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The Present is Innovative

Field service software has been a boon for our industry, bringing shorter response times and increased productivity. It has landed an incredibly flexible and powerful tool into the hands of those who make their living repairing machines in the field. Smart devices are the tool of choice for most who rely on dynamic dispatch to guide their service technicians. In turn, techs have found many uses for this amazing device that are having a big impact on their effectiveness as troubleshooters and field service professionals. Here are just a few ways field service techs are using smart devices in the field.

  • Slowing the action down
    • Some machine operations happen too fast for the naked eye to detect. Techs are using the cameras on their phones to capture video and then replay the action at a much slower speed, enabling a point of view they once only dreamed of.
  • Bringing help along in your pocket
    • The same captured video can be shared with another tech or a specialist on the other side of the world. Live-streaming, video-conferencing, and file-sharing can all be performed while the tech is sitting in front of the machine.
  • Coherent and accessible machine logging
    • Anyone who has had to rely on hand-written, paper machine service logs understands the need for readable log books. The added beauty of service logging that's incorporated into field service software is the ability to access the log before getting to the site, giving the techs access to part, asset, service history that other experts needed to complete the service call in a single visit. Making customers happy is so much easier using mobiletech equipped with field service software solutions.
  • An opportunity to provide more to customers
    • Field service software, using IoT data, service and claim history can be exploited now in ways never before possible, using predictive analytics. Where in the past techs could simply hope to fix a broken product in one or sometimes more than one visit, we can now alert customers of pending failure and offer maintenance services directly from our smart devices. Preventing failures put the customer in a completely different mindset, and increases our own ability to capture new sales.

The Future is Brightly Fantastic

There may come a time when technicians have no need for heavy tool cases or laptops; service vehicles become a thing of the past; parts ordering and replenishment go away; and service reps may not even need to leave their homes. Here are four burgeoning technologies and what they could mean for the field service industry.

1. Wearable Tech

Currently used to ensure safety (https://www.ft.com/content/d0bfea5c-f820-11e5-96db-fc683b5e52db) and monitor worker health, (http://www.ge.com/reports/post/98826357635/ge-scientists-are-building-a-wearable-brain/) this very promising technology is bound to evolve to the point where technicians’ shirts replace their smartphones and laptops. (https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/12/14899468/google-levis-project-jacquard-jacket-hands-on-sxsw-2017) With an increasing amount of adjustments becoming computerized, wearing the right clothing might become more important than having the right tools.

2. Shared Vehicle Fleets

Experts are predicting that the end of vehicle ownership is on our not-so-distant horizon. Vehicles will be self-driving and you will order one when you need it. (http://time.com/money/4797898/self-driving-cars-could-soon-save-the-average-family-at-least-5600-a-year/ ) Could this possibly mean a field service company won’t need to maintain a service vehicle fleet? Yes. It also means millions of dollars in savings for field service companies. What about the tools techs need to bring along? They’ll be wearing them.

3. Drone Delivery and 3D Printing

The dynamic-duo of near-future parts replenishment, drone delivery and 3D printing are poised to take the lead in the battle for the next field service paradigm-shift.  Amazon is currently offering drone delivery of certain products in limited cities (https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Prime-Air/b?node=8037720011 ). Numerous supply chains  are watching and hoping that Amazon’s delivery experiment is a success. Why carry a part or have it delivered when you can print it on your portable 3D printer?  The United States Marine Corps are asking the same question about the drones their soldiers use in the field. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/3d-printing-revolutionize-marine-corps-133000649.html ) Technology developed for warfare often finds its way into business.

4. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Already being experimented  by Caterpillar on their XQ35 generators (http://www.engineering.com/DesignSoftware/DesignSoftwareArticles/ArticleID/12434/Is-Augmented-Reality-a-Breakthrough-for-Field-Service-Teams.aspx ), augmented reality gives technicians an enhanced view of machinery through computer imaging. It takes less computer power to pull this off, which is why it will go from #4 on my list to #1 of the soon-to-be implemented field service technology breakthrough. However, virtual reality makes for a much more enjoyable technology fantasy.

Imagine field service reps using VR goggles that gives them a perfect 360 degree view of machinery that is in another part of the world. They reach out into the virtual world and ‘touch’ a machine in need of attention. Sensors and micro-motors in the clothing they are wearing control a repair drone and provide tactile responses to perform a flawless repair – all from the comfort of their living-room recliners.

Investing in the Future

Obviously, new technologies will come along that will shape the future in ways no one can predict. And little things like ‘profitability’ and ‘viability’ will limit much of what our imaginations can conjure. However, as the example of how technicians are using smartphones in ways that were unintended to enhance their jobs, it’ll be imagination and field-level innovation that will make any new technology well worth the cost behind the investment.

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Donald Stephens | Service Power
Donald B. Stephens has worked 32 years in the field service industry. He is currently a Senior Customer Service Engineer for the Xerox Corporation. Freelance writing has become his passion and a wonderful way to discover more about the trade that has taken care of him all these years. To find more information about how he can provide content for your site, visit donaldbstephens.com