Field service has always been ahead of time when it comes to using new technology to facilitate operations. While consumers go to electronic fairs to test wearables, field service technicians are already using them. So here is the latest tech that will shape the future of field service long before it will become standard at our homes.
Augmented Reality and Wearables
Remember when in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Minority Report” Tom Cruise was gesturing screens in front of his eyes? Augmented reality seemed quite futuristic back in 2002, but it isn’t anymore. Even after Google glass has been taken off the market, this fast growing technology is continuously used in industry-related services. Augmented reality can be understood as the melting of the physical and digital world. When digital elements are added to our reality and “improve” it by adding information, we speak of augmented reality.
In field service this means that a technician is guided through a facility to safely reach the machine he needs to repair. It can also mean that workers in the field complete their maintenance job without having to use their hands and still access all company data, check lists or the history of a machine. Wearables like smart watches or smart glasses can be used to record a video that captures the state of a turbine and transmits it to a second service technician. A diagnosis can be established much quicker, which again saves a lot of money.
Virtual Reality and Avatars
Just recently LG and Google launched their own virtual reality headset. The headset is based on Google’s Cardboard and comes free with the new G3 smartphone. The headset together with the screen of the G3 can be used for virtual reality apps or games. While Oculus Rift is developed, but has yet to enter mainstream, virtual reality has already revolutionized E-learning. In field service virtual reality headsets will sooner or later be used to train technicians. More experienced engineers can record videos of their work in the field, which again can be used to educate new staff. The advantage is that experienced service technicians can still work out in the field and don’t have to be present during the training sessions. Or imagine a service needs to be completed at a site with high radioactivity. A simulation of a service job using an avatar could be completed beforehand thereby reducing the risk of radiation for human workers.
It’s the Machine Talking
Imagine that your lawn mover is broken and you need to bring that monster to service. Ok, it depends on the size of the lawn mover, but in any case it’s a pain to put it in the car, to take it to a service center and wait for weeks until it’s fixed. Usually you will discover that the lawn mover is broken, when you are about to use it.
This could be history soon. With more devices being connected to the Internet, machines will be able to talk to each other. Field service will incorporate machine to machine (M2M), which means that your lawn mover will automatically send a signal to the service center when it is broken. Predictive maintenance will further help to keep track of a machine’s condition and bring it to service when needed. This technology is especially powerful with regard to delivering great customer service, because you are able to predict failure before your customer knows there is something wrong.
Don’t Bring Your Spare Part. Simply Print It.
3D printing has been hyped a lot recently. Whether it was U.S. chocolate manufacturer Hershley that made the first 3D chocolate or Cirque du Soleil that printed their amazing costumes. Gartner predicts that shipments of 3D printers will more than double over the next years and will reach 2.3 million by 2018. Using 3D printing in field service would mean that an employee in the field would be able to print spare parts right at the spot. While it is possible to see field parts inventory using field service applications or software and order parts from a colleague nearby, 3D printing of spare parts will further revolutionize inventory management. For starters it will save time and make your customers happy, because everything is done instantly.
Big Data is another buzzword that is often discussed. And we are only in the beginning of grasping the potential of Big Data for the industry. Facebook alone stores over 30 Petabytes of user-generated data. And with social media and the Internet of Things (IoT) more and more data will be produced across all industries. Field service is still lagging behind, because many companies have yet to switch to field service automation. Field service software is a prerequisite in order to collect valuable data that helps businesses to get ahead of competition. What if you were able to analyze how long an average service job is taking or predict most common reasons for a machine to break? – You would be able to optimize your processes, improve your products and save money.