Enabling the mobile worker, optimizing growth

July 21, 2016
The IIoT is a democratizer. When you adopt IIoT practices, information-sharing and collaboration increase.

ServiceMax Chief Operating Officer Scott Berg and Fluke Connect Director & Chief Architect John Neely provide us a preview of his unique perspective on the topic.

Smart Industry: Why do we still face the obstacle of getting the right information at the right time? 

Scott: Field service is by its very nature complex. Think about everything a field tech needs to know on the job: schedule, directions, customer history, warranty information, and necessary part orders—and they haven’t even begun to diagnose the problem yet. The biggest challenge to solve to get the right information is “context.” The technician needs the right information, for the given situation and customer. Not ALL information, but information with the right contextual filter. Because field-service technicians are an inherently mobile workforce and spend most of their time in vehicles, obtaining real-time data in remote locations only adds further complexity. The industry as a whole has lacked sufficient visibility into the job at hand, preventing them from providing the most efficient results. Fortunately, advancements in cloud and IoT technology are already underway to provide such real-time, contextual data directly to technicians’ devices.  

John: Really, truly, we are going in too many directions at the same time. Until we delegate more of what we used to be able to do, we’re going to continue running into walls. That delegation takes two forms: tech-adoption and differently enabled teams. We need to get everyone onto information-sharing platforms and get in the habit of transferring data from heads into those platforms. We also need to keep transitioning away from traditional job-role definitions and take the nimble approach to who can do what.

Smart Industry: What most excites you about the immediate future of mobile-worker enablement? 

Scott: While previous generations of field technicians relied on back office paper-and-pencil files, technicians of today are armed with vast quantities of data to improve their service delivery beyond what was ever expected. For these workers that don’t use a desk as a home base, mobile-device access to conduct business will change their work drastically. Mobile-ready solutions empower this fleet of global technicians to successfully complete complex work orders with consistent access to data. Live-stream data opens the gate for proactive, even predictive, service delivery, whereby mobile workers are alerted of a machine malfunction before it occurs and can prevent asset downtime. This has the power to completely shift the way a service is delivered, yielding increases in revenues, efficiency and customer satisfaction for companies with mobile workers in the field.

John: Growth! The IIoT is a democratizer. When you adopt IIoT practices, information-sharing and collaboration increase, understanding of cause-and-effect increases, people change from simply receiving and completing tasks to taking increasing levels of ownership and responsibility. When workers are enabled, they experience tremendous growth and everyone benefits.

Smart Industry: What is the greatest information need of the mobile worker? 

Scott: In my opinion, there are two needs. One of the biggest gaps comes from the need to transfer knowledge from technicians with decades of experience to new technicians just entering the field. No matter how much technology you infuse into a field-service organization, experience still counts more than anything. There needs to be an emphasis on effectively capturing and transferring experiential knowledge from veteran technicians, delivered in a form that can be readily accessed by next generation of technicians. The second information need is installed-base awareness. ERP and other technologies have failed to capture and manage serviceable asset configuration and history. Technicians need installed-base awareness, including their own and potential competitors’ products, to be effective in the field.

John: Contextually relevant maintenance-operations data. We struggle with too much or not enough data, data that’s not relevant, data that’s incomplete or inaccurate. The holy grail is correctly collected and tagged data that is then curated and presented in a way that gives various job roles what they need to be informed, to make decisions, to take action, to investigate further, etc.