Tech Trends for Advanced Field Service Enablement: the latest from Field Service USA
IoT and Augmented Reality are two of the hottest technology topics discussed by industry insiders. Each has good excitement on its own, but what does it look like when these technologies are incorporated into a comprehensive approach to Field Service management?
I had the pleasure of recently attending and presenting at the Field Service USA 2019 conference in Palm Desert, CA. Every year, leading industry practitioners and partners who are focused on best practices in field service operations join this event. eLogic partnered with Microsoft at this year’s event to host a hands-on experience in our booth to demonstrate IoT enabled field service enhanced with augmented reality, giving a hands-on look at the next evolution of field service. We wanted to give customers a real taste of what these technologies do, and the vast potential they bring for business goals like increased customer loyalty, reduced equipment downtime, improved service times, first-time fix, and reduced time on site.
Let’s dive into what we saw at Field Service USA and how technologies like IoT and Augmented Reality can take field service to new levels of excellence.
IoT & Connected Field Service
There were numerous IoT platforms and field service management applications on display at the conference, many focused just on the technical aspect of IoT. The transformational power of IoT lights up with business applications that connect assets, collect-send-act on data, and provide real-time insights. Connecting assets in the field using IoT technologies is critical for advanced service operations, and we generally refer to this as Connected Field Service. Connected Field Service enables functionality like remote monitoring and predictive maintenance that reduce asset downtime and the need to dispatch technicians. And, even when technicians are still required, they are prepared for first-time-fix due to visibility into operating performance and history of the asset. In fact, many manufacturers have been collecting asset data for years, and field service management applications are mature with the ability to leverage IoT for Connected Field Service.
One of the core solutions we demonstrated with Microsoft showed how manufacturers can use the data they’ve collected for decades to enable Connected Field Service and optimize their service operations. Built on Microsoft Azure and Dynamics 365 for Field Service, the solution leverages connected asset data and unlocks its potential for operations to gain valuable insights. Machine learning algorithms analyze the asset data for anomalies and calculate remaining useful life. Alerts are triggered, which create work orders that are automatically assigned to the appropriate technician. The technician has access to the asset operating data and complete service history to better prepare for the onsite visit. Through an easy-to-use mobile application and interface, the technician can complete the work order and update the asset information.
Augmented Reality & Scaled Service Expertise
Wearable devices and augmented reality were also major themes at Field Service USA 2019. This is still an emerging area and there were a range of devices on display from a simple heads-up video screen to a complex infrared imaging solution.
To show how augmented reality can be a part of a holistic approach to field service, eLogic and Microsoft exhibited two HoloLens applications called Remote Assist and Guides. Remote Assist allows a field service technician to see their defined work orders from Microsoft Dynamics 365, update their status and initiate a video conference call with a technical support expert using Microsoft Teams. The two can collaborate in real-time, annotating in augmented reality and sharing files as needed. This type of solution enables a single support expert to increase their knowledge multiplier across many field technicians, and the service process improves through increased rate of first-time fix, reduced time required onsite, and higher customer satisfaction. See Remote Assist in action in this video. Guides is an augmented reality guidance application in HoloLens for stepping technicians through a process. Users can view a 3D version of the asset with videos and step-by-step instructions for a given service task. It is great for training new technicians and is complementary to leveraging Remote Assist.
Field Service and more advanced Connected Field Service solutions bring tremendous business benefits like reduced service costs, decreased equipment downtime, and improved customer satisfaction. Field Service USA 2019 was a great opportunity to validate how accessible these solutions are today, leveraging platforms like Microsoft Azure IoT & Dynamics 365 for Field Service, and partnerships with industry specialists to focus on the business applications for your industry to optimize service operations.