Fundamentally, IoT is about devices being connected to the internet to allow remote monitoring. In a sense, there is nothing very new about this. For many years now, it has been possible to remotely monitor IT infrastructure such as servers and printers. What’s new now is that even the smallest devices down to individual light bulbs and sensors can have network and internet connectivity, allowing entire systems to be monitored in great detail. Implementing IoT and accessing data can be challenging for most service organizations. However, when combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, can have a huge potential impact on individual businesses and the industry as a whole.
A recent article by Gartner “Explore the Internet of Things’ Potential for CRM” discusses five layers that define the capabilities of IoT:
- The device layer: The ‘things’ connected to the Internet.
- The communication layer: Communication protocols, networks, and the Internet.
- The information layer: The software systems that capture and store the data.
- The functional layer: The software systems that analyze and interpret the data.
- The process layer: The business processes that use the analysis and interpretation of the data to deliver benefit.
Manufacturers of technology systems typically address the functional layer. Some industry examples include Schneider’s Building Management System that monitors a building’s HVAC, environmental, and fire safety systems, or Ricoh’s @Remote software that monitors Ricoh multi-function office products.
FSM plays a clear role in this layer. Field service management software needs to communicate with the system software and provide functionality that uses the information provided by these systems to provide advanced service capabilities. One obvious case that leaps to mind is when a system detects a device failure, sending an alert to the FSM software causing a reactive service ticket to be raised. However, this is just the most basic case which does little to improve upon traditional service offerings.
The Real Value Comes From Preventing System Failures
This involves the use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. At the functional layer, software systems utilize the data provided by the connected devices to identify points of potential failure. The system then sends an alert to the FSM software which can be used to enhance and supplement planned maintenance programs. This, in turn, prompts field engineers to test suspect components and complete preventative maintenance.
At the point of maintenance, field service IoT can go even further, giving the service engineer access to diagnostic data in real-time, either on-site or while performing remote service. The role that FSM will play in this is to quickly and easily link the service ticket to the data available about the device or system in question.
Once predictive maintenance becomes part of the mix, the commercial model for the service engagement may also need to change.
If the customer is expected to pay for a device to be repaired or replaced because it is predicted to fail, how can they be sure of the validity of that prediction? However, if the repair is to be provided at no additional cost under the terms of the maintenance contract, what motivation does the service provider have to provide the service before it’s proven to be necessary?
The answer: an increase in ‘outcomes-based’ compensation for maintenance contracts.
One example may be an HVAC company that has maintenance contracts with their customers that include penalties for events in which a building’s climate control conditions fall outside agreed parameters (such as temperature or humidity levels) or when power consumption exceeds set limits.
Another example would be ‘usage-based’ maintenance contracts. Again, this is a long-standing practice within the copy/print industry where maintenance contracts are billed based on copy/print volumes utilizing counters within the device itself. However, with IoT and related monitoring software, it becomes possible to record usage volumes on a much wider range of devices such as medical devices, production line equipment, and many others.
In situations like these, the FSM software used by the service provider must have the capability to manage pricing algorithms within its contract management functionality. Under usage-based agreements, it becomes crucial to be able to provide the customer with reliable reporting on the factors that impact the billing.
You may feel that your customer is not ready for these changes— but technological advances tend to drive what customers expect of their service providers.
Want to learn more about the potential benefits of field service IoT? Check out this study on how industrial and contracting companies are using the Industrial Internet of Things for Digital Transformation.
To learn how IFS can help your company integrate emerging technologies like IoT with your field service management solution, click here.
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