How Manufacturers Can Win Customers Through Connected Field Service



IDC predicted that, by 2018, 40% of the top 100 discrete manufacturers will offer product-service systems (PSSs) at some level or another. At its core, the PSS model positions field service as a means to ensure end users can operate products with no unplanned downtime.

PSS strategies promise higher profit margins and greater customer satisfaction, but in order to support them, manufacturers must use the Internet of Things (IoT) to establish connected field service operations. A key component of connected field service involves monitoring asset conditions. Temperature, vibration, operating hours, and other metrics enable field service teams to accurately predict which parts will fail and when those failures will occur.

The new face of field service

Real-time asset monitoring is one of many factors inciting service transformation – a phenomenon consisting of three phases:

  1. Service as a cost center: Manufacturing leadership prioritizes service efficiency for the purpose of reducing operating expenses. Service calls and service technicians are profit liabilities. Each truck roll and service appointment is an expenditure, not an opportunity.
  2. Service as a differentiator: Field service establishes itself as a competitive asset. Leaders measure service’s success by the revenue it generates.
  3. Product as a service: The ultimate vision for the service arm, defined by providing a superior customer experience through a seamless, integrated service experience.

The trend of servitization, or moving away from selling products and into selling outcomes, is only picking up steam. McKinley Elevator integrated this very approach into its own field service operations:

 PTC Service Cast Study

Customer experience and asset uptime are the new business battlegrounds. Here’s how field service management, powered by connected solutions and the IoT, can positively impact manufacturing businesses:

Field service technicians acquire context before visiting job sites

When field service teams are connected, organizations can assign technicians to work orders based on their expertise. This coordination also ensures technicians know:

  • Which spare parts are needed (if any).
  • What procedures they’ll need to perform.
  • Which tools they’ll need to complete specific tasks.
  • How the in-field product is configured.

All of this knowledge enables technicians to execute work orders more efficiently. They don’t have to spend time figuring out which parts, tools, and maintenance information are required for specific jobs. What this does is reduce the overall cost per service call.

Customers experience minimal (or zero) downtime

Customers who receive prompt, efficient, timely service are happier. As greater technician preparedness reduces the time it takes to repair assets, customers experience minimal downtime.

Suppose a diesel mechanic receives an alert from a connected field service application that the transmission in an excavator will fail in two days. In anticipation of this event, the mechanic notifies the contractor operating the asset of the impending failure and schedules a visit at a time when the machine will not be in use. The mechanic replaces the transmission before the original part fails.

This is an example of a service organization eliminating disruption to a customer’s business. The contractor didn’t have to delay a project while the mechanic fixed the excavator because the service didn't occur during typical hours of operation.

That’s the level of value connected field service can deliver: ero unplanned downtime. But none of this is possible without integrating the IoT into manufactured products. Felisa Palagi, our VP of Service Strategy and Operations, discussed whether manufacturers should build or buy connected field service solutions to optimize their field service capabilities in a recent article.