Create a free account to continue

Part Two: Building On M2M For IoT Opportunity In Field Service

Manufacturers must prepare for the next stage of innovation and growth.

Mnet 45743 Kris Brannock Vsi 0

Post-sales service is a growing part of revenues for many manufacturing firms, and its rise has been driven by a number of factors. Wearable video technologies have improved onsite troubleshooting and repair, GPS has streamlined field tech dispatch and smart mobile devices have enabled real-time field data integration with back-office financial systems such as ERP. M2M data is the new standard as manufacturers deploy sensors on just about every device and part. Many have analytics in place to mine that data and model it for predictive forecasting, and field service management technology to help them manage opportunities. Yet all of these advances are being dwarfed by the Internet of Things (IoT). Manufacturers must prepare for the next stage of innovation and growth.

While field service in the past was prompted by a human request based on a down system, today’s service is increasingly prompted from an alert triggered by a sensor on an M2M-enabled device. Manufacturers can program these devices to ping warnings of pending failure, which enables predictive maintenance when convenient (and efficient) for the manufacturer’s service time. Rich technology that can manage rules-based systems has enabled manufacturers to connect data insights to their tactical field service response, improving efficiencies and lowering costs.

As the one-to-one connectivity of M2M yields to the internetworked possibilities of the IoT, which is the umbrella term that covers both consumer and industrial business, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will supercharge the volume of service activities as well as the volume of data gathered. In addition to creating workflows to automate and manage service processes for maximum efficiency, the next stage for manufacturers’ field service divisions is to drive the creation of new, dynamic service offerings.

Steps to Prepare

The most important step that today’s manufacturers can take to prepare for IIoT is to deploy the technologies needed to mine and use data for insights. Sophisticated analytics tools in combination with advanced field service management technology, all linked with an ERP system will be the norm.

At the recent  2015 Smart Manufacturing Summit in Indianapolis, manufacturers noted they were working on leveraging IIoT and CRM data to anticipate customers’ service needs and develop proactive service campaigns. This requires seamless connectivity of CRM and ERP to deliver “one truth” from the data (See Voice of the Customer on IIoT and 3D Printing Creates New Possibilities for Industrial Internet of Things).

Executives noted they were leveraging data to improve product performance as well as to create new and innovative products. For example, some customers are willing to pay a premium for concierge-level services, particularly for critical equipment. Others will be engaged by a cost model that relies on improved output – measured, of course, by automatically gathered data.

Systems must support business process management driven by automated workflows that can use IIoT data – consider the following scenario: a device in the field pings an alert about a pending failure to the manufacturer’s field service management solution. This triggers numerous actions, including a text message to the appropriate field tech (determined by on-call status, system knowledge, location, certification level, parts availability or any combination of factors). When the engineer hops in the van, data on customer location is already loaded into the GPS to guide the most efficient route. The engineer arrives on site, often before the customer is even aware of an issue and averts a crisis. Naturally, all of this data is gathered and stored in the field service management system’s solution.

Dimensional Snapshot of the Customer

As one manufacturing customer points out, the IIoT is all about using devices to get better, faster, real-time information. Smart devices enable manufacturers to get command of a situation by enabling systems and processes to work together, in the background, to deliver value to the customer.

One global process control equipment manufacturer explains one of the goals of M2M and IIoT data is to provide them a dimensional snapshot of what the customer sees that they don’t. In essence, what is the customer’s true experience? Once this data is refined, predicting parts and product end-of-life, along with pinpointing potential critical issues, will be a step towards true and tangible customer engagement. Acting on this data in an extrapolative manner with synergistic systems and processes will provide optimum value for their customers.

The IIoT offers huge potential, but to realize it, manufacturers must interconnect their back-end systems to connect data insights into actions. In a post by Microsoft’s Colin Masson, he outlines the need to create what he calls “systems of intelligence” to gain true potential. Pilot projects should focus on particular paint points that can be alleviated by IIoT-enabled devices in combination with new technologies such as augmented reality in wearables – these will offer insights into the future of a manufacturer’s service organization, and will determine the core organization’s success in the age of IIoT. Manufacturers who use that insight to develop and deliver new services tailored to customer needs will be the ones poised to succeed in the future.

Click here for Part One: M2M Analytics Poise Manufacturer Field Service For IoT.

Kris Brannock is Executive VP at Vertical Solutions (VSI). In her role, she assists in driving the newest advances in VSI’s technology innovation and strategic thought leadership, with her current focus on the impact of IoT and 3D printing within the field service industry. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the field service and customer experience technology arenas, infusing innovative trends with after-market business understanding as VSI’s corporate blogger

More in Operations