Optimize Field Service Model to Overcome Challenges with IIoT and AR

Delivering topnotch service while managing costs and efficiencies has become increasingly complex for field service organizations.

Optimize Field Service Model to Overcome Challenges with IIoT and AR
Optimize Field Service Model to Overcome Challenges with IIoT and AR. Photo by Guillaume Bolduc on Unsplash

This article explores the major challenges hindering success and how the Industrial Internet of Things combined with augmented reality makes it possible for organizations to:

  • Decrease unscheduled downtime by 30% and improve first-time fix rates by 92%
  • Increase service profitability by 50%
  • Reduce technician on-site time by 75% and speed up technician training by 50%
  • Achieve an 80% rate in remote support resolution

Read on this article and learn how to empower your field service organization to increase effectiveness and help the bottom line.

Overcome obstacles to better field service with the IoT and AR. With increasing expectations for better field service, there comes a shift away from the traditional break and fix model. Service leaders are under pressure to deliver faster, higher quality service, or risk falling behind the competition. With the help of the industrial internet of things and AR, your field service organizations can enhance the customer experience, while finding new ways to:

  • Drive revenue growth and profitability
  • Reduce time-to-resolution by 84%
  • Save on service costs without compromising quality

Read on this article to uncover how service team leaders have achieved success when implementing joint AR and industrial IoT strategies.

Table of contents

Challenge #1: Increasing customer demands and declining customer satisfaction
Challenge #2: Lost revenue and growth opportunities
Challenge #3: Longer Time-to Resolution
Challenge #4: Pressure to Provide Better Service at Lower Costs

Delivering field service has become increasing complex as organizations deal with complicated product portfolios and a shortage of skilled workers. Higher expectations for equipment readiness and durability has shifted service away from the reactive break/fix model, which can’t offer the kinds of results that service teams are expected to deliver.

Given the increasingly competitive landscape, service leaders cannot afford to postpone their digital transformation and the inevitable modernizing of their service processes to become more proactive and innovative. The Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR), make it possible for service leaders to overcome their biggest challenges and deliver the often competing goals of achieving customer satisfaction, revenue growth, efficiency, and cost reduction.

Challenge #1: Increasing customer demands and declining customer satisfaction

Given all that is possible with increased customization and advanced machine/equipment technology, customers expect more and more from their equipment and service providers. No matter the equipment complexity or state of the workforce, contracts now typically dictate stricter SLAs to ensure equipment readiness targets are met—putting service leaders under pressure to deliver consistent, seamless support.

80% of service decision-makers say emerging technology is changing customer’s expectations of the service organization.

Solution: Exceed customer expectations through predictive maintenance

While technology has certainly played a role in raising customer expectations, it can also help service organizations meet them. With AR and the IoT, service teams can enhance the customer experience and realize significant improvements to their Net Promoter Score (NPS) and retention rates.

Avoid unplanned downtime: With real-time data from connected devices and sensors, IoT applications deliver insights such as identifying performance issues that may result in downtime. By leveraging real-time IoT data and predictive analytics, service teams can stay connected with assets and understand more about how customers are using their equipment. Armed with this data, technicians can take rapid preventative or remedial action— often before the customer even realizes—to increase uptime.

Empower customers with data: The chief priority of any field service team is to satisfy savvy customers that value convenience, speed, and control. Putting IoT data from real-time asset monitoring with embedded diagnostics into customers’ hands provides them with knowledge and peace of mind. The team can even remotely guide them through troubleshooting with expert capture for digital work instructions via AR, so the customers can complete simple fixes independently or even run their own maintenance. Not only does this reduce truck rolls and shorten repair time, but it also helps to strengthen customer relationships.

Give technicians tools to be effective, from anywhere: Technicians don’t have to go on-site to deliver great customer service. With remote access, control, and software management, technicians can even fix issues from home. IoT data provides a real-time picture of asset health so technicians will be able to remotely diagnose what went wrong and why, helping to improve first-time fix rates and reduce truck rolls. With AR, technicians can assist end-customers remotely and troubleshoot simple issues.

Proven results

With IoT and AR, service teams can provide results such as:

  • 50% faster response to issues
  • 30% decrease in unscheduled downtime
  • 92% first-time fix rate

Challenge #2: Lost revenue and growth opportunities

Faced with declining margins from product sales and installations, many manufacturers are focused on maximizing aftermarket services, requiring their field service organizations to deliver greater portions of the company’s overall revenue and profit. However, under a traditional model, the only way to increase revenue is to complete more service calls. But with declining service margins, there is increased pressure to find new opportunities for revenue growth—or risk falling behind the competition.

82% of service decision-makers say service must transform to stay competitive

Solution: Drive new service opportunities with differentiated offerings

To deliver revenue, field service organizations need to evolve and embrace new models that provide competitive differentiation. These gains can be achieved by leveraging AR and the IoT to offer value-adding services to meet and exceed service-related revenue goals.

Introduce new service models: By using IoT, service organizations can leverage sensor data on machine usage to offer new “as-a-service” models to customers, selling the services and outcomes of the product, instead of the product itself. New business lines like this can help introduce new billing cycles to stabilize cash flow and increase revenue while providing more consistent customer touchpoints and making it harder for competitors to engage.

Optimize consumables sales: In many cases, the consumables revenue across the lifecycle of a machine creates more revenue than the sale of the equipment itself. Actual usage data generated by IoT-enabled equipment provides a clear picture of utilization cycle counts and inventory rates, which enables technicians to capture the maximum value from consumables.

Take on different, value-add services and upsell opportunities: Remote monitoring through IoT can be enabled across a wide variety of equipment—including those supplied by others. Introducing service offerings for other manufacturers’ products not only helps drive service margin growth but also contributes to building strong customer relationships around shared goals and outcomes. With AR, service organizations can take advantage of different upsell opportunities in the global marketplace or aftermarket service. Expanding the reach of their expertise drives revenue and profitability.

Proven results

With IoT and AR, service teams can provide results such as:

  • 1% revenue growth
  • 50% increase in service profitability

Challenge #3: Longer Time-to Resolution

The efficiency of today’s technicians is hampered by the methods of the past. With more and more technically skilled workers aging out of the workforce, in-depth training for new technicians is urgently needed but is often expensive, ineffective, and lengthy. Faced with increasing equipment complexity and product variation, many technicians still must rely on paper-based manuals that are often outdated, inaccurate, and limited in terms of their content and context. Keeping these hard copy instructions updated is a time-consuming and costly process and may not even be possible in cases where localization is required. Even when manuals are available and current, reading through pages of instructions often disrupts technician workflow and impedes their efficiency and efficacy.

12% of workers apply training skills to their jobs; estimated total loss from ineffective training is $13.5M per 1,000 employees.

Solution: Improve Workforce Productivity and Efficiency at the Point of Service

For service organizations to develop a high-efficiency workforce, they need to embrace innovation and new approaches for empowering technicians and providing them with what they need to be most effective at the point of service. The IoT and AR can help resolve labor productivity challenges and deliver a step-change in improved efficiency.

Address labor shortages with faster, more effective training: As an effective knowledge sharing tool, AR can be used to easily capture irreplaceable expertise and standard operating procedures from seasoned technicians using AR smart glasses and headwear. Service organizations can provide relevant learning systems for on-the-job training to accelerate the ramp-up times for new technicians and reduce the learning curve for upskilling them in the future.

Resolve issues with the right information at the right time: Through mobile devices and hands-free headsets, technicians can utilize 3D AR step-by-step work instructions that overlay real-time, up-to-date information onto physical equipment to visualize machine data or internal components. With easily accessible visual aids, technicians can focus on the task at hand, without having to search and read through static documents, speeding up resolution time.

Leverage the help of remote experts to speed up time spent on-site: For issues that aren’t covered in training or require advanced troubleshooting, AR remote assistance tools can enable instant connection and real-time collaboration between offsite and on-site workers. With expert guidance at their fingertips, frontline workers can quickly solve problems and reduce their time spent on-site. This also reduces the need to send an expert on-site, helping to avoid unnecessary travel costs.

Proven results

With IoT and AR, service teams can provide results such as:

  • 83% reduction in resolution time
  • 75% reduction in technician on-site time
  • 50% faster technician training time

Challenge #4: Pressure to Provide Better Service at Lower Costs

While traditionally viewed as a cost center, today’s service organizations are under pressure to save money rather than cost money. But with rising expenses of doing business, every on-site service visit to a customer comes with steep operational costs, both direct and indirect, including labor, travel, fuel, and insurance, as well as lost time and missed opportunities for technicians to work on tasks that produce higher revenue. These mounting expenses can quickly offset any value earned. At the same time, they need to balance cost reductions with sacrifices to customer satisfaction or efficiency.

Well-executed services businesses can reduce costs by 15% to 25%

Solution: Save Money and Move from Reactive to Proactive Service

While investments in technologies may seem like they run counter to cost reduction measures, in reality, they offer service organizations a means of generating long-term savings. With a clearly defined strategy for their technology investments, organizations can accelerate the appropriate innovations needed to curb expenses, without having their service quality suffer.

Resolve more issues without costly truck rolls: IoT enables continuous monitoring from on-premise equipment so technicians can determine when exactly maintenance is necessary and push remote software maintenance updates to customers. Remote workers can use an AR-powered mobile app to add digital annotations onto the live shared view of the environment, helping the on-site person quickly and effectively make real-time repairs. Avoiding truckrolls for lower-level or routine issues helps reduce costs and valuable time that could be spent on more complex issues or revenue-producing tasks.

Eliminate repeat customer visits: To avoid return visits that waste valuable time and money for both the service organization and customer, the technician needs the right tools, parts, and skills with them at the time of service. With IoT, technicians can use remote diagnostics to gain better insights into the root cause of the issues before they even arrive at the customer’s location. When in front of the equipment, AR helps technicians visualize internal components before disassembly and repair, improving their product comprehension while minimizing the costs associated with part returns, excessive inventory, and extra visits.

Reduce costs associated with safety and compliance: Providing technicians with a complete understanding of the potential safety hazards helps to lower costs associated with workplace incidents, accidents and errors. Before starting work on complex equipment, frontline workers can use 3D work instructions to visualize repairs and maintenance tasks and gain clarity on each step before starting. Organizations can also leverage IoT to track workers and equipment in real-time and issue an alert when they are in high-risk areas for injuries or harmful substance exposure.

Proven results

With IoT and AR, service teams can provide results such as:

  • 30% of issues resolved remotely
  • 90% of software issues resolved remotely
  • 80% success rate in remote support resolution

Source: PTC

Thomas Apel Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.