For maintenance professionals, the Industrial Internet of Things will prompt the use of new technologies such as remote service and diagnostics, connected field service and augmented reality, changing the way they perform their daily roles, in many cases resulting in them moving up hierarchical structures.
The role of the maintenance technician is evolving, too, going from being associated primarily with one manufacturer or OEM, to a technician that services multiple manufacturers, across a wide landscape of equipment and assets. These new expectations call for technician training and deployment that takes advantage of IOT enabled, connected resources.
How will technicians navigate through these new, connected service possibilities?
When assets are connected, whether they are elevators, large wind farms or HVAC units in commercial buildings, they generate performance and usage information that can make technicians more efficient before they have even been dispatched or arrived on site. Instead of relying on end-user description of the issue or guided phone diagnosis through a call center, a technician can remotely see what how the equipment is performing and why it may be failing. This makes diagnosing and ultimately repairing less time-consuming and much more efficient.
We know that field technicians work on legacy assets as well as rapidly-changing technology. In addition to this, multiple versions of equipment in the field make accessing the correct part and repair information tricky, as each iteration may have slight irregularities that change service instructions. Technicians with asset specific, digitally updated service information that they can access on multiple devices spend less time searching for information, and more time on repairs. With service visibility and up-to-date service information, the field technician’s productivity is optimized like never before.
By introducing connectivity and the Internet of Things into equipment in the field, real-time data from assets can not only be used to monitor, but to proactively service equipment. Instead of sending a field technician on a costly visit to update software or apply a software patch, these fixes can be applied remotely, allowing a more efficient use of technician time and expertise. At the same time, that real-time data can be compared to normal operating conditions, allowing technicians to proactively take steps before a malfunction if an anomaly in operation is detected.
A key to reducing repair technician visits and improving first time fix rates is to be able to guarantee that the right part is available for the technician at the point of need. This is accomplished by accurately forecasting depot- and van stock levels. In a disconnected service network, this is done through statistical and causal forecasting algorithms. By connecting the device, the feedback loop from field assets can be used to optimize the service organization’s parts inventory far more accurately. The equipment essentially tells the service network which part is required and when; inventory at the van level is then optimized accordingly.
When connectivity permeates the service environment, organizations see several positive business outcomes: longer and happier client relationships, which leads to an increased renewal of contracts. As business risk is minimized, those contracts become more profitable and allow the enterprise to explore new and innovative revenue streams.
Connectivity, and the growing ease of retrofitting equipment with sensors, means that it’s no longer limited to manufacturers, OEMs, or even the factory floor. Connected services can bring tremendous operational benefits into agriculture, oil and gas fields, industrial applications, and more. Connected equipment and capabilities can also benefit organizations responsible for a large number of assets that they service but didn’t manufacture, such as asset management companies, facilities managers, utilities and telcos. The applications are endless.
With connected equipment and services, the role of the technician and field service organizations as a whole is impacted. Instead of replacing field technicians, the Internet of Things is augmenting and growing their role into a multi-pronged solution provider. How will emerging technology capabilities, such as the IoT and augmented reality positively impact the role of the field technician? Read more in part two of the blog.