In a recent episode of The Field Service Podcast, Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News spoke with Simon Fahie, Managing Director of ByBox, and in what was a wide-ranging discussion the two touched on a number of key topics affecting field service organisations today...
Our industry is evolving rapidly. It seems like only yesterday when I first returned to the service sector and began writing about the key trends within field service, at the time for the now sadly departed Service Management magazine. In fact, that was some six or seven years ago now and crikey an awful lot has changed in that time.
Back then the over-riding discussions within the sector were around the practicalities and benefits of moving field service from its traditional position as a cost centre to becoming a profit centre.
Fast forward to today and the concept of field service as a core revenue-generating part of the business has become firnly established. Indeed, as we have covered extensively in Field Service News, more and more companies are becoming increasingly focused on delivering advanced services, a strategic shift in thinking that has become known as servitization.
Yet, whilst servitization promises to hold the key to increased profits, a greater share of customer wallets and deeper, longer term contracts that offer far greater financial stability, it is not a particularly easy nut to crack.
Perhaps the biggest shift in thinking from traditional break fix based centric service agreements and their servitized equivalent is the move away from service level agreements to guarantees of uptime. In an era of IoT and connected assets, the move towards predictive maintenance that such an approach requires could be deemed relatively easy to establish once the right processes and technologies are put in place.
The theory is relatively straight-forward. The asset feeds back real-time data, when it falls out of set acceptable parameters that have been determined to be indicators of probable forthcoming failure an engineer is dispatched to fix the fault ahead of the asset going down - giving the end customer a continuous service whilst allowing the service provider to schedule their field service operations far more efficiently.
"Whilst servitization promises to hold the key to increased profits, a greater share of customer wallets and deeper, longer-term contracts that offer far greater financial stability, it is not a particularly easy nut to crack..."
An obvious win-win all round - easy as that.
However, one of the obvious spanners that can be thrown into the works is the parts logistics aspect fo the equation. Getting the right engineer to the right place, at the right time has been the field service manager’s mantra for as long as I can remember. However, it all becomes a moot point if the engineer hasn’t got access to the right parts.
And in an age of increasing congestion, which can put a huge strain on service logistics - getting the right parts to an engineer can cause a huge problem for field service delivery, and when it comes to advanced services this issue becomes even more significant.
“I look at servitization and for me, it really exposes some of the weaknesses in a supply chain or the process of getting parts to the engineer,” explains Simon Fahie, Manging Director, ByBox when he joined me for a recent episode of the Field Service Podacst.
“Certainly, we are seeing conversations that are saying yesterday we could do a next day fix, now we are able to do a four hour fix. But it is not just fix-times that are open to discussion. Obviously, in a servitization scenario, you have lost revenues that are at stake,” he continued
“If the asset you are supplying is not working not only do you have a disgrunteled customer, you also have no revenues coming thorugh. In fact, in some instances, not being able to provide a fix stops the use of consumables as well.”
“So what we are seing as a growing trend is the need to position inventory actually on site, or very, very close, to be able to provide the very short fixtime that servitized contracts require.”
And this is exactly where ByBox come into the equation - with a network of lockers across the UK and Europe they offer an effective means of acheiving this - in the UK for example, Fahie states that most of their customers will have a locker within just a few miles of their location.
"If the asset you are supplying is not working not only do you have a disgruntled customer, you also have no revenues coming through..."
Yet their is more to the solution than just conveniently place lockers.
“The challenge is how do you control the parts?” Fahie asks retorically.
“How do you give secure access to them? How do you know that they are there? How do you know that they’ve gone out of stock? You can’t just hand over a cardboard box of parts and say leave that by the machine for the engineer when he comes. It is a lot more challenging than that.”
ByBox’s solution to these challenges is in many senses relatively simple, yet is hugely effective in overcoming exactly these problems. The lockers themselves are enabled with secure bluetooth functionality for delivering and removing parts which allows for the movement of parts to be logged - providing essentially visibility into the parts management process, which in turn opens up the doors to even greater streamlining possibilities as well.
“What this enables is the better efficiency of the field workforce,” explains Fahie.
“If you think about the scheduling challenge if a field worker has gone and got a part at 9 am they are then committed to that job that requires them and that part. However, if the part is available and can be collected at any time by anyone with the appropriate authorisation, the efficiency of the scheduling could be increased.”
“If we add into that mix the rise of the flexible or contingent workforce, now we are trying to get a part to a place that may be able difficult to deliver to, now we can have a part picked up and delivered by a person that you have never met before and may never meet again - but that is where the felxibility of the app base dcontrol comes into play - and it could lead to some really interesting new ways of improving the service supply chain that simply couldn’t have existed before.”
Indeed, given the increasing burden being felt within service logistics due to things like pedestrianisation of city centres and ever more congested roads, for servitization to thrive as it should, it is exactly such innovative ideas that field service companies will need to embrace.
Our industry is evolving rapidly, but fortunately, it appears we have the tools to hand to adapt with it.
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