In our serialisation of The Service Manager Handbook (2015 edition) published by Advanced Field Service we have covered a wide ranging number of topics key to the modern field service manager's role. Now we take a look to the future with three key technologies the handbook highlights that could be critical in your field service operations before not too long...
You can expect your field service software provider to keep a watching brief on the technology landscape and to identify practicable developments that have genuine potential to improve efficiency and lower costs. Those bright ideas must translate into a business reality that brings added value.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication
Among the innovations currently attracting attention in the field service space is M2M communication, which forms the basis of the ‘Internet of Things’ in allowing networked devices to exchange information and perform actions without manual assistance.
With this crucial business intelligence, organisations can shift from reactive to predictive service, ensuring issues can be identified and resolved more quickly to meet rising customer expectations.
Typical solutions enable the remote tracking of a business’s field-based assets, smart metering to monitor and control energy and utilities and telematics systems to enhance service delivery performance through automated processes.
Despite forecasters predicting that the worldwide M2M technology market is set to continue growing, many businesses remain cautious about adoption due to limited time and resources and cost pressures. Furthermore, most service organisations will need to wait for manufacturers to introduce the capabilities of M2M before they can take full advantage of it.
The idea of wearables, whereby information, such as schematics, is piped through to field service engineers through their smartglasses, is very attractive. It has to be admitted though that this is more of a long-term prospect.
The Field Service News research sponsored by Advanced Field Service found that while around a third of respondents saw the advancement of wearables happening within the next 12 months, citing reasons such as the advantage of hands-free working and health and safety, 66% did not think wearables would become part of their field engineers’ toolkit.
It is, however, definitely a field worth watching, with innovations becoming mainstream, such as the new SmartCap that monitors brain activity and sends an alert if an employee starts to nod off when driving.
3D printing also has potential to revolutionise the field service industry. In the foreseeable future, an engineer might well be able to identify which parts of a product need replacing, upload the specifications and print the required part. Imagine the impact on first-time fix rates and the reduction in inventory!
A recent Advanced Field Service survey found that while 43% of businesses are currently using M2M and just over a quarter (26%) of respondents are considering M2M. In contrast, 31% said they had no plans to do so.
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