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5 emerging technologies to look out for in field service

By Gill Devine, VP of Western Europe, Syncron

Regardless of industry, emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles, wearable devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and drones, will have a significant impact on how after-sales service, the service delivered after the initial sale of a product, is performed. For manufacturers, these new and evolving technologies will enable them to respond to the increasing demands of today’s consumers.

After-sales service is now one of the biggest opportunities for manufacturers to generate revenue, increase margins and improve customer loyalty. For field service repairs, emerging technology used correctly could become a huge source of competitive differentiation and improved service levels.

Below, I outline five emerging technologies and how manufacturers can use them to positively impact their field service organisations.

 

1. Driverless cars
According to Juniper Research, by 2025 there will be 20 million driverless cars on roads around the world, with them becoming most popular in North America and Western Europe by 2021. For manufacturers, this emerging technology could be especially beneficial to field service. Driverless vehicles mean technicians can multitask – something that they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) do behind the wheel today. 

Multitasking allows technicians to use their field service app to ensure the upcoming appointment is as efficient as possible while en-route to the call – reading up on customer history, service part inventory and equipment data – so that the technician walks into the appointment ready to make the repair quickly and successfully. The possibilities are endless – if a vehicle is not stocked with a needed service part, it could self-drive to a warehouse to retrieve it while the technician is working on other aspects of the repair. This emerging technology could provide new and easy ways for technicians to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, and for manufacturers to create that competitive edge with their service organisation.

 

2. Wearables

The biggest impact wearables could make is in efficiency – if technicians can diagnose and fix problems faster, without bringing in additional experts, both the cost savings and improved customer experiences could be monumental.

The augmented reality associated with smartglasses provides on-the-job training to technicians, and enables them to more easily repair goods, especially those they have less experience repairing. Additionally, the hands-free nature of smartglasses allows technicians to complete tasks without having to start and stop to read or view instructions. Video collaboration with remote experts could also add to efficiency. 

While adoption of wearable technology has been slow due to the dependence on apps and services targeted to field service, companies like KPIT have already deployed smart glass technologies for field service specifically. As barriers to entry become lower, brands will be forced to adopt ‘smart’ devices to meet demanding customer expectations.

 

3. Internet of Things (IoT)
According to Forrester, IoT is a means to create more valuable customer interactions and improve the customer experience. And with field service often serving as the ‘face’ of manufacturing brands, this certainly holds true.

The intertwined network of physical goods with sensors and software allows manufacturers to freely exchange data between the products they sell and their internal systems in place. This helps all parties – products built with ‘smart parts’ can send a signal to both the manufacturer and customer to alert them a repair is needed and to schedule a service appointment soon. With the appropriate service parts management technology in place, the manufacturer proactively ensures the needed part is available and sends a technician to repair the product quickly, alleviating any downtime, and delivering the amazing experience customers expect.

 

4. 3D Printing
3D printing has long been used in manufacturing to create part prototypes. Now, with the advances made to the technology, they can print parts in metal, which means 3D printing can be used to create actual replacement parts.

As the technology continues to advance, the impact 3D printing could have on parts inventory levels, warehouse needs and the logistics of moving parts from one location to another could be monumental. These factors will lead to reduced cost and faster repair times – meaning more revenue for the manufacturer and better experiences for the end-user. And, it might not be in the too-distant future that driverless vehicles could be equipped with printers that can print parts on the spot!

 

5. Drones
Drones are becoming increasingly common for personal use. You’ll often see them at high school sporting events, outdoor concerts or being used for personal photography. For field service specifically, there are both immediate and long-term benefits of drone technology.

More immediately, drones can be used as a means of diagnosing issues on large-scale equipment like oil rigs. This means less risk for the field service technician, as drones can help them survey large or hard-to-reach areas without putting themselves in dangerous situations. Or, they can be used in warehouses to retrieve parts, making the process much more efficient.

In the future, drones could even be used to deliver a part in the field. If a technician is on-site making a repair but doesn’t have the necessary part, a drone could bring it to him or her, eliminating the need to make an additional service call.

 

These emerging technologies are beginning to impact businesses today, and manufacturers must consider adopting them to meet the needs of today’s customers, while simultaneously driving revenue. Soon, everyone will be able to say they’ve received exceptional customer service, as long as manufacturers embrace these new tools.

 

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