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In the new reality of remote working, connectivity is king. Still, many Field Service organizations have been unwilling or unable to fully connect their products. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to provide better outcome-based service to your customers.

Back in 2014, then CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelt raised eyebrows when he said:

You went to bed last night as an industrial company. You will wake up in the morning as a software and analytics company.

Back in 2014, that statement didn’t sound true to most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with equipment on customer premises, including Immelt’s GE! I would argue that many OEMs would still question this statement today. It is very hard for equipment manufacturers to get past thinking solely about physical product.

The Remote Services Continuum

How would a company with physical products onsite transform into a software and analytics company? It will only happen with smart, connected products. Like many terms surrounding IoT or Industry 4.0, there are not always universally accepted definitions. What is a smart, connected product?

A product is some type of electro-mechanical device.

This product becomes smart when some type of sensor technology is applied that enables a company to capture a digital representation of performance, status, or usage.

Then these products are connected, enabling companies to communicate with the product.

So, how are companies using smart, connected products today? The best way to describe it is to take a journey along the Remote Services Continuum, which can be divided into three main steps.

remote services continuum

Step 1: Service Efficiency: Reduce service costs and improve responsiveness to service incidents

Implement the usage of smart, connected products that enable the capture and analysis of data, including:

  • Self-diagnostics
  • Monitoring critical components to understand failure rates
  • Key component performance, using data like temperature, vibration, fan/motor RPM, voltage, and drives
  • Descriptive Analytics: Basic consumption answers the “what” and “when” questions about your customer

Step 2: Process Optimization: Improve product utilization and enable value-added service

Use data for remote resolve/self-healing/proactive services that predict faults and disruptions by comparing to normal operations and noting any anomalies. This also includes the ability to provide service regardless of location.

Analytics are used to identify new features and value-added services that help customers achieve and maintain a higher level of operation, moving from reactive SLA to proactively resolved tickets and incidents. We call this advanced analytics. It answers the “how” and “why” questions about customer behavior and consumption.

Step 3: Customer Outcomes: Integration of information, people, and processes to improve business results

Assist customers in reaching best in class operational performance, which is accomplished through the combination of multiple products embedded in systems, platforms, or ecosystems that are integrated with each other and third party data to guarantee improved customer outcomes.

This integration will enable suppliers to do work that was previously done by customers, partners, or not at all. This is where you must have a full integration of analytics into the business process to achieve strategic objectives.

During my “Power Hour” at our recent TSIA Interact conference, I noted that the long play for these smart, connected products is the data – perfectly illustrated by this simple quote:

The goal is to turn data into information and information into insights.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

When I was on the practitioner side of the table, many thought the connected product would allow us to solve every issue and eliminate the need to go on site. They saw this as the singular benefit of a connected product. My response was, if that happens, it's great, but it’s the least beneficial thing I see from connectivity.

In our TSIA Field Service Benchmark, we ask what percent of the install base has the following proactive support technologies to remotely monitor, diagnose, and resolve service incidents (we define proactive support technologies as capabilities built into products that eliminate the need for on-site incidents):

  • Self-Healing Repair: Using predictive data to automatically provide self-healing repair before equipment breaks down.
  • Diagnostic Capabilities Embedded In Product: Embedded diagnostics and remote monitoring that automatically create alerts, including automated service requests (ASR) and dispatch of customer replaceable units (CRU), resulting in repair of equipment.
  • Diagnostic Capabilities Support Service Access: Use of embedded diagnostics and remote monitoring to enable support services personnel to provide services regardless of customer location.

In the figure below, you can see 56% of a member’s install base have diagnostics capabilities in their product. However, only 36% of the install base is connected to enable remote support.

field services connectivity

While product teams are building up the ability to collect data, teams are starting to connect/access equipment, and self-healing is starting to be enabled, the fact remains that Field Service Engineers (FSE) have to go on-site 43% of the time to resolve an incident. One member told us, “Someone still needs to turn the screwdriver.”

Onsite visits will never go away. However, as the first step on the continuum tells us, we can be more efficient and prepared when we do go on site.

With the data collected, we can make sure we have the right FSE, with the right skills, the right tools, and if needed, the right part onsite the first time. We will always have first truck rolls; however, it is possible to arrive at a point where there is never a second. Data will get us there.

Outcome-Based Services

We cannot stop here though. Ultimately the data you collect from your equipment will be more valuable than the equipment itself. The jump to Steps 2 and 3 is where data analytics will play an outsized role. IoT is initially looked at as a mechanism to reduce delivery cost. This data use case is known and is focused on the product only. The Remote Services Continuum is seeming to be more accepted. Pre-pandemic if you would have asked if OEMs were accepting it, I might have shrugged, but the acceleration of connectivity adoption is undeniable in this new normal.

The next addition to the Remote Services Continuum will be how analytics will play into reaching steps 2 and 3, which will ultimately enable the full transformation to outcome-based services.

TSIA leverages data for actionable insights for our members. It's our core competency. The same framework can be applied to the Remote Services Continuum. It’s called the Data Analytics Framework.

field services data analytics framework

The framework will allow us to tie the types of service (reactive, predictive, and proactive) to data analytics descriptions and use cases. This framework will allow OEMs to imagine what else can be done with the data to drive business outcomes for their customers. It provides a holistic framework for the digital transformation toward outcome-based services.

The COVID pandemic has been the major accelerator for many things, including the digital transformation of Field Services. Over the last eight months, don’t you wish you had 100% connected products? Wouldn’t it have been great if you had better diagnostics to make each service visit more efficient, shortening the time the FSE spent on site? Would your customer want advanced notice of breakdown predicted by years of data collection and analysis?

Get Connected

You can’t wait any longer. Use the accelerator to drive connectivity adoption. If you have the connectivity, leverage analytics to build new service offers to your customers and strive for the ultimate goal of outcome-based services.

Looking for more Field Services content like this? Make your plans to attend our TSIA Interact virtual conference to be held May 4-6, 2021. Learn more about our spring virtual conference.

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Kevin Bowers

About Author Kevin Bowers

Kevin Bowers is the director of field services research for TSIA. Prior to joining TSIA, Kevin held various senior leadership roles at DMG MORI USA, the largest global machine tool company in the industrial OEM marketplace. Throughout his 20-year career, he has held executive positions in sales operations, service, spare parts, training. Kevin is fluent in Japanese and he also sits on the board of directors for NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills).