One of the biggest struggles in the manufacturing industry is to connect offline assets and bring them online for the customer. This has been a challenge before the COVID-19 pandemic, with more and more companies realizing the benefits of digitalizing their business. Then, the pandemic increased the pressure on manufacturers to accelerate their digital transformation journey and meet customers online.

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

Photo: Freepik

Today, many companies have made significant progress in creating customer portals, implementing remote support, and switching to a servitized business model. But the struggle of managing the onsite/offsite service paradigm successfully is still creating issues for most industry players. How can your company become more connected and take its field services to new heights?

Dormakaba—the global leading provider of smart and secure access solutions—expanded its service offering by connecting its products and improving the productivity of field technicians.  The company’s Vice President and Global Business Owner Services, Christian Bauszus, revealed how Dormakaba was able to manage the service paradigm successfully at the Field Service Forum 2022.

Let’s explore the main takeaways from his keynote session to gain a better understanding of how digitalization and a growing portfolio can make your field service organization (FSO) more connected.

Expanding the offering with connected services

For manufacturers, the onsite/offsite paradigm started to emerge when automation, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other advanced technology took over the market. Integrating these solutions within the product development process or using them to upgrade or connect existing products enabled manufacturers to create new services, thus expanding their offering.

In the case of Dormakaba, the company is aware that soon there will be little to no need for physical keys to open or lock doors. Their automated doors and locks will be controlled using mobile apps. Even the check-in process at a hotel would change thanks to mobile apps. Such automated solutions depend on the company’s hardware and software, and the purely remote service is offered to customers from various central locations around the world. This calls for strong field service and on-site presence for repairs, maintenance, and physical and visual checks. 

As technology evolves, opportunities for field service excellence evolve too. Using solutions such as IoT to connect customers, partners, services, products, and the corporation enhances service delivery and makes it easier for manufacturers to extend a product’s lifecycle for the customer. Additionally, connected services alongside customer portals enable seamless interactions between customers, field technicians, and company staff, which has a positive impact on customer experience.

From its central locations, Dormakaba enables field technicians to perform their duties without incident to ensure customer satisfaction and a high first-time fix rate. This is critical for the company, considering that their products are designed for a long-term lifecycle spanning over years if not decades. During the product’s lifecycle, the company handles everything from planning, installation, and operations such as maintenance, upgrades, or repairs. As such, maintaining a strong and long relationship with customers through excellent field service is essential.

Challenges and opportunities in the field

Like most manufacturers who have matured digitally, Dormakaba has an ever-growing and comprehensive portfolio of new products and services that each have different technological requirements. This makes things more complex for technicians who constantly need to enrich their understanding of the company’s portfolio. 

In addition, the pandemic and its aftermath have put pressure on them to improve their time management, on-site testing, and so on. At the same time, customer requirements have evolved with new demands for further documentation and better process ownership. Driven by an ambition to grow the service business, Dormakaba transformed these challenges into opportunities through digitalization. The company focused its digital transformation efforts on improving field technician productivity and enhancing the business with IoT.

But digitalization in and of itself comes with its own set of challenges. As Dormakaba discovered, digitalization demands the standardization and internationalization of tools. Before any digitalization project can commence, companies need to gauge their speed of deployment, ability to adopt, and the circumstances pertaining to their corporate structure. 

If the previous corporate structure consisted of local entities that ran their processes independently, a new globalized corporate structure that can sustain connected services means increased dependency on multiple sources of information, databases, warehouses, suppliers, and other touchpoints. Companies that are enticed by the speed and agility promised by digitalization often overlook the fact that connectivity also means mutual dependency.

With that in mind, tools that facilitate digitalization are designed in a more shared way. For example, data and product information on global offerings need to be shared on a common platform that can make knowledge available on a much larger scale for the organization. Likewise, the same approach should be taken on a cultural and organizational level to permeate all frameworks within the global company.

Optimizing field service with connected tools

For a successful paradigm shift, manufacturers should adjust their pace of transformation based on their technical challenges or requirements. Sometimes, bringing a solution to the market takes more time than anticipated. Achieving that involves several steps, including changing the corporate mindset, sharing institutional knowledge, tidying up data, and more. 

Once those steps are completed, it’s much easier to deploy connected tools that lead the company toward field service excellence. One of the connected tools deployed by Dormakaba is its central knowledge database. Due to the growing portfolio which increases the complexity for field technicians, the company’s universe of knowledge is constantly growing. 

Although senior field technicians know the company’s offering of products and services, digitalization created jobs that require new information in order to be successfully completed. As such, Dormakaba deployed a central knowledge database that can be easily accessed from mobile apps. And although the project took about a year to deploy, it is now available in multiple countries where it helps field technicians instantly access the operating manuals and technical documentation they might need for a new job.

Another connected tool that helped the company manage its constantly growing portfolio better is spare parts identification using modern photo recognition and enriched product information. Designed in a way that makes it easy for anyone to find the part they are looking for, Dormakaba’s spare parts identification tool not only helps field technicians identify the correct part for the job but it also enables the company to be on top of the stock game and avoid hiccups in the supply chain. 

Going online with IoT

Today, parts of a manufacturer’s portfolio are naturally connected, especially for those that have started their digital transformation journey early on. The same is true for Dormakaba. However, the company continues to seek ways to connect all its offline assets, such as the automated doors that are electrified but not online. 

Connected products make a big, long-term difference. Not only do they increase productivity for the company, but they also extend the benefits for the customer. Deploying connected products means being able to monitor the system, detect issues in real-time, predict problems, and immediately take action. 

The data provided by those connections is invaluable as it helps the company learn more about usage in the field and facilitates process optimization. Likewise, it creates the potential for remote support and even repairs or maintenance. For many manufacturers, that could mean sending the field technician on-site as a last resort, not as a first response.

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