The Future of Field Service Trends

Written by: Anthony Moffa

Read Time: 4 min

Top 5 field service trends in the industry

Field service is a critical component of various industries, including utilities, electronics and high-tech, healthcare, industrials, and more. It involves dispatching technicians or service personnel to customer locations to resolve service-related concerns. However, in recent years, the field service industry has undergone significant transformation due to advancements in technology, a wave of retirements creating a skilled labor shortage, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Customer expectations pertaining to reliability and uptime have also shifted, pushing the field service sector to adapt to emerging trends to remain competitive and ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty. By embracing these trends, the field service industry can successfully navigate the evolving landscape.

Contactless field service and remote support

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way businesses operate and how customers interact with them. One of the key changes that emerged during the pandemic was the need for social distancing and limited physical contact between field service workers and customers as a necessary health and safety precaution to prevent the spread of the virus. However, what started as a temporary measure has now become a preferred option for many customers even after restrictions have been lifted.

Customers have discovered the benefits of contactless, remote, and self-service options, which provide safety, convenience, and significantly improved issue resolution times. Service businesses have responded to this shift in customer preference by adapting, innovating, and offering more of these services, ensuring that they can meet the evolving needs and expectations of their customers. During the pandemic, customers in the business to consumer space were more hesitant to handle physical cash due to health concerns, which led to the adoption of digital payment methods. This trend appears to have continued with customers in the business to business space, embracing the convenience and safety of electronic transactions, and businesses have adapted by integrating digital payment options into their operations to cater to this customer preference.

Many companies have embraced remote and hybrid work models to further limit physical contact and protect the health and safety of field service workers. The pandemic revealed that numerous support and service jobs could be effectively performed from workers' homes with just a reliable internet connection and a laptop. Businesses are now seeing the benefits of remote work and are continuing to allow their employees to work remotely, at least partially. This shift has not only improved worker safety and well-being, but has also allowed businesses to reduce costs associated with maintaining physical workspaces.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is revolutionizing field service management by enabling companies to save time and money. By implementing predictive maintenance strategies, companies can plan service activities and reduce reactive and unnecessary field calls, as engineers can address potential issues before they escalate into major problems. This not only saves on costly repairs but also minimizes the risk of unscheduled equipment shutdowns, leading to increased productivity.

The use of IoT devices in predictive maintenance allows for data acquisition and analysis, enabling the identification of patterns and informed decisions on component replacement. Companies can use these insights to extend equipment lifespan, further reducing costs and maximizing the efficiency of their assets.

Field service departments widely utilize predictive maintenance to anticipate client needs and reduce outages. They can minimize their customers’ unexpected failures, costly downtime losses, and associated maintenance costs by proactively monitoring equipment, which not only improves the reliability and performance of the equipment, but also enhances customer satisfaction and net promoter scores.

The adoption of IoT and smart devices is expected to increase alongside advanced artificial intelligence programs. These technologies will enable even better prediction of service needs, helping to prevent catastrophic equipment failures and further extend equipment lifecycles.

Implementing augmented reality and virtual reality

In recent years, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have gained significant prominence and have emerged as more than just gaming accessories. It is projected that by 2030, the AR industry could be worth a staggering $461.25 billion, while VR could reach $87 billion in value. These innovative technologies are rapidly growing and have far-reaching possibilities, particularly in the field service industry.

One of the key reasons why AR and VR are gaining traction in the field service industry is because customers now expect quick and comprehensive service calls. With the help of AR and VR, technicians can enhance their skills, build confidence, and conduct highly efficient service calls. For instance, technicians can use AR reality glasses to overlay digital schematics on actual components or equipment, enabling them to complete tasks more quickly and with fewer errors.

One significant area where augmented reality can make a significant impact is in training. By leveraging AR, field service trainees can practice in virtual environments that closely simulate real-world scenarios. This allows them to gain valuable experience and skills before entering the field. Additionally, AR can enable experienced field service technicians to guide new technicians remotely using smart glasses, which not only enhances the efficiency of training, but also ensures that new technicians receive expert guidance, even in complex situations.

VR technology can be utilized for comprehensive new hire training. It provides a safe and controlled environment for trainees to practice technical and soft skills, allowing them to become more proficient and effective in their roles at a faster pace. VR allows trainees can simulate real-life scenarios without any travel or risk, gaining hands-on experience that translates into improved performance in the field.

By leveraging AR and VR technologies, businesses can ensure that their field service teams are well-equipped to handle complex tasks and provide exceptional service to their customers. AR and VR also have the potential to revolutionize the way technical support is provided. Remote experts can use these technologies to guide end users or on-site technicians, providing real-time assistance and guidance, even eliminating the need for experts to travel to a physical site.

More use of AI in field service

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming a critical component in various industries and field service is no exception. With its ability to automate tasks, optimize service schedules, and offer predictive insights, AI has the potential to revolutionize the way service businesses operate and execute their service strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed supply chain vulnerabilities and a shortage of skilled field service workers. Organizations have turned to AI and automation technologies to mitigate these challenges. AI can automate processes, such as scheduling field service workers, using algorithms to optimize efficiency and maximize productivity. By streamlining operations, organizations can complete jobs earlier, meet customer demands more effectively, and ultimately increase profits.

Moreover, AI provides valuable data that organizations can utilize to proactively develop strategies to meet service needs and exceed customer expectations. The insights gained from AI-driven analytics help to identify areas for enhancement and refinement. By leveraging AI's predictive capabilities, organizations can anticipate potential issues and develop proactive solutions to improve overall customer experiences and also establish a competitive edge in the market.

Bigger focus on sustainability

The field service sector has consistently proven its resilience even during economic downturns. This is primarily because both consumers and businesses have an interest in extending the uptime and prolonging the lifespan of their products, both of which contribute to sustainability. As the world becomes increasingly connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), the shift toward IoT-connected devices and remote service is expected to continue. This advancement has the potential to make service even more sustainable by eliminating the need for in-person visits.

Service operations and maintenance play a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of products. Service technicians can extend product lifespan and ensure that they continue to function optimally by effectively addressing issues and providing regular maintenance based on condition or usage not timetables. This not only saves money but also reduces the overall carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and disposal.

Repairing and refurbishing products also play a significant role in supporting sustainability. By repairing faulty components and refurbishing outdated products, the need for new manufacturing is minimized, further conserving valuable resources, which not only benefits the environment, but also contributes to reducing waste and landfill. The implementation of supply chain intelligence enables the identification and recovery of parts from non-repairable products. By salvaging valuable components, the field service sector can reduce waste and optimize the utilization of available resources.

Remanufacturing and recycling processes further enhance sustainability within the field service sector. Remanufacturing involves the restoration of products to a like-new condition, often using recovered parts from non-repairable products. Recycling, on the other hand, involves the extraction and repurposing of valuable materials from products that have reached the end of their usable life. Both practices minimize waste and support the responsible use of resources.

Understanding the future of field service

Client demands in the field service industry, including faster response times and comprehensive service call visits, are increasing. To thrive in the future, Companies need to understand the importance of respecting the power of data and make strategic decisions and investments in value-adding assets like automation. Trends can expand the future of field service beyond geographical limitations. Wise investments can lead to a larger sales territory, quicker responses, and more loyal customers. Companies that successfully incorporate digital technology and other trends into their operations have the best chance of success in the future.

Boosting Your Competitive Advantage with Field Service

Check out PTC's Speaking of Service podcast series to learn more about how industry leaders are using technologies like predictive maintenance, AI, and AR to prep their organizations for the future. Learn More
Tags: Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) ServiceMax Thingworx Servigistics Digital Transformation Industrial Skills Gap Remote Service Sustainability

About the Author

Anthony Moffa

Anthony Moffa is a Senior Director within PTC’s ThingWorx Product Management team.  He has extensive experience, designing, manufacturing and implementing diagnostic systems in a variety of industries including aerospace, nuclear power and petrochemical.  Prior to joining PTC he was responsible for the design and implementation of 2 IoT programs, one in life safety and the other in the life sciences arenas.  He has been a long-time contributor to service research advisory councils managed by Aberdeen and The Service Council, holds a Mechanical Engineering Degree from Villanova University and has multiple Six Sigma certifications.