Three Prescriptions Product Support and Field Service Managers Can Take TodayThe evidence strongly suggests that construction machinery technology, and telematics in particular, is delivering positive benefits for machinery manufacturers and users alike, including improved operator productivity, safety and maintenance awareness. In its 2014 report on the Economic Footprint of the Construction Equipment Industry on the US Economy, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) suggested that the construction equipment industry has only begun to scratch the surface of the ways it can translate voluminous machine data into concrete customer, manufacturer and dealer business benefit. One of the most significant of these areas going forward is product support and field service. Equipment manufacturers eager to capture more of the lifetime revenue stream generated by their machinery sales know that quality product support is one of the most important after-market success drivers. Product support also represents a major share of equipment dealer personnel investment and revenue. Field service and product support executives need look no further than the valuable data their machines are producing for the key to unlocking growth in the after-market. Indeed, access to troves of machine performance, diagnostic and maintenance data hold great promise for positively impacting customer service experiences through a more proactive, preventive approach to product support. But having the data is only the start. Sophisticated machine telematics technology and the data it produces often stands in stark contrast to the largely manual, paper-based means of delivering and tracking field service for many construction equipment manufacturers and dealers. So what is standing in the way of forward-looking construction equipment firms seeking to translate machine data into field service automation? There are many commonplace problems we hear from manufacturers, each presenting unique challenges. Each of the following common problems we encounter also includes a practical planning consideration.
Service Delivery ComplexityConstruction equipment service management can get very complex. In the absence of automation, extraordinary effort is often required in the day to day details of incoming service calls, technician scheduling, equipment asset tracking, components, warranties, service contracts, preventive maintenance schedules, parts and inspections. With IoT-driven automation, there are literally hundreds of automated service actions that could potentially take place once data is properly communicated from machine to service software.
- Consider collaborating with dealers exhibiting service best practices, or a dealer council, to outline and prioritize a plan as to how machine data can be utilized to improve service operations.
Service Landscape ConsistencyUtilizing machine data to inform service in this complex environment is further complicated by an inconsistent, scattered landscape when it comes to in-place field service systems’ technology backbones and capabilities. At the same time, these disparate service management, accounting, ERP, dealer management and other systems represent investments that manufacturers must consider. Unfortunately, few if any of these systems have the integration layer necessary to consume and translate machine data.
- Consider appointing an internal project leader to lead a review of options that meet future IoT-driven service criteria, including integration capabilities and service operations functionality.
Accelerated Service Technology Pace of ChangeThe coming exchange between embedded, machine-based technology and business applications for field service management represents a change likely to be even more transformative for the efficiency and effectiveness of a product support operation than the mobile field service app. In the past, it has been sufficient for construction equipment manufacturers and dealers to utilize the same service technology for 5, 10 or even 15 years. The pace of change, however, has significantly accelerated, driven first by mobile and next by IoT, and will require more frequent, even ongoing information technology improvements.
- In light of future plans for utilizing machine data in field service operations, consider re-thinking your approach to engaging application vendors, in favor of a more collaborative framework, placing a higher emphasis on how well applications “talk to” other systems.