Will self-service for customers be the answer to the dwindling number of available field service technicians? Prudence Kolong, Editorial Director, Copperberg, joins the ranks of Field Service News associate columnists and in her first feature tackles this important topic.
A recent survey by the Service Council showed that 70% of global manufacturing companies with small to large service operations are increasingly concerned with the lack of prospects to replace their retiring workforce.
However, less than half have implemented human capital management strategies capable of addressing talent shortage and competence development. It does not help either that scores of new STEM graduates and millennials, who in a perfect world should be lining up to join the ranks of highly skilled service teams within seemingly economically stable firms, see manufacturing jobs as old fashioned and dated and therefore not appealing.
Many service organisations now look into technology as a potential avenue to circumvent the lack of prospects to renew their existing human resources.
On the technology front, deep shifts in customer demands drive innovation at a riveting speed. Since Industrial IoT and digitalisation have stopped being buzzwords meant for technologists, they have quietly slipped into the day-to-day dealings of service directors. The future landscape of field service operations for traditional or advanced manufacturing products will integrate a wide range of technological advancements.
The use of robots, artificial intelligence or automated supports on the production line is not new. However, their utilisation to enhance service lifecycle performance constitutes a new set of challenges for which very few are equipped.
Market leaders are now prototyping innovative solutions, with pilot projects, to engage clients and benefit from value-added technologies ranging from Industrial artificial intelligence, automation, machine learning, robotics processes and big data.
An abundance of opportunities opens with IoT, including hyper-personalised data mining solutions that enable targeted customer response with mission-critical predictive maintenance, optimised time management and strategic deployment of multi-skilled fleets.
To ensure that the right people maintain the effectiveness of their enhanced service ecosystems, smart service directors engage in constant skillset assessment, retraining, reallocation and reassignment. However, the question that remains open is how can an industry slated to generate up to 4,45 billion dollars by 2020, thrive without sufficient manpower? Can it rely solely on progress in technology?
The race for market share has service directors drastically redefining their KPIs, readjusting their resource strategies and the means to achieve them.
Furthermore, a new trend is sweeping the industry: crowdsourced field service. In this instance, the very concept of field service management is revolutionised. Fleet ownership, task scheduling, work order management and SLA’s compliance are no longer the sole prerogative of the product manufacturer and its service department.
In layman terms, the “Uber” business model has come and conquered the field service arena; now anyone can order and/or deliver turnkey maintenance operations and end-to-end field service. At the onset, uberized field service seems like a palliative solution to workforce shortage, a momentary placebo that may serve its short-term purpose. So how about a realistic solution that identifies the root cause, and just like preventative maintenance addresses issues before they occur.
Gartner predicts that within the coming 5 years, 10% of emergency field service work will be managed by artificial intelligence, implying less use or need of manpower on the horizons. Nonetheless, service organisations need to invest in out of the box approaches to talent acquisition with hybrid skillsets and become more proactive in handling their single most important asset: people.
Source: Field Service News