about the general attitude to and application of IoT amongst field service companies, Field Service News has partnered with ServiceMax and PTC on this research project looking to ascertain just how ready we are in field service for IoT.
About the research
The research was conducted across a period of 6 weeks during August and September this year. Over 100 field service professionals contributed to the research with respondents from both the operational side of business (field service directors/managers etc) as well as senior IT representatives (CIO/CTO etc.) participating alongside business leaders (MD,CEO etc.)
We had a variety of company sizes ranging from those with less than 10 field workers through to those with over 800 field workers, with a fairly even split across these groups so there was fair representation of opinions from companies of differing sizes.
whilst there was a slight UK bias in respondents, there were also respondents from India, Ireland, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany and the USA so there was a mix of nationalities amongst the respondents
To do this we needed to assess where the companies in our group were in terms of their approach to technology in general as well as how they approached their own service delivery.
Of course with the introduction of any new technology there will always be laggards and there will always be bleeding edge adopters and if there was a bias amongst our respondent group either way this should be taken into account when exploring other responses and trends identified within the research. Therefore the first question we asked our respondents was “How regularly does your company invest in new technology initiatives to improve field service operations and performance” and we gave our respondents the choices of every year, every two years, every three years, every five years or other.
It would seem our group was on average representing a slightly forward looking set of companies with 35% stating they would invest in new technology an annual basis. Meanwhile 13% stated they did so every two years, 17% every three years and 16% five years. A number of respondents also commented that their company’s investment in technology was slightly less strategic and on more of an ad-hoc basis although members of this group also stated ‘recently the investment in new technology is being increased’
Predictive or reactive?
The next question we asked in this initial section was whether our respondents were working for a company that is either adopting a pro-active or reactive model in terms of their field service planning.
Almost a third of companies (31%) state that their “service is half proactive and half reactive” whilst only a small fraction of companies (4%) were operating on a wholly reactive strategy.
Indeed it seems that the majority of field service companies do see the benefits of moving towards delivering service in a proactive rather than reactive manner, in theory at least. Whilst the same amount of companies (6%) stated they were either “Fully pro-active with a mix of predictive and preventive maintenance, enabled by remote monitoring and M2M diagnostics” or “We are mostly pro-active using both predictive and preventive maintenance strategies but still have a small percentage of reactive calls.” The largest group of respondents by a long way (44%) stated they “operate a proactive strategy where possible but are still mostly reactive.”
Meanwhile almost a third of companies (31%) state that their “service is half proactive and half reactive” whilst only a small fraction of companies (4%) were operating on a wholly reactive strategy. This would suggest that the perceived wisdom that field service companies should be moving away from the traditional break-fix reactive approach to a more proactive approach, which is better for service providers and their customers alike, is being adopted by the industry at large.
It also indicates that whilst this attitude is widespread, achieving a move away from break-fix models is harder to achieve than simply updating policies. In fact responses to this question would certainly strengthen the case for Internet of Things being rapidly accepted and adopted amongst field service companies who can see the benefits of proactive maintenance but are unable to deliver it.