“Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020,” according to consulting firm Walker.1 From bolts and ball bearings to machine tools and high-tech consumer goods, manufacturing margins are being squeezed by commoditization. Where once products were easily distinguished from one another, now they’re viewed as simple commodities. As commoditization takes hold, differentiation no longer rests on price and product features.
At the same time, customer expectations are changing, with customers increasingly expecting responsive manufacturers and exceptional service. To overcome the challenges presented by commoditization and deliver on today’s shifting customer demands, manufacturers must create new customer-centric business strategies.
Fortunately, the convergence of physical and digital systems enables new business models, such as product-as-a-service, that offer new avenues for differentiation and customer satisfaction. Analysts highlight investments in servitization as a key strategy to differentiate and increase market share.
Today’s field service falls short of customer and manufacturer expectations alike
As the manufacturing marketplace continues to evolve, customers expect faster response times and improved asset availability.2 To meet these demands, manufacturers must transform field service to increase efficiency and ensure a first-time fix. Today’s average first-time fix rate is just 74%, meaning over 25% of service calls require return visits, which can cost upwards of $1,100 per truck roll.3 Return visits also mean dissatisfied customers, broken SLAs, frustrated technicians, and wasted time and resources.
Another area of inefficiency is routine scheduled maintenance, an outdated field service strategy. If a manufacturer sends a technician to a customer site every month to check equipment but issues are only found every other month, they are creating unnecessary costs that detract from the bottom line.
Manufacturers are increasingly viewing field service as a profit center, but when inefficiency is the norm, it remains a cost center.
Manufacturers need a new paradigm in field service
Consider this field service scenario transformed by cutting-edge technology: at a remote mining rig, the temperature of the drill’s top drive is rising rapidly. Using IoT sensors paired with machine learning, the rig operator is automatically notified of the temperature change before damage occurs.
The operator calls a service representative, who asks him to run a diagnostic test. Based on the results, the representative predicts the rig can operate safely for another week without servicing if it’s operated at 80% speed.
By extending the life of the top drive, the rig avoids unplanned downtime and repairs can be scheduled at a minimally disruptive time. Furthermore, the manufacturer has flexibility to ensure they dispatch a technician with the right experience, tools, and parts. Using resource scheduling optimization, the manufacturer dispatches the right technician automatically and optimizes schedules and routes to maximize productivity.
When the technician arrives at the rig, he notes the site conditions and suggests to the rig operator that switching to a more durable gearbox will prevent the top drive from overheating again. Equipped with live sales and account information, the technician is able make a sale on-site.
The technician starts installing the new gearbox, following AI-generated installation recommendations. When he gets stuck, he calls headquarters for remote support and a colleague provides visual guidance directly to his augmented reality headset, enabling the gearbox to be installed without delay.
With the new gearbox installed, the rig returns to normal operations. An automated service insights report measures key performance indicators based on the service, determining that unplanned downtime was zero hours, customer satisfaction increased, and the probability of future upsell success improved.
Deliver outcomes that satisfy your customers and meet your bottom line
As illustrated in this scenario, Microsoft’s Connected Field Service offerings enable manufacturers to gain visibility into performance by connecting and remotely monitoring devices. With the addition of machine learning, manufacturers minimize downtime by creating alerts and automated workflows that facilitate predictive maintenance. When maintenance is required, they can keep cost to a bare minimum by optimizing schedules to dispatch the right technician, and ensure a first-time fix by equipping technicians with information, mixed reality tools, and remote guidance. With sales integration, technicians can capitalize on upsell and cross-sell opportunities on-site to ensure customers achieve their desired results. Finally, manufacturers can transform their products and services by gleaning insights from repair, performance, and utilization data.
Make connected field service a reality with Microsoft
Microsoft has the most comprehensive portfolio of products and services to deliver exceptional field service to your customers. And because of Microsoft’s commitment to supporting an open platform, you don’t have to start over: you can connect your existing devices and integrate your existing systems into an end-to-end field service strategy.
Learn more about Microsoft’s vision for digital manufacturing at Microsoft.com/Manufacturing, and don’t miss the chance to request a 1:1 briefing or booth tour with Microsoft executives during Hannover Messe 2018.
1Walker, Customers 2020: A Progress Report, 2017
2Field Technologies Online, The State of Field Service Management in 2017 and Beyond, 2017
3 Field Technologies Online, Roll Trucks for Revenue Only Using Field Service Automation