Over my years working with large customers it’s become clear to me that one of the parts of the business where software can play a vital role is the support of the Field Service workforce, yet lots of companies today don’t appear to have invested well enough in this area of their business. This blog focuses on this area of a company, and on the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service to help automate and optimise operations.
This disconnected and fragmented approach doesn’t help the business and doesn’t help the end customer. Manual intensive processes lead to mistakes, and lack of optimisation leads to extra cost, and the need to visit the customer a 2nd time more often. Lack of the correct parts, lack of skills for the allocated engineer, inability to keep the customer informed and involved in the scheduling process can all cost time, money, and customer satisfaction.
These are all issues that a modern Field Service management platform that is correctly integrated into the core Customer service platform can overcome on behalf of a business. I’m personally really surprised that so many businesses I meet still have an out of date view of how to correctly manage this vital unit.
What is more worrying though is that there is a wave of technology coming through in this area that a lot of businesses in the UK have not yet embraced. The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t well understood yet by a lot of big companies, but it’s going to have a dramatic and positive effect on the way that companies will be able to service their corporate clients and the machines they maintain for those clients. One vertical market that has understood the critical value of this technology is the aviation manufacturing industry, where companies such as Rolls-Royce Aerospace have been gathering continuous telemetry from their engines, with Terabytes of detail coming into an Azure data lake every time a plane powered by Rolls-Royce engines takes off and lands.
Analysis of the data by Azure services helps the business and linked to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service can ensure the right engineering team is on the ground to support the corporate client as soon as possible. At the other end of the spectrum is Unilever, who maintains a global network of Walls brand ice cream chiller cabinets at retailers, where sensors on the device can tell Unilever if the cabinet has a problem. Engineers can replace the cabinet before the retailer knows there is an issue. Both of these are great examples of good customer service.
Part of the MS Dynamics CE suite is Field Service, and this bridges the gap between the office-based support staff and the Field Service organisation. It gives customers a unified approach to service and Field Service, operating under a single applications suite and a single database. It includes a mature mobile capability for the Field Workforce that runs as happily offline as online, and it includes Schedule management, IoT enablement when needed, and inventory management for items and stock that are installed on our own by customers.
Field Service requirements come in many shapes and sizes. Centrica manages over 11,000 engineers around the UK and does roughly 100,000 jobs a day for customers. The remote engineer allocated to do the job has to have the right skills, needs to be local to the customer, and needs to have the parts on had to be able to perform the fix first time every time. Large Business side customers such as Rolls-Royce have different drivers, with less than 500 engineers, but with a global remit, and with repairs sometimes needing days of work. Volumes are less, but downtime is critical – the lower the better.
So the Field Service application is flexible and can manage differing scenarios. Customers who have large numbers of works orders and a large number of on the ground engineers might decide to use the RSO capabilities of field Service. Resource Scheduling Optimisation uses Azure services to define the constraints for the business (eg cost, location, skills, etc) and then instead of a scheduler manually allocating jobs to engineers the system automatically manages the allocations to optimise the allocations for the business based on the defined constraints. Very clever stuff and this can only be done because Microsoft has linked the Field Service application directly into it’s very elastic and powerful Azure cloud service.
As a last comment on functionality, I’d say that you should spend time to understand how your field engineers work and the potential frustrations and negative customer impressions that can be easily avoided by implementing an end to end solution that includes your remote engineers. You can keep the customer informed, you can move from break-fix to never fail, you can take advantage of the promise of IoT, you can reduce servicing costs, and end up with happier customers that recommend your brand to other prospects. I’ve seen this happen, and have unfortunately witnessed many examples of the opposite in companies using broken and out of date systems. Service personnel are often heroic, but can only do so much to manage the situation when the underlying systems are out of date and not connected.
Columbus Global has implemented Field Service for a number of our customers, and there is an example case study here involving Orangebox. I’ve worked over the years with many global customers to implement end to end systems including Field Service, and I think this is a fantastic and sometimes overlooked area of the Dynamics suite.
If you’re ready to optimise your field service operations and empower your field service technicians to deliver quality work through Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service, contact us now.