Having been widely touted as a technology that wouldn’t just improve service delivery but would completely revolutionise the way we even approach field service operations the Internet of Things has rapidly become an ever-present discussion topic amongst field service companies - but has the IoT revolution finally happened or is it still just the realm of those at the leading edge of adoption?
We ask three experts to give us their opinions on IoT in field service...
What are the core benefits of IoT for field service organizations?
Mark Homer, Vice President Global Customer Transformation at ServiceMax from GE Digital: One of the biggest challenges in field service is having advanced warning, visibility and insight into the equipment assets configuration, operational health and state, verification of location – before turning up onsite.
IoT is extremely beneficial in this regard.
It can tell you all of the above, as well as its environment, its connected to an echo system its configuration – including factory settings and as installed, localized configurations, additions, configuration changes, software and firmware settings or modifications as it’s currently operating and maintained).
IoT can also provide you with the current maintenance build, MBOM history of what parts have been changed, swap-outs, inspections, prior faults, diagnostics and lubrication, wear and tear process flow counters etc.
Using connected field service, IoT enables field service organizations to see visibility to all these and many other operational aspects of the installed asset/equipment prior to an engineering visit.Using connected field service, IoT enables field service organizations to see visibility to all these and many other operational aspects of the installed asset/equipment prior to an engineering visit.
The ability to see an asset’s health, performance, usage, RCM data, and access to a unique digital twin of this physical asset are all now possible in the field.
This empowers predictive, condition-based maintenance, as well as saving time and money, increasing first-time fix rates and customer contract renewals, and decreasing costs, overheads and streamlining supply chain issues for service call outs.
Gary Brooks, CMO Syncron: With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more mainstream – the market is expected to reach $267B by 2020 – companies across industries and verticals are starting to prepare for the impact this game-changing technology will have on their business.
Leading manufacturers like Caterpillar are investing heavily in connected machines to allow equipment to pass information from one to another, ultimately pro-actively repairing equipment before it fails.
This shift in thinking from a reactive, break-fix service model to one focused on maximizing product uptime is a fundamental change to how manufacturers handle service today, and IoT is at the core. Major benefits of incorporating IoT data into field service include:
- Quicker resolutions. IoT data can provide more diagnostic information, so a technician can arrive to a job site and immediately know the steps necessary to make a repair. IoT can identify what part needs to be replaced, and trigger action to either pre-emptively replace the part before it fails, or take immediate action if downtime does occur. Using IoT data effectively ensures that technicians are equipped with the correct parts, and can make a repair on their first visit.
- Happy customers. Customers are happy when their equipment is up and running, and any unnecessary downtime leads to dissatisfaction and frustration. Service parts availability is the linchpin to any successful service organization, and IoT data can help service organizations better manage their service parts inventories to ensure downtime is rare or completely eliminated.
- Increased revenue. When technicians are stocked with the appropriate parts and are able to repair issues on the first time, quickly and correctly, not only are customers content, but technicians are able to make more visits to more customers each day – ultimately resulting in more business and ROI for the manufacturer.
Mark Brewer, Global Industry Director for Service Management, IFS: The Internet of Things (IoT) and so-called “digital twin” technologies are poised to have a huge impact on the service sector; reducing costs, maximizing data analytics, and extending the lifespan of products.
IoT allows field service organizations to become proactive and predictive by identifying equipment issues and mitigating the problem before it cascades into dreaded unplanned failureIoT allows field service organizations to become proactive and predictive by identifying equipment issues and mitigating the problem before it cascades into dreaded unplanned failure that impacts business performance and safety.
When embedded into the right field service management software, service organizations can analyze and visualize real-time operational data from connected machines and devices and automatically turn the information into immediate and predictive actions. This, in turn, delivers service level improvements and drives better business intelligence and flexibility.
Another core benefit of IoT for not only service organizations, but any asset-intensive company wanting to optimize their service offering is the ability of predictive maintenance. The Predictive Maintenance report forecasts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for predictive maintenance of 39 percent over the time frame of 2016–2022, with annual technology spending reaching £7.96 billion by 2022.
Has IoT become prevalent amongst field service organizations as yet, or are those now utilizing IoT within field service delivery still leading edge?
Mark Homer: It’s a hot topic. We see that most CSO are aware of IoT, and many prospects and customers are activating in IoT as well as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), participating in one or two pilot or POC projects.
As an industry many service technicians have been collecting data from machines for years, typically through interface cables (e.g. RS232, Bluetooth collection of binary OT data, or early telematics).
Many Technicians are also used to reading meters and process counters, sampling lubrications and collecting photographic and thermography imaging as part of their work order completing debrief process.
IoT makes this process real time.
Gary Brooks: While many manufacturers are collecting data from sensor-equipped products in the field, few are actually using it to improve their service operations.
As the cost of sensor-equipped parts decreases and more data becomes readily available, it will become more important than ever to invest in human capital and technology that support a service model focused on maximizing product uptime.
Companies that do this in the next 12 to 24 months will be equipped to succeed.
Mark Brewer: Whilst IoT solutions are not yet prevalent in the majority of field service organizations, those utilizing IoT solutions and rolling them out at scale will be the winners over the next few years. Sensors are increasing in sophistication and are transmitting increasing amounts of data. With IoT sensors, the asset or machine becomes “smart” and is placed at the centre, sending data back to the service centre and enabling diagnostics to determine issues that may arise in a day, week or months’ time.
It’s this predictability that will enable field service organizations to deliver next-level customer satisfaction.
However, any IoT driven business requires data acquisition (communications and networking), analytics and business software to work in unison.
The problem is that very few companies have all the skills in-house to do this on their own. As such, savvy field service organizations will look to seek out IoT experts and form partnerships with them to take their business to the next level.
What steps are needed to introduce IoT processes into a field service delivery workflow?
Mark Homer: I am a great fan of using IoT education kits that are widely available and brilliant for educating technicians through practical and fun training labs - for example, the GE Predix IOT kit which you can find @ http://fs-ne.ws/1CJ730iXfcT
Mark Brewer: Firstly, companies need to be careful of integrating IoT for IoT’s sake.
By 2020, more than seven billion business devices are expected to be connected, but smart tech does not always add value. Misuse can lead to security vulnerabilities, with the network chain becoming more exposed to cyber threats. Organizations, therefore, need to first consider the business case for IoT.
A lot of IoT solutions mostly focus on a single element of IoT; for example, connecting the devices, or big data analytics - rather than providing a complete end-to-end IoT solution.Once this is understood, companies must start small - ideally by trialling a proof of concept. Before globally rolling out IoT solutions as part of their business, organizations need to check that the equipment, gateways and sensors work; that they are capturing the right data, and that they have all of the correct business applications in place to make sense of that data.
Next up is choosing a best-in-breed software application that can be easily integrated from inception with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, or whichever management software the business has implemented. It’s important that the solution is completely mappable to the back end, closing the loop from device to business application.
A lot of IoT solutions mostly focus on a single element of IoT; for example, connecting the devices, or big data analytics - rather than providing a complete end-to-end IoT solution.
Field Service organizations need solutions that make the critical connection between analytics and transactional applications, which turn analysis into action and then into value.
Is adoption of IoT essential for a field service company to remain competitive?
Mark Homer: Yes, obtaining more accurate data from your connected assets will provide deeper understanding and insight into how your customers use and operate the equipment and assets you provide and thus enable you to derive a clearer understanding as to the value of that provision to your customer and their end customer or the upstream or downstream supply chain.
By understanding the asset performance, availability, and its RCM (condition and status), the asset true through life cost (cost of the asset throughout its whole life and its ultimate replacement) the servicing costs of inspection, maintenance, breakdown in the event of unplanned downtime is all critical as it allows for future innovation to improve future profit, performance and efficiency of the assets and the workforce maintaining it.
Connected products are also able to provide R&D with amazing data to give deep visibility into how a customer truly uses the equipment you provide.
This, in turn, is assisting the product development lifecycle in designing easier to use and maintain products.
Gary Brooks: As more products are equipped with smart sensors and complete autonomy becomes a reality, it will be more important than ever to shift from a reactive, break-fix service model to one focused on maximizing product uptime, or preemptively repairing equipment before it ever fails.
The best way to achieve this is to leverage IoT data to ensure parts are pre-emptively replaced before they fail.
Manufacturers must reinvent their service organizations, adopting sophisticated solutions and new business processes to optimize service parts inventory levels and prices while maximizing product uptime, which not only leads to improvements in revenue, gross profits and operational efficiency but also the overall customer experience.
Mark Brewer: By 2020, around 25 percent of asset-intensive companies will adopt IoT and digital twins to optimize service.
Whilst this doesn’t seem tremendously high, with the general shift towards servitization and the demand from consumers to have an all-encompassing customer service experience, more and more organizations in industries like manufacturing and construction, and logistics companies, in general, will be utilizing IoT technologies to expand their service offerings.
IoT technologies have the potential to enable companies across all industries to measure aspects in a detail and quality that has never been possible before; empowering businesses with assets’ performance indicators.
Leveraging IoT solutions can help organizations measure essential key metrics, such as availability, reliability, maintainability, supportability, cost of ownership and end-result, allowing them to operate more like service industries.This enables companies to find the most profitable models - turning service into opportunity.
Leveraging IoT solutions can help organizations measure essential key metrics, such as availability, reliability, maintainability, supportability, cost of ownership and end-result, allowing them to operate more like service industries.
For example, previously, the manufacturer’s knowledge of a product stopped once it left the factory. But now, via the feedback made possible through IoT, manufacturers can start to learn the usage, behavior and performance of these products in the real world, and can even make engineering changes to improve them over time.
Another example is construction machine manufacturer Caterpillar. The company has been able to fit its equipment with smart sensors to measure tire pressure, temperature, oil levels, and so on. It is a win-win for customer and service organization alike; minimizing equipment downtime and enhancing product development and improving service efficiency.
The approach is said to have saved Caterpillar millions of dollars already.
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