By Thomas Lund
Currently, Field Service is one of the hottest topics within discrete manufacturing. Despite this, many consumers consider the subject to be reactive, and that must change.
We need to rethink everything; from services, maintenance, and equipment replacement to enable a new appreciation of Field Service capable of enhancing how we maintain customers.
The world is transforming digitally, hence why manufacturing companies must reconsider how best to serve customers.
Using Field Service in manufacturing
Currently, many traditional-thinking manufacturing organisations produce units by order with the use of longwinded processes, such as; ordering, drawing, producing, and delivering. However, when units are produced, delivered, and put into another context, customers typically fail to think further about these activities.
Operating in modern and digital societies, manufacturing businesses must evolve their customer experiences to maintain clientele. To achieve this, think about how to optimise and make all contact with your product as seamless as possible.
As a manufacturing company, it is of no use to consider Field Service in the traditional way, where the reactions have always been to either replace or repair when customers come calling. This reactive approach often means that the customer will experience equipment that does not work over a period of time, which certainly does not increase desired levels of customer loyalty.
At the same time, the world is transforming towards a situation where customers choose to rent over own, thus creating new demands on companies delivering these machine parts. Consequentially, when these customers no longer want to buy machines and are now choosing to rent instead, it is increasingly expected that machines run smoothly and are replaced with a new one after returning the original.
Let's see it in action...
Let’s take Vestas as an example. We all know they produce wind turbines, but they do not sell the product itself, instead, they sell guarantees on turbine electrics and delivery. As a result, they guarantee the wind turbines calculated return on investment, understanding exactly how much the turbines can generate. To know this, Vestas install different IT-systems in the turbines to ensure smooth operation, and approach maintenance proactively to facilitate the ROI promised to their customers.
Understanding this, we see how customers are moving towards buying the performance of certain production deliveries over purchasing the product itself. For example; the electrical maintenance for a wind turbine, or harvesting fields with rented harvesters, in this context it does not matter – the development and thought patterns remain the same.
It is crucial that manufacturing companies think differently when serving their customers, vital to consider how you can ensure your customers' products always work. Whilst also identifying preventative measures to avoid customers being disturbed by product immobilisation.
Starting your journey
Naturally, this development does not happen overnight, as many businesses are still far from reaching such goals, but development must be ongoing and long-term. Following this, we also see how development evolves, as once enough momentum has occurred a “ketchup-effect” is created where everybody is suddenly involved, and Field Service is the deciding factor between success and failure.
This type of development is also supported by connected units and services, referred to as Connected Services. Just as Vestas utilised IT in their wind turbines, we see how sensors and other measuring technologies find their way into a variety of equipment, thus enabling products to be kept under surveillance and analysis to occur. It is, therefore, crucial companies plan the maintenance of such equipment, whilst ensuring the lowest impact on their customers.
How the right technology can support you
Fortunately, technology is present to make it possible for you as a manufacturing company to plan when and how you are available to undertake service for your customers. However, it is simply not enough to know when the equipment needs to be repaired, you must also have the required manpower and resources to effectually complete such jobs.
This means it is necessary to readdress entire business models, yet this presents significant challenges as many manufacturing companies are not close to making this type of change. For instance, the activity of servicing your own production facility can present a challenge, often because it is not thought about proactively, thus if you are not doing it internally how would you achieve it externally?
Therefore, it is important to start the long transforming journey now. You must find out how to develop from building units which you forget about to, instead, taking control of how they are used in the long-term. This can be a challenging journey, but it is necessary - as future businesses will have to live by selling up-time, and not just selling products.