Visibility & Agility: Smart Field Service for Smart Building Systems

Business agility is easy when you’re small. But what happens when you’re a large enterprise with tens of thousands of products used globally in everything from home air conditioners to international aircraft. What if the failure of one of those parts could mean loss of business – or even loss of life? How do you ensure help is at hand when and where it is needed?

Take, for example, building automation and smart controls systems. An obscure glitch within a single part in a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, security or lighting system could cause havoc – and cost customers and profit.  It’s a problem facilities manager’s grapple with daily.

The wrong temperature in a medicines storage facility could render medications dangerous or unusable. An undetected overheating system could cause a fire. A freezer failure at a restaurant might mean spoiled foods and lost revenue opportunities. Even seemingly innocuous comfort issues – an air conditioner that shoppers find too hot or noisy – could cause customers to leave a store, resulting in loss of business.

A skilled field service team is essential – but help isn’t always close at hand, particularly in a country as large as Australia, where big organisations can be responsible for managing and monitoring hundreds of sites.

In boom times, rapid business expansion might mean a shortage of skilled technicians with the expertise to maintain and service specific products. In leaner times, cost pressures might mean fewer technicians on board. Either way, there are simply not enough skilled resources to service every site manually.

Companies must become smarter in how they use their limited resource pool.  They need the ability to view all of the critical equipment information quickly and easily - and to get the human resources and parts to where they’re needed, when they’re needed, fast.

The answer is cloud-based technology. Pooling a field force’s collective expertise through a cloud-based knowledge repository like ServiceMax provides a way to ensure technicians and customers have ready access to all the answers they need to rectify issues as soon as possible. Better still, it enables preventative monitoring, with the ability to anticipate and resolve potential problems before they can occur.

A knowledge bank also acts as an insurance policy against ‘brain drain’ when a technician leaves the business. Information and expertise is lost if it exists only in a technician’s head - not in a system where it can be accessed by others.

Previously, a company may have employed maintenance technicians to cover a set territory, visiting sites on their route. Like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the job never ends. You complete a cycle of visits, and start again. It’s an inefficient approach because it doesn’t match service to each customer’s maintenance needs – and equipment failures don’t conveniently happen during routine service calls.

Now, the ability to monitor equipment remotely through cloud-based technology enables businesses to identify sites that need intervention and allocate field service technicians accordingly.

Companies can cover more of their assets with a smaller pool of skilled field technicians – creating cost savings through more efficient use of human resources.

It gives business HQ hard data to identify trends and respond accordingly. They may identify a pattern of a spike in service calls from office buildings on Monday mornings when issues that have arisen over the weekend come to light. A company with retail customers might identify a bounce in service calls when stores open in the morning, and plan to allocate resources accordingly.

The visibility ServiceMax enables you to link your systems monitoring with an efficient field service platform to give all your field technicians all the information they need to minimise time spent at a customer site.

And it’s only going to get better. The huge Salesforce event, Dreamforce 2014 is coming up this month. At Dreamforce 2013 the big theme was the Internet of Things. Billions of connected devices, millions of terabytes of data. We are moving rapidly down the road toward a future where problems are predicted before they happen.  ServiceMax have provided a great infographic on a recent blogpost discussing the impact of the Internet of Things.  Check it out here.

The business agility enabled by better management, monitoring and preventive maintenance through Australian companies adopting the ServiceMax cloud-based field service solution means fewer breakdowns and emergencies, and more up time for happy, loyal customers.

Sydney-based ProQuest Consulting is a Platinum Partner for and strategic implementation partner for ServiceMax.  ServiceMax is a cloud-based application leveraging the world's leading cloud platform,

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