A lot of organisations want their services to be smarter and more efficient. This can give a better understanding of needs, cut costs and boost customer satisfaction. How do you take that step, though? In this blog, Ctac SAP Consultant Lars van der Vorst sets out how your organisation can use field service management to transition from corrective to predictive services at its own pace.

The efficient provision of services and direct contact with customers are essential to optimising services. I see this more and more in my work. In the past, companies’ focus was on providing good products and far less attention was given to services. Installation, maintenance and repair were side issues for a lot of companies. They were not additional, carefully-planned services but simply a way to get a little more income.

New trends, new challenges

In recent years, I’ve seen companies I’ve visited slowly move away from that model. In the digital era, customers are far more empowered and expect the best all-round service from the moment they come into your shop or visit your web store, to the moment your product arrives. Installation, repair and, above all, maintenance have become crucial. Companies have to be smart in how they respond to that. However, the challenge is different for each company.

While one company needs to gain a better overview of the situation first, other companies are further down the path, perhaps already working to schedule maintenance appointments based on sensors and data. That is why it is a good idea to assess where you are right now first, so you can set your own priorities and pace for offering better services. To do this, you firstly need to know what sort of services you currently offer. In today’s market, there are really four different types.

1. Corrective services

With this service model, customers get in touch with the supplier if something goes wrong. The supplier then sends an employee fix the defect.

2. Preventive services

Prevention is better than cure. Preventive service involves companies working out, in advance, the life-span of given parts. They schedule maintenance appointments based on this information.

3. Proactive services

Proactive services involves companies using sensors to collect vast quantities of data on the maintenance and life-span of parts. Based on this information, they improve services on an ongoing basis, so allowing them to make smarter maintenance planning decisions.

4. Predictive services

These companies use smart technology to determine when machines and their components will require maintenance. This means they carry out maintenance only when it is absolutely necessary.

Technology transforming the market

The advent of corrective and predictive services is partly due to the rise of new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and predictive analytics. These allow users to plan the necessary maintenance better, thereby saving costs associated with routine or preventive maintenance. It is also giving rise to new business models. An increasing number of companies are offering products on subscription, coupled with advice and maintenance. A good example of this is a huge global PVC producer Ctac supports by implementing a cloud service to inspect, monitor and manage their machines. This gives it a total overview of the status of the machines and they can efficiently schedule technicians for rounds of checks and any necessary repairs.

This is a nice option but, in reality, too many companies are (still) not ready to take this step. They often want to start by assessing where they are and want to understand customers and their needs better, and optimise planning and deployment of their own service employees. Or, they are looking for a better way to save costs in how their technicians are deployed. There is, though, a long-term ambition to move towards predictive services. But what sort of support do you have throughout each phase of the process?

Platform for field service management

SAP has put a lot of thought into that question. Its recent takeover of CoreSystems allowed SAP to show it has a clear ambition and vision for Field Service Management. This intelligent cloud platform has an advanced real-time planning tool for all field service activities. You can use smart technology to assign the best qualified technician to each service request, based on availability, expertise, location and other factors. This is the case both for your own employees and your flexible pool of freelancers and partners. The platform also offers mobile apps on-the-ground technicians can use to carry out installation, maintenance and repair jobs, and a self-service portal for customers that they can use to do things such as submit and monitor reports.

SAP has added this platform to its portfolio because it complements the standard functions offered by the SAP Service Cloud. Adding SAP Field Service Management allows SAP to cover the entire field service management process. A user-friendly scheduling board shows at a glance which employees are available, thereby making it easy to allocate the right person to the right job and implement a first-time fix. This makes it easy to ensure parts are delivered at the right time and service requests executed properly, with easy reporting on activities carried out and materials used. These options speed up the lead time for service reports.

Suitable for all sorts of services

The biggest advantage, though, is that this new solution will always work with your situation, irrespective of whether your current service provision is reactive, preventive, proactive or predictive. The platform will grow with you to meet your needs, laying the foundations for innovation and making it easy to expand when your organisation is ready. This will let you respond more and more rapidly to customers’ needs, slash maintenance costs, and ultimately even support completely new business models.