As more companies move to a predictive model of equipment maintenance, they are looking for ways to use connected devices to improve field service. George Walker explains how the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing field service.
Before internet-connected devices were the norm, it was common for facilities managers and in-house maintenance staff to spend time on the phone with suppliers booking in a suitable time for repairs to be carried out. It might have taken hours, if not days, for an engineer to come out to the site — leading to potential downtime in the interim.
When the technician came to the site, they may have found that they didn’t have the right tools, the right parts, or even the specific knowledge to carry out the service needed. This would mean the same technician would have to go back, or a second technician would need to come out to complete the service.
Although this model has been the norm for many years, it is no longer feasible in a modern environment. Factors such as first-time fix rates, mean time to repair and overall efficiency are driving businesses to closely monitor resource allocation and the time spent on maintenance.
Field service management has traditionally been responsible for activities such as locating fleet vehicles, scheduling maintenance work-orders and dispatching personnel. However, the advent of the IoT means that much of this model is shifting to real-time, predictive maintenance and those companies that adapt their businesses will benefit the most from the resulting competitive advantage.
The number of connected IoT devices is set to surge in the next few years, going from 27 billion in 2017 to an estimated 125 billion in 2030, according to analysis firm IHS Markit. Sensors can not only help engineers to remotely diagnose problems in many instances, they can also help to remotely repair or prevent further damage to equipment.
However, hardware sensors are just the start. Better software will help businesses to truly realise the potential of IoT in field service management. Modern field servicing software needs to go beyond the basics and offer better wider integration with the company’s inventory, billing and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
By sending the right technician to the right job, at the right time, you avoid situations where some technicians are overloaded, while others have white space in their schedules. Using an app that works across devices, technicians can request jobs from anywhere. Each service level agreement (SLA) is easily managed and field service reports are easily produced.
What was science fiction a mere five years ago is now reality. A machine on a customer site can send an alert to the service team warning them of an imminent failure and potential downtime. Technicians can then be proactively dispatched to site with the right parts to carry out urgent repairs and mitigate costly downtime.
IoT has already drastically changed other sectors of the industrial landscape and is now making waves in the field service management sector. Whether you’re a utility business, a healthcare provider or even a telecoms business, it’s about time you looked at how IoT will change field servicing for you.