The field service future is here

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I was reading a blog last month that speculated on whether wearables and IoT were the future of field service.

It’s one of the biggest industries in the world with some 20 million field technicians maintaining anything from hospital kit to heavy manufacturing machines. And it's a growing market too, with field service management (FSM) expected to reach $4.45 billion by 2022*

The writer of the blog reflected on how the personal fitness industry has embraced wearable technology like fitbits and wondered if field service operators could soon be adopting virtual reality, drones, thermal cameras, smart watches and glasses to help improve both first fix rates and service levels. 

It reminded me of something Forrester† wrote a couple of years back about the cutting edge technologies needed for greater engagement; mobility for field service effectiveness, analytics for service execution, IoT for preventative maintenance and augmented reality (AR) for skills democratisation. It suggested how AR, for example, could alleviate an ageing workforce by spreading skills more broadly. Smart glasses could help offsite workers see what onsite technicians were looking at and tutor them through a job.

And yet, even with some of this technology already here e.g. our managed print service provides predictive maintenance, more than half (52%1) of field services companies still coordinate work and perform functions manually. I would suggest that business thinking needs to change fairly quickly, especially as there’s more and more field operations in manufacturing, oil and gas, and we’re seeing a greater drive for customer satisfaction and reduced operational costs.

It’s strange how, in the past, technology choices for data collection were largely centred on process efficiencies whereas in today’s connected age, it seems that most leading technology choices tie back to improving the customer experience.

To excel at customer services in a connected world, you need to bridge physical processes like field service and delivery with systems for order fulfilment, sales and order promising, and workforce management. 

If service, delivery, and field sales workforces are equipped with the right devices and mobile data capture technologies, then businesses can better blend the challenges of the physical world with digital systems. This would ensure that commitments are met, added products and services can be sold, and installed products will perform at their best for customers throughout their entire lifecycle.

According to a survey, 72%1of field service organisations are prioritising improvements in customer satisfaction. The very fact that customer experience is seen now as equally important as driving efficiencies shows how field service is moving from a cost to a profit centre. It’s a real sea change in policy that by improving customer experience rather than cutting costs you get the real key to success.

So, let’s not speculate about the potential impact of wearable technology, let’s start embracing the field service solutions that are already out there.


* Stratistics MRC May 15, 2017

† Forrester blog: Field Service: Increasingly Important For Differentiated Customer Service Experiences

1  Field Technologies Online magazine

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…

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