Whilst it may seem like we are taking giant leaps forward in field service right now, it's the many small steps that have led us to where we are writes Kris Oldland, in his May/June editorial leader.
One small step, one giant leap.
I sometimes wish I had been around when Neil Armstrong had uttered his immortal phrase. But if I had then perhaps I wouldn’t be reporting on what I truly believe is an equally important part of history.
We truly are living in an age of unprecedented technological advancement. Parallels are drawn with the industrial revolution and whilst some may baulk at such grandiose comparisons, personally I think history will show this to be an age that eclipses the shift from arable to industrial, an age that eclipses the space race, an age where our technology eventually becomes an integral part of who we are and of how we define ourselves as species.
But lets think back on those famous words of the world’s most famous astronaut.
One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
As I look through this issue of Field Service News I see so many giant leaps that are the result of many small steps forward. To begin there is my own feature looking at the Field Engineer’s Toolkit of 2020. In this I look at technologies I believe will become common in the not so distant future.
Five years ago each of these technologies would have seemed like the product of some outlandish, futurist fantasy. Yet all of the technologies listed are actually the result of the small steps forward that proceeded them.
Wearables for example are a hot topic right now, but they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the smart phone, which in turn wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for WAP. 3D printing, one of the most exciting and futuristic technologies around, is some forty years in the making. The Internet of Things is now coming of age but medical device company Elekta were shipping their devices with 56K Modems twenty years ago.
Des Evans, Former Chairman of MAN trucks, one of those companies that is often held up as an example of both a disruptive company embracing technology and a manufacturer evolving into a service oriented organisation, sums this up perfectly. “We were an overnight success ten years in the making” he explained when talking about the way MAN reinvented the road logistics sector.
For many years they tried to educate the world as to why they were the number one choice when it came to buying a printer. Then one day they realised their customers didn’t really care about printers. Really all they cared about was printing their documents in a cost effective yet high quality fashion.
Meanwhile, Professor Andy Neely writing for Field Service News for the first time, outlines his recent experiences in China where a number of manufacturing companies are also making giant leaps forward as they try to use service to position themselves as sector leaders. The moral of the story? Those companies that put their customers at the heart of their thinking are going to always come out ahead of the game.
I love the quote from Hewlett Packard for example where they state they are now the largest paper distributor in the world. They used to sell printers and they were focused on what they did and they did it well. For many years they tried to educate the world as to why they were the number one choice when it came to buying a printer. Then one day they realised their customers didn’t really care about printers. Really all they cared about was printing their documents in a cost effective yet high quality fashion.
So they stopped selling printers and started selling the ability to print.
A giant leap? Yes. But one made from very simple small steps.
Another example of small steps and giant leaps in this issue is the story behind IFS. I was lucky enough to be invited to their World Conference a few weeks ago in Boston.
It was a great trip. Not only because the city of Boston is steeped in history. Not only because I watched my newly inherited team the Red Sox win in my first ever baseball match. Not even because I had a beer in the Cheers bar where Ted Danson came to fame, where everybody new my name.
It was a great trip because I got to witness what I honestly think is the true coming of age of a company, who I believe, will be a significant influence in the next few years both in the Field Service industry and beyond.
Whilst the audience was definitely already onside, it was a bit like attending an SNP rally in Glasgow, the fact of the matter is that IFS Applications 9 generated some serious excitement. There is some very cleverly designed functionality and some serious architecture going on underneath (Especially the in-memory stuff that comes later this year) but once again this is one leap forwards that is built on a number of smaller steps.
When I spoke exclusively with IFS Managing Director Paul Massey I asked him to outline the key milestones in his time with the company and as we talked it through I realised that whilst the milestones like their one millionth customer were important, actually it has been a case of steady, well placed steps that has led them to where they are today. But now with the backing of partners like Microsoft and Accenture they are geared up for one more giant leap forward in the near future I feel...