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If you are in the service business, then you know just how much technology is changing the way service is being delivered. Just about everything to do with field service has been impacted by technology innovation and it is revolutionizing the way we do business.
Technology has allowed us to improve efficiencies and to get a more accurate picture of the effectiveness of our business practices. It has improved our ability to diagnose and solve problems. It has facilitated the sharing of expertise with less experienced employees. It has also allowed us to empower our field personnel. Most of these changes have been good for the customer, for us and for our field teams.
But the adoption of technology takes resources – primarily time and money and because of the sea of technological innovation we encounter everyday, it is easy to lose focus on the personal touch of service – the simple interactions that our field service professionals have with our customers and which contributes to the overall customer experience. This comes at a time when it is now that we need that personal touch the most. This is because the implementation of the latest technology is increasing the relative importance of the softer skills of the business – the personal touch of our field service team with our customers. Technology is creating a shift in the relative importance between the “soft” and “hard” skills of service and soft skills are winning out. This is not to suggest that soft skills were not important in the past – they certainly were – just that they are more important now.
Shrinking Competency Gap
Emerging technologies in the field service business are reducing the competency gap between top service professionals and less skilled service providers. The result is that it is becoming harder to differentiate on technical skills. With remote diagnostics, artificial intelligence, visual reality and embedded information in the serviced equipment, the field service professionals rely more on the new technology to troubleshoot and repair and less on their experience and technical expertise. This opens up the door for less experienced individuals who use these same diagnostic tools to give comparable levels of technical service. This means that, even though it is highly competitive now, it will become even more so in the future.
Customers will have an increasingly difficult time distinguishing between service providers based on technical competence. Service professionals and service organizations alike will have to rely more on the service experience that they create when interacting with a customer to differentiate them from their competitors. The basis of competition will shift from who is doing the best job of servicing the equipment, to who can create the best service experience while doing the job. This is not to say that technical competence will go by the wayside. Obviously, it won’t. Technical competence is and will remain critically important.
Providing a positive interaction without the ability to solve the problem is not a sustainable service strategy. But as technology levels the playing field between service professionals of different capabilities, technical competence of the individual and the organizations that employ them will become less of a factor of differentiation.
Limiting Personal Touch
"It is becoming harder to differentiate on technical skills..."
Technology can limit personal contact opportunities with the customer. For example, when problems are diagnosed and repaired remotely, we save both the customer and ourselves time and money. That’s a good thing in that it gets the customer back on line more quickly and reduces the cost to service. However, it also creates a lost opportunity to expand our personal relationship with the customer. If that is the case, how does the customer distinguish us from our competitor who can provide a similar service?
It may be tempting to use technology to avoid the customer. Although this is something that service providers have been grappling with for some time, it is no less prevalent today. Why spend time explaining the work completed when the details can be sent to the customer at a touch of a button? Why not use email or texting to share information rather than picking up the phone? As a field service professional, this approach may improve their efficiency in the field, but it may not contribute positively to the customer’s overall service experience.
It’s All About Maintaining a Personal Touch
The winning service organizations of the future will be the ones that can find ways to maintain a personal touch while implementing the efficiencies that technology provides. They will clearly define the service experience they want to create and invest in the processes and soft skills training of their field service team to achieve it. Perhaps the best way to avoid allowing the sea of technical innovation drown out the personal touch in service, is to create a clear picture of the service experience you want your customers to feel and have clearly defined expectations of the nature of all interactions with your customers to achieve it. Technology can be evaluated, at least in part, in how well it facilitates these interactions. Here are some questions to consider.
• Do you have a clear picture of the service experience you want your customers to enjoy?
»» Can you describe how you want customers:
»» To think about you?
»» To feel about you?
»» Can you articulate what you want your customers to say about you
• Does everyone in your organization share this picture?
• Have you translated this picture into action?
»» Do you have clear expectations about how your team interacts with the customer in order to deliver this service experience consistently over time and across the organization?
»» Do you provide soft-skills training to ensure everyone has the skills to create the defined experience?
»» Do you provide coaching and reinforcement of these skills to help your team adopt and maintain the behaviour change you require?
• As managers, do you model the service experience through your words and your actions?
• When you consider new technologies, do you evaluate how its adoption will contribute to your ability to deliver your service
experience as part of your assessment?
It’s a thrilling time for service – full of change and new experiences. The future is really quite exciting. The challenge for service providers will be to maintain a personal touch with their customers while adopting new technologies to ensure their continued service leadership. This challenge can be summed up by the direction often given by a manager that I worked for many years ago.
When confronted with “I just don’t have time to get everything done. Which do you want me to do, this or that?”, he would typically answer “Both”.
Jim Baston is the President at BBA Consulting Group Inc.
The growing digital transformation is blurring industry boundaries and altering established positions of firms. While manufacturers are investing strategically in data collection, analytics capabilities, and in cloud-based platforms, many firms remain concerned about how to best address digital disruption and enable digitalization.
Last year, General Electric cut expenses by more than 25% at its digital unit responsible for Predix, its software platform for data collection and analysis, which previously has been hailed as a revolutionary driver for Industry 4.0. This move highlights the difficulties involved in adopting digital technology in an industrial business.
Having worked with B2B firms in diverse industries on designing and implementing service-growth p84 strategies, we have seen both highly successful and unsuccessful cases of what we call ‘digital servitization.’ Why do firms with a proven track record of running successful field service organizations struggle with implementing digitallyenabled services?
Before looking at some key challenges, let us first define what we mean by digital servitization. As a start, we need to distinguish between digitization, which means turning analog data into digital data, and digitalization, which refers to the use of digital technology to change the business model. A tech-savvy firm with a product-centric mindset may have little difficulty in implementing digitization, as when record companies moved from selling LPs to CDs. However, rather than embracing the new digital opportunities that changed the way we interact with music, most record companies then clung on to a product-centric business logic of selling CDs. Instead of developing business models based on Internet distribution they promoted new physical media like the Super Audio CD.
Ironically, their defensive stance—manifested in such things as copy protected CDs—forced many people to illegal downloading in order to conveniently access MP3 music, thereby undermining their product-centric model even further. Digital servitization, then, refers to the utilization of digital technologies for shifting altogether from a product-centric to a service-centric business model. Of course, digitally-enabled services are not new; for example, Rolls- Royce’s archetypal solution TotalCare began in 1997 and BT Industries (since 2000 part of Toyota Material Handling) created its software system BT Compass in 1993, to help its customers improve their performance.
Likewise, leading bearings manufacturer SKF started early on remote monitoring bearings usage data flowing 24/7 from industrial customer’s equipment installed around the globe. Digital technology, however, can be a double-edged sword. For example, many manufacturers have been carried away by the technical possibilities of telematics without having a clear service business model in mind. Rather than crafting a compelling value proposition based on enhanced customer performance, it was tempting to give the service away for free with the hope that customers eventually would discover the value of data access and be willing to pay for it.
There are however at least three problems with such a technologycentric approach. First, as the connected installed base grows and the costs of collecting and managing data increase year over year, it becomes more and more difficult to defend the model unless service sales start to materialize. Second, giving services away for free always reduce the perceived value of the offering in the eyes of the customer. Why should they pay for something that was previously free of charge and that competitors may still be treating as
a commodity and giving away?
"The growing digital transformation is blurring industry boundaries and altering established positions of firms..."
Third, customers typically do not have the time nor the skills to thoroughly analyze data collected and take appropriate corrective actions. The real value of data and analytics lies in a company’s ability to identify and implement adequate changes. By collecting and analyzing data across multiple customers, a supplier may know more about the customers’ equipment and operations then they know themselves.
Benchmarking performance across industry applications and customers thus provides attractive opportunities for new advanced advisory services. The digital dimension of service growth requires purposeful and coordinated effort. As we know, while manufacturing and conventional R&D activities can be centrally managed to achieve efficiency and standardization, services require increased local responsiveness and closer customer relationships. During digital servitization, however, the central organization must take a more proactive leading role to ensure platform consistency and data quality, to provide the requisite data science skills, to support local units, and to address cyber security issues.
The 2017 large-scale cyberattack (NotPetya) on Danish shipping giant Møller-Maersk, which shut down offices worldwide, illustrates the dangers of inadequately managing the latter issue. Viewing data as “the new oil” is a frequent claim these days. Like oil, data is a source of power. It is a resource used to fuel transformative technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics. However, unlike oil, data also has other properties.
We are currently seeing a shift from scarcity of information (data) to abundance of it. Data can be replicated and distributed as marginal cost, and competitive advantage can be achieved by bringing together new datasets, enabling new services. But this also creates new tensions between companies regarding the issues of generation, collection, and utilization of data. If a customer is generating massive amounts of data collected by a supplier, then once processed, it can be used for better serving also the customer’s competitors. In other cases, we are seeing completely new entrants emerging and collecting data on behalf of their clients.
Digitalization is beginning to have a profound impact on even the most stable businesses. Customers increasingly expect a single provider to integrate individual components and products into a system, and that they will do so through one digital interface.
Whether the platform provider is one of the established OEMs, or a new software entrant, often does not matter to customers. Competition may come from unexpected sources, as for example when one of the leading international standards organizations in the marine industry recently moved into platform-based services. Oftentimes, the most formidable threat comes from disruptive innovators outside the traditional industry boundaries.
An executive in a leading incumbent firm stressed that her main concern was not the competition from any established player. Instead, what kept her awake at night was the prospect of Amazon entering—and reshaping—the market. While many share the concerns of being overrun by new competitors, the threat is most imminent to those firms that lack service leadership and a clear roadmap for service growth. To conclude, no firm can afford avoid strategically investing in digitalization.
However, as firms compete in the digital arena, there is a risk that focus shifts too much away from service and customer centricity to new digital initiatives and units. Ten years ago, many executives sang the praises of servitization. Today, digitalization is the poster child for business transformation. Given the rapid pace of innovation, it may be tempting to launch new concepts as soon as the technology is available, rather than waiting until the they have been properly piloted and customer insights gained.
To reap the benefits, firms also need to understand back-end and front-end interactions, investing in both back-end development for enhanced efficiency and better-informed decision-making, and front-end initiatives to enable new services and closer customer integration. Correctly designed and implemented, digital servitization provides benefits for companies, networks, and society at large. Successfully seizing digital opportunities, however, requires more, not less, service and customer centricity than before.
Dr. Christian Kowalkowski is Professor of Industrial Marketing at Linköping University, Sweden, and the author of Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing Your B2B Service and Solution Business. Find out more on www.ServiceStrategyInAction.com.
Dr. h.c. Wolfgang Ulaga is Senior Affiliate Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. He is the author of Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing Your B2B Service and Solution Business. He also authored Data Monetization: A Practical Roadmap for Framing, Pricing, and Selling Your B2B Digital Offers.
The promise of IoT has been vast and they hyperbole around it’s impact on field service delivery are massive – but is it actually living up to the hype and what more should we expect? Kris Oldland discusses...
The promise of IoT has been vast and they hyperbole around it’s impact on field service delivery are massive – but is it actually living up to the hype and what more should we expect? Kris Oldland discusses...
The early hype and industry trends
The story of IoT’s rapid rise and how it went from the top of the hype cycle straight to a standard part of industry is now well documented. Indeed, across the last two years, I don’t think I can recall a single service executive I’ve met whose organization isn’t at least seeking to implement some layer of IoT connectivity into their field service operation - many are already far down the path.
On the surface, it certainly seems that IoT is living up to its billing as “the most over-hyped technology in development today” a moniker which heavyweight analysts Gartner applied to it not too long ago.
Back in the misty past of 2014, the official line from Gartner was that IoT was ‘five to 10 years from actual productivity.’ Back then IoT was riding the crest of the “peak of inflated expectations” within the analyst’s much loved, if slightly overly poetic, hype cycle.
So as we hit the closest limits of that prediction perhaps now is a good time to establish if IoT is still on track to revolutionize the world, and in particular field service, as Gartner and others - including myself, so boldly predicted.
Back in 2014, it was a lack of standardization in the area, as well as the changing nature of the technology itself, which Gartner identified as part of the reason why widespread adoption was further away than its promoters at the time may have thought.
“Standardization (data standards, wireless protocols, technologies) is still a challenge to morerapid adoption of the IoT,” wrote Gartner’s Hung LeHong.
“A wide number of consortiums, standards bodies, associations and government/region policies around the globe are tackling the standards issues. Ironically, with so many entities each working on their own interests, we expect the lack of standards to remain a problem over the next three to five years.”
Indeed, within field service this has become something over a common theme as we have seen the technology move from an embryonic to fledgling state.
It was interesting to note for example IFS’s approach in the area was not to develop a specific propitiatory IoT solution as some of their peers in the field service management arena, such as PTC and ServiceMax had veered towards, but instead opted to bring to market an IoT connector, that was able to plug the gap between whichever IoT protocol an organization favored and their field service platform.
This type of approach, of providing some form of sorting house for various data formats has since been impressively taken up by the like of Microsoft and others also - and may well point to the where the future lies for field service companies leveraging IoT in the future.
How IoT is being adopted and outlining connected field service
Before, we can assess if IoT is as yet hitting its potential as a fundamental bedrock for twenty first century field service, perhaps we should take a moment to look at some of the key areas in which it will be applied.
As with almost any technology that makes it at the corporate grade, the first thing that everyone gets excited is the financials.
For a long time the dual challenge for field service operations has been the seemingly incompatible tasks of improving CSAT levels and reducing costs. For those service directors trying to manage this impossible equilibrium, early talk of the magic bullet of IoT would have sounded like a divine panacea, with talk about how IoT could improve both profitability and customer relationships, being at first whispered in hushed tones, before being shouted loudly from the roof tops when the first few actual cases studies started to emerge.
Within these case studies there were invariably four key areas of success:
Rather than the customer having to report problems, IoT-enabled devices can automatically contact the technician directly with specific details of the issue. The technician can then arrive with knowledge and parts to immediately solve the problem.
Devices capable of self-diagnosing issues and reporting on performance, not only reduce the need for customers to contact technicians, they also cut down on the amount of inspections required to solve an issue.
IoT-enabled devices that require servicing or new parts, now automatically flag these issues to technicians for attention. Alongside this, technicians can also connect directly to the warehouse for instant, real-time inventory data to check whether the parts needed are in stock.
Rather than simply fixing devices that already have maintenance issues, IoT is enabling serviceproviders to see and solve customer problems before they even occur. This is thanks to real-time performance data that can signal when parts are on the verge of needing replacement or interpret the signs of potential maintenance issues. A case could be made for how each of the first three of these developments could be considered something of a revolution within the field service sector. Machines that can self diagnose their faults, order the parts they need to remedy the problem and arrange for a human co-worker to come out and make the necessary repairs all sound like something from the future - and even better it is a nice happy Jetson-eque vision of the future, rather than the bleaker dystopian version that sells Hollywood movies. However, it is the fourth of these points, i.e. Redefining Service, where perhaps the true potential of IoT is uncovered.
The fundamental role IoT is playing in servitization.
In a world of exaggerated hyperbole, it is perhaps only natural to dismiss the talk of a fourth industrial paradigm that accompanies the discussion around Servitization as overegging the pudding somewhat.
At the risk of sounding like a bad pastiche of industry journalist though, I think that such talk is actually pretty much on the money. I do however, think there is there is a long way to go before we get there - and for me IoT is the fundamental technology that is required for a company to fully move into a servitized business strategy.
Wait! I here you cry, Rolls Royce, MAN UK, Caterpillar - they were all doing servitization before the IoT was even an apple in its developer’s eyes.
This is of course, very true, but at its essence all IoT has simply done is make the bespoke telematics of true innovative giants such as those listed above (and the other handful of pioneering poster boys of servitization) available on mass scale. Power by the Hour is all about the data, as is the IoT.
A simplification perhaps, but one that is founded in truth and whilst the move towards preventative maintenance, that is commonly mentioned in the same breath as IoT, isn’t servitization, it is a fundamental step towards the strategy - which is one that is becoming more and more prevalent in almost all vertical sectors.
So to answer the question in the title of this article - yes, I believe that IoT is so far living up to its potential as a revolutionary game changer within our sector. That said, I don’t think it is greedy to expect even more. As ServiceMax CEO Scott Berg discussed in a recent interview with Field Service News, there is certainly more to come from IoT in terms of the way field service companies are leveraging it.
“I think what needs to happen now, and where the real value will come from IoT, is when input from a machine can be fed into more predictive models using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Only then we will get truly predictive services, and only then will you get a learning model rather than an alert system.”
He commented. Essentially, I think Gartner got their 2014 timeframe pretty much spot on. Five years on from that prediction and we are now generally seeing fully functioning IoT systems in place quite commonly amongst field service organizations, but I think it will be at least a further five years before those systems mature to become close to their full potential.
The analogy of PCs in the workplace comes to mind. For those companies who embraced early DOS systems, they gained an important head-start on their peers who stubbornly ignored that particular wave of technological innovation. Yet, by the time Windows 95 had emerged the technology was not only pretty much universal but had become ingrained into the fabric of industry at all levels.
Expect the same of IoT in 2025.
For the next years, many manufacturers will focus more on “how to servitize”: How to make these innovations successful? How to accelerate these transitions and stay ahead of the pack? How to escape from “business as usual”? How to prepare the organisation for such journeys? In this article, I will share an overview of critical challenges and strategies for servitization.
Servitization is a different ball game
Many manufacturing businesses have made good progress in building a common understanding and commitment to business innovation including servitization, and they have allocated resources and funding for servitization.
Now, they are experiencing that servitization is a different ball game from usual innovations and face new challenges, such as:
• Political discussions when deciding on nitiatives and investment
• New risks from uncertainty and unpredictable trends
• Forces towards ‘business as usual, with signs like “not invented here”, “that does not work in our industry”, “our clients don’t want that” and/or “this is not our core business”
The central question: How to organise for servitization
We hear and read a lot about new (digital) technologies, new disruptive business models and servitization. However, the real challenges are about organisational and human aspects:
1. How to translate these general insights into concrete and relevant initiatives?
2. How to overcome the challenges and obstacles and increase momentum?
In essence, servitization is innovating your business model, particularly when you move beyond “condition of product” related services. We need to rethink our value proposition, our target market, our position in the value chain and in the competitive landscape. We will be facing new opportunities and new risks. This requires us to be open to new thinking, new mindsets and different strategies for innovation and change.
The problem: One innovation approach doesn’t fit all
Too often, we see successful strategies for one type of innovation being applied for other types of innovation also and therefore fail.
Before diving into best practices, let us first better understand the challenges in different phases of innovation: 1) discovery, including ideation, 2) decision-making, including resource allocation, and, 3) implementation, including development.
The “Hybrid Innovation Matrix” helps to recognise different types of innovation based on respective typical challenges so we can better choose the best strategy for each.
About the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix”
The “Hybrid Innovation Matrix” (see following page) differentiates four types of innovation with the respective challenges and strategies along two dimensions. Along the horizontal axis, we differentiate innovations within the existing business logic from those developing new business logic. In every industry and business we have prevailing business logic, which is a set of common patterns, knowledge, experience and frameworks of thinking. We use this logic to understand our environment and make decisions. This common business logic defines how we act, learn and change.
Our brains are hardwired to maintain a cognitive framework to rapidly assess their environment, filter information and make decisions. This results in a strong bias towards protecting the established business logic.
Along the vertical axis, we have the relative size of the innovation or change. In the left column, we differentiate incremental improvements from the more radical innovations that push the boundaries. In the right column, we differentiate reconfiguring and extending an existing business model from developing completely new solutions and markets with completely new business models.
I will describe the two quadrants of the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix” which are most relevant to servitization.
Adaptive and Incremental Improvements
“Adaptive and Incremental Improvements” is all about improving the performance of existing products, services and operations. Every industry has its common recipe of annual improvement of functionality, performance, speed, cost etc.
Examples include: improvement initiatives from departments like product development, marketing service based on customer feedback following, adding new features. And PDCA, Lean, Kaizen and similar approaches to improve the quality and efficiency of our operations.
How servitization fits in:
As this is not the quadrant in which servitization takes place, I will not elaborate on this quadrant.
Pushing the Frontiers
“Pushing Frontiers” is about bigger innovations within the common business logic. In every industry, we have common pathways of how the performance of products and services develop and how (latent) customer demands evolve. We can learn from the best practices and results from others in our own industry.
Typical examples are:
• How advanced technology continues to develop in the world of semiconductors.
• How there are hybrid and electric transmissions in cars.
• How we now have FaceID on our phones
• How we become more predictive in sales,supply chain, manufacturing and maintenance with digital capabilities.
How servitization fits in:
The early phases of the servitization journey fits in this quadrant. The service offering focuses on managing availability and condition of equipment in a more predictive manner.
Innovations in this quadrant often impact a large base of stakeholders in the organisation, advancing the knowledge in various disciplines, and involves bigger investments with bigger bets on the outcome.
A key challenge is to avoid obstacles at all levels in the organisation and a too narrow focus on, for example, only products or technology.
• Much higher levels of expertise, increasing the knowledge gaps between different stakeholders
• Finding strategic knowledge inside and outside the company
• Understanding a wider spectrum of (latent) customer needs beyond functional
• A too narrow focus, such as product technology or internal processes
• The commodity trap with innovations which hardly add customer value and are difficult to monetise.
• Mitigating risks from an uncertain outcome with higher upfront investments
• Lack of digital and service mindset
• Political battles or polarised discussions
- The more qualitative arguments
- Uncertainty of outcome
- Lack of new expertise, prepared by the experts.
• Limited capacity to implement change fluidly in the operating organisation
• Lack of required expertise and knowledge
• Lack of digital and service mindset.
Reconfiguring and Extending Business Model
“Reconfiguring and Extending the Business model” involves a combination of entering new markets, applying new technologies, encountering new competitors and facing new political actors. These are new aspects, different from common and dominant business logic in a business or industry.
Typical examples are:
• Low-cost airlines with a new value proposition and operating models
• Dell selling directly to the end-clients
• Storage solutions moving to cloud services
• Trucks manufacturers reducing fuel consumption by influencing truck drivers
• Fresenius (manufacturer of kidney dialysis equipment) operating entire dialysis centres in hospitals.
How servitization fits in:
As you can see from the examples, the more advanced phases of servitization extending the value offering beyond product availability perfectly fit in this quadrant.
The main challenge is to widen a peripheral vision escaping from the established dominant business logic.
• Being open to new knowledge, patterns, ideas and opportunities without being pulled back into ‘business- as usual’ by many forces
such as colleagues, clients, vendors, service suppliers and investors
• Recognising weak signals of potential trends, threats and opportunities, and when these become emergent
• Mitigating “conflict” with mainstream research activities
• Understanding and recognizing potential market disruption from immature and emerging alternatives (often at the low end of
• Limited knowledge and uncertainty about unpredictable developments
• Battles between stakeholders in operating organisation and innovation organisation
• Stopping initiatives because of lack of shortterm results, in favour of initiatives closer to ‘business as usual’ with quicker results
• Not considering weak signals for potential threats, like market disruption
• Fear of cannibalism.
• Embedding new knowledge throughout the organisation
• Building new mindsets and competencies
• Mitigating “conflict” with mainstream operations
• Existing clients may not like the new solutions (yet).
Coevolution of New Solutions and Markets
“Coevolution of new solutions and markets” is about the radically new emerging solutions. Here, we see many different solutions and ideas popping up while it is still unclear which of the competing alternatives will emerge and become the dominant solution.
Current examples of innovations in this quadrant are renewable energy, data-driven healthcare, mobility (including self-driving cars), Google Maps rapidly pushing away TomTom, and tachographs gradually being replaced by cloud-based applications. Other examples are PC’s displacing mini-computers and digital photography displacing analogue photography.
How servitization fits in:
I will not elaborate any further on this quadrant, as servitization in principle is not about developing these radical solutions. Even though for some industries there are actual opportunities and threats in this quadrant, in which servitization could play a role (like the Google Maps versus TomTom).
The solution: Differentiate innovation strategies with a focus on human aspects
The challenges I described concentrate on the human factors for successful discovery, decision making and implementation. They are quite different for each type of innovation in the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix”, which means we need different strategies to be successful.
I will now describe the best practices for the two types of innovation which are most relevant for servitization.
The name of the game here is “Managing a wider portfolio, including higher risk projects”. The following practices will help accelerate the innovations that push the frontiers.
• Establish a clear and compelling direction in which the company is heading and how that relates to the developments in the industry and market
• Build a shared concern on developments in the industry and the importance of adapting to it
• Establish cross-functional and dedicated teams of experts for specific initiatives
• Establish dedicated project management.
• Use advanced techniques for finding (latent) opportunities, such as design-thinking and empathic design
• Involve external experts (consultants and new partners)
• Strategic level decision making
• Maintain a balanced portfolio of different types of innovations
• Apply a stage gate and review process, with clear criteria, such as;
- What initiatives should be higher risk initiatives pushing the frontiers
- In which domains to push frontiers (technology, products, services, customer experience etc.)
- Success criteria for go/no-go for the next phases
- Level of investment in different types of initiatives
• Educate stakeholders on the decision level
• Invest in further research first
• Develop solid business cases, supported by solid information
• Use advanced risk-assessment techniques
• Lean startup and agile development techniques
• Co-development with your best clients
• Early involvement of stakeholders from various functions
• Develop the digital and service mindsets
• Incremental improvement techniques such as PDCA and customer feedback programmes
• Not having dedicated innovation teams
Re-configuration and extending business models
The name of the game here is running “Entrepreneurial satellite teams”.
• Add a transformative direction of the company, which is fairly open
• Build a shared concern for developing business models for the next growth curves
• Being flexible in an unpredictable world
• Entrepreneurial and multi-disciplinary teams decoupled from the mainstream organisation
• Allow addressing different markets or segments for (first) success
• Less targeted search assignments
• Techniques to reframe and thinking in “new boxes”
• Build new and broad expertise networks outside your industry
• Experiment and learn
• External contracting or outsourcing
• Scouting for successful initiatives in the market
• Develop scenarios around weak signals
• Reframing of the opportunities and threats
• Decentralise decision-making
• Decision-making on vision and scenarios
• Rapid prototyping
• Acquisition of early successes in the market
• Allow competing initiatives to be pursued Implementation
• Keep the new business in entrepreneurial satellite teams
• Lean startup and agile development teams
• Co-creation with the most interesting (potential) clients
Pitfalls / what does not work:
• Decision-making and resource allocation by senior leadership in the operating organisation
• Input from customer feedback programmes
• Decision-making based on business cases and stage-gate reviews
• Early integration into the current operating organisation or business model
Conclusion and takeaways
We see an increasing number of manufacturing companies committing to business innovation and servitization and allocating resources for it. A hybrid innovation strategy, focusing on the human factors of the transition will make the difference between success and failure!
If you want to boost momentum for servitization;
• Share this with your colleagues
• Assess the ideas, initiatives, progress and obstacles with the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix”
• Build a shared concern for the need for ongoing innovations in each of the quadrants
• Put the organisational and human aspects on the strategic agenda
It is a great time to be in manufacturing. We are facing exciting opportunities to make manufacturing a stronger backbone of our service-oriented economies. We have a unique opportunity to make manufacturing a great place to work and to invest in.
Jan Van Veen is Managing Director at More Momentum.
Customer Service & Brand
There can be no doubt that the traditional interpretation of Field Service is changing: a fundamental shift is being made to focus on service and its incorporation and development into existing, more product-centric, business models.
Where once it was enough to rely on a stellar product, now competition is fierce and margins are being squeezed this is no longer the case. Where excellent service is being provided and taken for granted in everyday life, it makes sense that this is now being expected, if not demanded, within business transactions.
A new age is dawning and customers are continuing to ask how a product and company ‘adds value’. Engineers in the field have access to, and interactions with, potentially hundreds of contacts within a specific customer base. So it’s no surprise that those customers will come to associate a product’s ‘worth’ based on the dealings they have had with these field service representatives.
As the American poet Maya Angelou is attributed to have said ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. By 2020 customer experience is slated to overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator. (Source: Capterra)
Women in Field Service, Diversity & Mindset
With this shift to customer centricity there must also be a shift in perception. Traditionally seen as male dominated, a career in Field Service has not attracted women. However, with service coming to the fore this situation is starting to change and the skills that women offer are becoming more vital than ever. The ‘soft skills’ required for customer service roles are often attributed to women, but it’s not a question of gender, the focus must be on what skills can be brought to the table as a whole and how these can be used to improve a company’s Field Service offering.
In order to ensure that quality talent is acquired and retained, Field Service must also diversify so that the next generation of bright minds can see themselves working in this sector. If a certain demographic is only ever highlighted and portrayed then it is no wonder that it is presumed that this is all there is.
As you would market a brand, the same must be done throughout Field Service. Why would you choose this career? What is there to offer? What is the long term career outlook? Although diversity may be a difficult and taboo subject for some, this does not make it any less important or integral to the way companies must continue to grow and exist.
The business world has long debated the effect of gender diversity on business outcomes, asking does diversity make a company more productive and in turn increase financial performance? In a Harvard Business Review a study of 1,069 leading firms across 35 countries and 24 industries found that gender diversity relates to more productive companies (as measured by market value and revenue) only in contexts where gender diversity is viewed as “normatively” accepted. In other words, beliefs about gender diversity create a self-fulfilling cycle. Countries and industries that view gender diversity as important capture benefits from it. Those that don’t, don’t. They also found that the most-diverse enterprises were also the most innovative, as measured by the freshness of
their revenue mix, proving that diversity is crucial in so many factors.
"Service must also diversify so the next generation of bright minds can see themselves working in the sector..."
In order to keep up with rising expectations it will require a massive change in mindset, starting at board level and moving downwards, to truly transform a company ethos. For some this will mean a transformation in culture that has formed over decades but must now be changed rapidly if they are not to be left behind by the competition. This will be easier said than done; as change is happening so fast it’s fundamentally hard to move quickly enough! However, as the old adage goes, ‘just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing’.
Haier, the world’s number one home appliance manufacturer, is a Chinese colossus with 70,000 employees. Since the 1980’s, Haier has reinvented itself several times, most recently breaking the company into >4,000 micro-enterprises effectively creating self-organizing micro businesses acting as separate entities (and in some cases, actually are). At the core of this idea is that employees get ownership, decision-making rights and a customer paid salary. They truly became pioneers. Such a change in mindset comes within the RenDanHeYi model. With “Ren” referring to each employee, “Dan” referring to the needs of each user, and “HeYi” referring to the connection between each employee and the needs of each user. The CEO Zhang Ruimin says: ’With the RenDanHeYi model we truly enter the network age. But the network aspect is not even the most important.
What is more important is that we no longer try to delegate to, or ‘empower’, employees. It’s now time for every employee to be his or her own boss. So, with the RenDanHeYi model we move away from being like an empire (with a traditional, closed pyramid) to be more like a rain forest (with an open networked platform). Every empire will eventually collapse. A rain forest, on the other hand, can be sustained.
Alongside the cultural shift needed to meet customer expectations, Field Service is also being driven by digitalization, which Gartner defines as ‘the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and valueproducing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.’
‘Digitalisation’ and ‘digital transformation’ have become such buzz words in recent years that some have lost sight of not only what it means but what they are actually trying to do. Digitalisation is a tool by which to achieve an end goal, but is not the goal itself. Gartner predicts that by 2020 10% of emergency field service work will be both triaged and scheduled by artificial intelligence.
With AI assisting with everything from scheduling to predictive maintenance to using past data to make future plans. The human element within Field Service is still very much relied on and future technologies and solutions will be there to support these interactions - to make life easier and more efficient, not to replace humans altogether.
People still want to do business with people and until the customer becomes more Terminator than terrestrial this will probably always be the case.
Becky Johnson is Content Director at WBR, overseeing the Field Service Connect conference, which takes place on 14 and 15 May at Celtic Manor, South Wales.
Claims that 3D printing will disrupt and revolutionise the manufacturing industry of the future, have been made since the early 1990s. For field service, that future is now writes Dr Ahmad Beltagui.
Claims that 3D printing will disrupt and revolutionise the manufacturing industry of the future, have been made since the early 1990s. For field service, that future is now writes Dr Ahmad Beltagui.
Picture this scenario: a field service engineer is called out to repair a grounded aeroplane at a remote airport. He finds the problem, but realises that repairing it will mean waiting a week for spare parts to arrive, when the client needs the plane airborne, so the contract, and perhaps his job, is on the line. Could 3D printing provide a faster solution to the problem? Today, it very likely could.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing – also known as additive manufacturing, additive layer manufacturing, rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing – is a range of production processes that build parts in layers directly from digital designs, without the need for tooling.
These processes typically use a heat or light source to solidify plastic or metal powder, liquid polymer or plastic filament. They can produce complex geometries in small batches or even one-offs in a variety of materials, from biodegradable plastic to aerospace grade titanium. A digital, flexible future for manufacturing and service 3D printing allows production to be carried out on-demand, which is useful when spare parts are unexpectedly needed. Production in remote locations becomes possible, as NASA demonstrated by printing a wrench on the International Space Station in four hours, from a design sent digitally from Earth. 3D printing allows production of highly customised parts, from hip replacements, to dental implants to ear-phones
It enables consolidation of multiple components into one part, which delivers huge benefits in weight reduction, but also helps to streamline supply chains. For example, an aerospace part that used to be assembled from components delivered by around 20 suppliers is now designed as a single, much lighter, component. The only feasible way of producing this design is additively, rather than cutting and joining in traditional methods. Since it requires no tooling, economies of scale are less relevant, so that producing one-off parts is feasible, as Formula One teams have demonstrated with track-side 3D printers. For all of these reasons, 3D printing gives us a vision of a digital, flexible future for manufacturing and service.
The first patents for 3D printing processes were granted as early as 1986, but in recent years there has been a shift in focus from prototyping to enduse parts. Companies across the world, including IBM and Sony, had experimented, but the pioneering, and still market leading, companies were started by engineers in their spare time – Chuck Hull who invented stereolithography and founded 3D Systems, and Scott Crump, whose fused deposition modelling is the basis of industrial and desktop 3D printers made by Stratasys.
Where did it come from?
For many years 3D printing has been widely used in prototyping and new product development. Indeed, Hull’s invention was based on frustration that prototyping designs took far too long. Research suggests that, while prototyping is still the most common use, more companies are printing components and products for end-use by customers.
Where did it come from?
The first patents for 3D printing processes were granted as early as 1986, but in recent years there has been a shift in focus from prototyping to enduse parts. Companies across the world, including IBM and Sony, had experimented, but the pioneering, and still market leading, companies were started by engineers in their spare time – Chuck Hull, who invented stereolithography and founded 3D Systems, and Scott Crump, whose fused deposition modelling is the basis of industrial and desktop 3D printers made by Stratasys.
For many years 3D printing has been widely used in prototyping and new product development. Indeed, Hull’s invention was based on frustration that prototyping designs took far too long. Research suggests that, while prototyping is still the most common use, more companies are printing components and products for end-use by customers. Substantial improvements can be seen in cost, quality, speed, reliability and materials.
The industrial and commercial viability of 3D printing for volume production is being tested by companies such as General Electric, whose dedicated factories have produced over 30,000 aero-engine fuel nozzles and over 100,000 hip implants. And in some sectors, such as hearing aid production, reports suggest that every company that has not adopted 3D printing has not survived. This is only the start of a growing industry, whose annual revenues are projected to grow to over $20bn.
A growth industry – in services
Following two decades of steady development, there has been rapid growth in 3D printing revenues since around 2010. This is partly helped by the expiry of the first patents, leading to an open-source “maker” movement at the low end, which sees start-ups receiving multi-million dollar kickstarter investments and 3D printers offered for under £500 by supermarket chains, such as Aldi. Estimated global revenues for 3D printing products and services grew from $1bn in 2009 to $2bn in 2012 to over $5bn in 2015, with compound annual growth over 30% over most of this period. 3D Systems and Stratasys, who account for over a fifth of the total, saw their product revenues soar until 2014. However, the last few years have been more challenging for these companies, because the potential of 3D printing has now been recognised by companies from a variety of sectors. Driven by fear of disruption, manufacturing companies including HP, Ricoh, GE and Polaroid, as well as software companies such as Adobe, have entered the market with their own 3D printers. Meanwhile lower price competition from Asian manufacturers has increased competition in 3D Printing. The answer to the competitive challenges, as is so often the case, lies in service and servitization.
Servitization and 3D printing
With a large and growing installed base of 3D printers, there is potential for service providers to offer maintenance and operation related services. As UK based manufacturer Renishaw has reported, customers often buy a 3D printer, only to then ask for someone who knows how to use it. This is because setting up, maintaining and post-processing are highly technical tasks that require skilled personnel. Market leading companies increasingly derive their profits from digital manufacturing services, offering a full range of solutions, including design and production. They offer to take customers’ ideas through a whole digital product development and production process, effectively transforming manufacturing into a service.
So, back to our hero, the field service engineer at the remote airport, trying to fix his grounded aeroplane. In the time it took you to read this article, he could have received or downloaded the digital file for the part he needs and perhaps set up the printer to start making the part. A few hours later, he could come back to collect it and perform any post-processing required, before fitting it and letting the customer get back to business.
How far-fetched is this scenario? How far away are we from this vision of reality? Perhaps not too far. Two main barriers remain. The first is that post-processing and other technical tasks take time, effort and skill. There is, therefore, a need for managers to ensure staff are trained and have the required skills for digital production technologies. The second is intellectual property. While digital file standards make it possible to share designs, the fear that anyone can produce (or modify) a design makes companies reluctant to share.
The last few years have seen hype, unrealistic expectations and subsequent disappointment (news just in: not every home has, or is likely to have a 3D printer). However, technologies are maturing as focus shifts to refining and improving, rather than reinventing.
Global revenues for 3D printing passed $9bn last year, a large and growing proportion of which are service revenues. In short, the time to realise the benefits and take advantage of the demand for 3D printing services is now.
Dr Ahmad Beltagui is from the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School
transform when required. The key, Bill Pollock writes, is in Service Lifecycle Management...
Enaging today’s service enterprise means planning and coordinating service on a global scale. It means delighting your customers – and your shareholders. And it calls for new technologies and business practices designed specifically to solve the Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) challenge.
Based on these reasons, we believe that any field services organisation that strives to provide “bestin-class” field service in support of its customers must first implement a robust SLM solution in order to achieve its objectives. The benefits of implementing an SLM solution are many – and are fairly universal (that is, applicable for virtually every field services organisation, regardless of type, size, or geography served). Users typically identify the following five areas of benefits as the most compelling talking points in selling the
concept to management:
1. Reduced Service Costs
2. Streamlined Workflow
3. Improved Service Levels
4. Enhanced Quality and Growth
5. Increased Customer Satisfaction
Reduced Service Costs
Simply citing generic data regarding potential cost reductions does not generally entice management to look any further. In order to truly gain their attention, it must be specified exactly where the cost savings will be coming from – and to what extent (i.e., provide them with hard numbers). The good news is that a robust SLM solution can manifest quantifiable cost savings from several
specific areas including:
• Improved technician productivity
• Improved Inventory/parts management
• Optimized service delivery
• Reduced time in the “service-to-cash” cycle
These areas of cost savings will very likely peak management’s interest – as well as entice them to ask for more detailed cost-saving information. For example:
Improved Technician Productivity
Through SLM, improvements in technician productivity can be gained in a variety of ways including:
• Providing field technicians with realtime, direct access to customer service history, equipment repair records, product information, and inventory and parts availability enables them to provide the best service possible in the most cost-effective manner by eliminating time-consuming paperwork and forms preparation. As a result, the technicians are able to spend virtually all of their billable time providing customers with the highest levels of service and support, rather than simply collecting information and
filling out forms.
• Providing field technicians with specific service level information for each customer they serve so that they never unknowingly
provide their customers with anything less – or more – than those levels of service that are specifically covered in their respective Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
• Reducing overhead costs through the elimination of most paperwork, delays in communications, and the use of outdated systems that had previously required manual data entry or redundant data input. Empowered by the data and information made available through SLM, field technicians can also serve as the “eyes and ears” of the organisation with respect to identifying potential cross-selling or upselling opportunities for the company’s various products and services. By doing so, customers will not only look at their field technician as “the person who gets things fixed”, but also as a “trusted advisor” – or the one they can count on to both fix their equipment, and provide them with recommendations for acquiring new products and/or upgrading their service level coverage.
Improved Inventory/Parts Management
SLM can also result in “hard” cost savings through improved inventory/parts management, as summarised below:
• SLM enables services organisations to enhance their Equipment Asset Management (EAM) capabilities by allowing them to track
specific component/equipment relationships, and monitor their inventories for the purpose of automatic replenishment. By developing
– and following – tightly integrated inventory management processes, users are able to significantly reduce inventory size and related carrying costs.
• SLM also provides technicians with access to real-time inventory information, as well as the ability to order parts directly from the
field, rather than having to wait until they return to their home base, or gain access to a telephone connection. The ability to work
with real-time parts/inventory information provides both the technicians – and the customers they serve – with immediate access
to parts availability, while simultaneously updating inventory levels and triggering automatic replenishments.
"Citing generic data regarding potential cost reductions does not generally entice management to look further..."
Optimized Service Delivery
Optimized service delivery may mean different things to different people; however, the most compelling benefits of service optimisation, delivered through SLM are typically realized in terms of:
• Minimized time to dispatch (i.e., quicker response time);
• Increased first-time fix rates (i.e., fewer repeat failures and/or service calls); and
• The ability of customers to perform self diagnosis and problem resolution via the Internet.
Ultimately, each of these benefits is realized through improved response time, decreased need for follow-up/repeat calls, and less equipment downtime. Even so, there are still several other types of benefits that will also be of significant interest to company management.
Technology is the tool that assists services organisations in making their operations run more efficiently – but it is only a tool. However, SLM leverages best-of-breed field service management solutions with industry best practices already builtin, thereby allowing practitioners to benefit not only from the automation of their current processes, but also by allowing them to redefine and improve their processes to deliver optimum results. These results are typically manifested in the following ways:
Integrated Processes and Technologies
Only through SLM can the practitioner benefit from a completely integrated and seamless solution that provides an instant 360-degree web-based view of the entire business. For example, when Sales or Marketing require information from Service.
Operations to develop targeted promotions to maximize cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, a robust SLM solution can give them exactly what they want – when they want it.
Similarly, when Service needs real-time customer information from the Contact Center prior to making a call, SLM makes that information readily available.
Improved and Streamlined Processes
The end result of successfully integrating the organisation’s processes and technologies is improved and streamlined processes – in
other words, running the organisation more efficiently. These benefits are typically manifested in the following ways:
• Through an automated call management system based on CTI, IVR, dynamic scheduling and dispatch, and closure capabilities,
services organisations can rapidly improve and streamline their call management process, thereby significantly increasing
customer satisfaction and retention.
• With the ability to apply contract templates, initiate automatic contract renewals, and build structured workflow processes, users
can maximize their contract processing, resulting in more predictable revenues and improved productivity.
• The capability to track, monitor, and automate stock based upon user-defined rules, in conjunction with the ability to support multiple warehousing strategies, also leads to improved and streamlined stock management levels at reduced inventory
levels (also resulting in reduced costs).
Improved Service Levels
There are basically two ways to look at SLM – (1) as a tool for lowering the cost of doing business, and (2) as a means for improving existing service performance. While the cost savings may be very real, SLM can also be a significant contributor to the overall improvement in the levels of service performance for the organisation. Complete charge capture, and maximizing cross-selling and up-selling opportunities are just some of the ways that play to both perspectives on SLM
Complete Charge Capture of Service Delivery
SLM enables the complete capture of all parameters involved in delivering service (e.g., parts, T&M, expenses, ancillary services, extended warranties, etc.) ensuring that no billable charges are ever lost or overlooked, and ultimately improving invoicing
accuracy. Through SLM, as soon as the technician closes a call and captures the customer’s electronic signature, that data can instantly be transmitted to the central billing system, thereby significantly streamlining and compressing Days Sales Outstanding (DSO).
Maximized Cross-Selling and Up-Selling Opportunities
Through the capability of leveraging a Web-based customer self-service portal in conjunction with a dynamic self-learning knowledgebase, users gain the ability to offer new products/services at every customer interaction, resulting in increased
revenues without increasing costs. A state-of-the-art SLM solution that embeds intelligent automation along with a robust product information management repository can arm all of the employees in the field with first-rate cross-selling and up-selling capabilities by prompting/alerting them of any potential sales opportunities (e.g.,contract/warranty expirations, aging equipment, ancillary accessories, add-ons, etc.) at the specifictime of interaction with the customer.
Ability to Leverage Service as a Competitive Advantage
Through SLM’s Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities, users can identify, monitor, and track opportunities to offer customized and global service agreements based upon each customer’s unique usage levels.
By doing so, the customer benefits from having its service needs and requirements fully met, and the services organisation can maximize its total revenues in the field. SLM also supports the services organisation’s ability to deliver proactive rather than
reactive personalized service – at an affordable price– empowering it to exceed customer expectations and generate repeat sales.
"SLM enables the complete capture of all parameters involved in delivering service..."
Enhanced Quality and Growth
While most of the benefits described thus far focus primarily on transitioning from the past to the present, enhanced quality and growth clearly looks to the future of the organisation – and this is where SLM excels. The three main components of these forward-thinking benefits may best be summarized as follows:
Ability to Deliver Consistent Service Globally
The most effective SLM solution is one that is truly global, able to support customers using all summarised below:
Ability to Anticipate Customer Service Requirements
SLM provides users with easy-to-use functionality, an intelligent knowledgebase, and a comprehensive customer repository to track problems and potentially identify many other problems before they occur. With this valuable information at their fingertips, users can offer more efficient scheduling or preventive maintenance (or implement an IoTpowered Remote Diagnostics / Remote Monitoring
platform), and minimise the need for on-site visits and repeat service calls, wherever possible. As a result, customer satisfaction is increased, and costly unscheduled service visits can be minimised
Improved Responsiveness to Customer Calls and Service Delivery
SLM empowers Contact Center and field personnel with visual alerts, automatic escalation, scripting, and question trees, so they are able to respond to customers’ inquiries quicker and more completely. Through SLM, they will also have a full range of corporate knowledge stores readily available to optimize the customer interaction process.
In addition, the integrated, multi-channel inbound/outbound capabilities facilitated by SLM provide for unparalleled customer support in all areas, including placing and tracking an order, updating records,making payments, receiving remote support, and scheduling a service call.
Making It Easier to Do Business - Making It More Profitable
In today’s increasingly fast-paced business environment, customers have very high expectations, and they will take no excuses for poor customer service. They expect fast, relevant, and accurate information from the companies they do business with, and they will accept nothing less.
The self-service capabilities offered through SLM provide customers with all of the information they need – when they want it, anytime, anywhere.
This, in turn, ultimately results in improved customer satisfaction and strengthened loyalty throughout the user’s customer base.
Bill Pollock is President at Strategies For Growth
In the UK it is estimated there are six million lone workers and approximately 23 million in the US. Workers sent to fix a coffee machine, lorry or an offshore wind turbine, by definition, are lone workers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who oversee the regulation and enforcement of occupational health and safety in the UK define lone workers as “people who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”. Given the spectrum of lone vocations in field service, we can assume that most workers fall into this category.
In the UK, while there is no specific legislation that governs lone working, the act is encompassed by the overarching Health and Safety at Work Act which requires employers to provide a duty of care to their workers and to do all that is “reasonably practicable” to protect them.” Similarly, in America, there exists no defined legal requirements but the framework of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) expects firms - as part of their legal duty of care - to have a lone worker policy in place.
Today, firms across both sides of the Atlantic are now taking health and safety far more seriously. What was once seen as a paperwork-heavy burden, necessary to keep inspectors from the door, is now appearing higher up a firm’s agenda resonating in
the boardroom and becoming integrated within a firm’s business strategy. Directors can see tangible numbers such as lost time
and accident statistics that can visibly affect a company’s bottom line; as well as the impact the effect on a company’s brand if they are found in breach of the regulations. Employers are now also taking a more holistic view of their workers’ health and safety. As well as the obvious risks in lone working such as sudden illness or injury, violence, threats or abuse, employers are now taking more notice of their employee’s wellbeing and the risks associated with mental health. Lone workers have been identified as vulnerable in this regard, susceptible to issues such as depression and anxiety. But why is this?
The very nature of lone working means interaction with others is not as frequent as that between office workers, for example. As social creatures we work best in groups, bouncing ideas around and receiving affirmation from each other on challenges and solutions. And while those who work alone are in touch with colleagues or managers, it is often conducted remotely and task-focused with little opportunity for informal conversation. The desk-based employee can usually find relaxed, pressure releasing conversations at the office kitchen while making a coffee with another colleague.
"Lone workers have been identified as vulnerable, susceptible to depression and anxiety..."
It’s this removal of a lone worker’s relaxed workplace interaction that can have a detrimental affect on their wellbeing. However, communication software such as the consumable cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp is being utilised by working populations to interact and share challenges, becoming a virtual coffee between workers in a virtual office kitchen.
Technology has also played a part in physically protecting lone workers with a sharp advancement in safety devices, particularly in alarms and monitoring systems.
The first wave of tech was very much stand alone, connected to very little. Those in danger would press a button and hope that someone hears it. Now devices have become much smarter with GPS and IoT connectivity, in turn creating tracking and
therefore productivity metrics. This was further ring fenced in the UK by the introduction of the 2016 BS8484 standard, meaning
companies offering technology-based solutions had to comply with. A key requirement of which, is that a lone worker’s alarm once activated, supersedes the 999 British level of emergency response, and be directed immediately to the relevant control unit,
guaranteeing an appropriate action.
This regulation has led to another level of lone worker devices encompassing video, analytics and the use of IoT. Solutions now include personal ID tags that incorporate video technology and small fob alarms, triggered discreetly triggered if an incident occurs
that can also integrate with a mobile workforce management platform. Like service management platforms, analytics software specifically for lone workers exists that covers usage, training and alarm elements and produces graphically-friendly reports
to showcase progress to the CEO or department heads.
Financial, moral and legal: three reasons why firms should take their health and safety management systems seriously. Far from being a burden, it’s about making sure your workers go home unharmed. People are your biggest assets and they deserve to be protected to the highest possible standard. Physically, and also mentally.