A successful field service operation will be able to minimize downtime for customers while keeping costs low. New advancements in smart technology make these outcomes easier than ever.

Author Nick Saraev

Photo: Freepik

In fact, studies show that implementing predictive maintenance can lead to a 70% decrease in downtime, and a 40% reduction in maintenance costs. That means that you’ll be giving your customers more of what they want, and using fewer resources while you’re at it.  

Matt Rudden of IGT shared his team’s journey with developing and implementing a fully fleshed-out intelligent field service strategy at our recent Field Service Po50. His insights and recommendations can help you point your team in the right direction for this extensive digitization effort. 

The Goals of Intelligent Field Service

A clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish will help you and your team stay on track throughout the process. There are several motivations that can drive your company’s shift towards intelligent field service. When IGT started their journey, they focused on three big areas. 

Heightened Understanding 

The team wanted to develop a full understanding of the way their devices behaved, and what lead to the failure rates of the components. This required them to measure actual failure rates out in the field. 

In the past, they had relied entirely on engineer input to know what was working and what wasn’t. While your engineers are a valuable tool, their input may not always be subjective. 

This would also include providing measured data for teams working on product development. 

Diversified Insights 

An intelligent field service strategy would allow IGT to apply actions from insights in multiple data items. For any piece of vital equipment, they should be able to bring in information from lots of sources to tell how well it’s performing. This could include: 

All this information allows the team to automate their call schedule. This level of efficiency can reduce costs and raise effectiveness for the entire field service operation. 

Full Integration

Anything that IGT moved forward with needed to be easily integrated and configurable with their existing technology stack. This included

  • Toggling technology on and off
  • Integrating new devices without upgrades
  • Retrofitting legacy equipment

Integrating everything allows for a smooth transition and keeps everything on track. It also makes it easier for employees to get on board with the changes. 

Value for Customers

While the benefits for companies moving towards intelligent field service are clear, with workforce optimization and reduced costs, the value additions for customers are a little different. Your customer base can look forward to 

  • Reduced Down-Time – When you can predict equipment failures, you can have a planned and proactive solution
  • Improved Service Quality – Focused, accurate service information leads to better resolution rates
  • Productivity Benefits – Every area of your service lifecycle will benefit from a faster fix-time 

All of these improvements result in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately profit. 

Key Factors of an Intelligent Field Service Strategy

One change won’t be enough to fully shift your strategy towards the future. A successful field service strategy will need to include some kind of improvements to most – if not all – of the following. 

  • Telemetry – Have IoT sensors on every device that collect periodic information about performance. Greater visibility and control over the assets 
  • Predictive Maintenance Engine and Algorithms – Create individual and actionable plans based on AI-generated insights. No more approximations
  • Data Lake – You can not rely on a single data source if you want a complete picture of the needed service.
  • Field Device Capability – In order for you to act on this information, your devices need to be capable of providing it. This may require replacements and retrofits
  • Configuration and Maintenance – Intelligent service isn’t a one-time fix. You need to be able to keep everything maintained and up-to-date. This includes rules engines, algorithms, and devices 

Before you start on your strategy journey, make sure you understand and account for each of these processes. 

Steps to Implement an Intelligent Field Service Strategy 

The road toward intelligent field service can be long and winding, but luckily there have been multiple companies, including IGT, blazing a trail for you to follow. Rudden laid out the steps his team took to ensure a thorough and smooth transition. 

Step One: Detailed Case Data Analysis

Knowing exactly what is happening within your current setup allows your team to pinpoint the areas and key factors that need the most attention. Look at historical data to find what has the biggest potential for growth. 

For example, if you see that you’re lacking significant and accurate data about what exactly is going wrong when with each of your devices, you may want to focus your beginning efforts on implementing IoT across the board. 

Step Two: Customer Contract Reviews

Many B2B companies have contracts that are tailored specifically to their customers’ requirements. Chances are, creating these contracts included a lot more listening to what customers wanted than finding out exactly what they need. 

Finding the similarities between contracts allows your team to find strategies for standardized contracts. You can steer your customers towards better options for them and the company. 

Step Three: Service Contracts and Designs 

Any third-party suppliers that you work with will also be affected by your move toward intelligent field service. The more standardized you can make these contracts, the easier it will be to integrate your new strategy across your business. 

Step Four: Solution Technology Reviews

Designing new architecture for your service technology stack will require working with new service providers. Don’t rush into choosing what technology you’ll use to build your strategy. 

Set aside time to fully review, and even meet with, the companies with this technology available. Find software that fits into your stack and fills the needs of you and your customers. 

Step Five: Technology Implementation 

Actually implementing the new technology and systems into your operation will be complex and take time. Make sure you’re hearing from all the stakeholders and explaining the benefits and changes that will be made. 

You will need to address legacy device support, which may require retrofitting or even replacing existing devices. 

Potential Challenges 

Any major digital transformation is going to come with challenges and pushback, but implementing an intelligent field service strategy has its own hurdles that you’ll need to be prepared for. 

  • Resources – There is a big upfront cost to this amount of R&D. On top of the budget, you’ll also need to consider the skills and expertise of your team
  • Complex Contracts  – If you have extensive and restrictive contracts with some of your clients, you can run into issues with big structural changes
  • Data Privacy – The large amount of data from devices and customers that is required to make this strategy work needs extensive privacy and protection parameters in place
  • Not Enough PoC – You need a lot of proof of concept to get momentum behind this kind of change 

With the right amount of internal alignment, industry momentum, and senior buy-in, your team can overcome these challenges and anything else the new strategy throws at you. 

In Conclusion 

IoT, predictive maintenance, and data-driven decision-making can transform how your company handles field service. With a stream of data, less downtime, and a full understanding of what goes wrong with your devices, the possibilities are endless. 

But nothing good happens overnight. Savvy companies will take the time to assess their current situation and find solutions that work for them. By implementing this strategy into your field service operation, your entire team can start working smarter.

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