COMPANIES WITH FIELD SERVICE TEAMS are constantly looking for ways to reduce unnecessary truck rolls and speed issue resolution times. Internet of Things technology can help them monitor everything from food service freezers to airplanes remotely and automatically.
“Utilizing IoT technology gives field service companies the power to automate manual tasks,” says Ilya Pupko, chief architect of integration platform provider Jitterbit. He cites trucking as an example. “Drivers used to have to manually record and submit data, but IoT makes it possible to eliminate that overhead with automatic, verified reporting that dramatically reduces cost,” Pupko says.
MasTrack, for example, makes a GPS tracking device that plugs directly into the on-board diagnostics port of any vehicle, enabling companies to track location, maintenance alerts, rate of acceleration, harsh braking, and more.
Leading the Way
The manufacturing industry has been leading the way in IoT-powered field service solutions. “IoT vendors say every industry needs them, but manufacturing is way ahead [in] using IoT for service life cycle management,” says Bill Pollock, president and principal consulting analyst at Strategies for Growth.
“There are thousands of sensors in a factory today, all feeding a database getting so large they call them data lakes,” says Pollock. “Manufacturers now see benefits of integrating service into product design, like for medical devices that have to be tracked for compliance standards.”
Historically, a manufacturing company might set a maintenance agreement to service a machine four times a year, Pollock explains. Now, he says, “you can service that machine based on the actual hours of operation. GE does this with jet engines, and they call the program ‘turbine power by the hour.’”
Even old equipment can become a “thing” on the Internet. Indeed, technicians at Bosch Rexroth have added IoT monitoring to a pedal-driven lathe from 1887 first used by company founder Robert Bosch.
Getting data from factory floor sensors into existing field service software still takes some effort, but less than before, says Pupko. “With the right platform, any system can be made compatible with IoT.” Companies like Jitterbit with expertise in APIs and integration can assist with that task, he continues.
Pollock believes IoT will change the way small businesses service their customers. “Say you do rodent control,” he says. “In the past you would have to go and physically inspect traps at customer sites. Now rather than contracting for X visits per year, you can monitor traps remotely and roll trucks only when necessary.” Although you will probably have to make your own IoT rat trap monitoring device.
“Once you understand the opportunities of giving devices a voice and software the ability to listen, the most important thing to communicate is how accessible this technology is and how little it costs companies,” says Pupko. Customers love to know a machine needs repair before it breaks down, and IoT can give you that information.
Rewards of Embracing IoT
Those in field services who embrace IoT will be rewarded, adds Pollock. “IoT provides more tools and less pressure for field techs—and less data entry errors, or data entry at all.” When the devices you support report their condition to your service software, techs don’t have to write anything.
Channel pros and integrators should be looking to help their customers take advantage of IoT-related field service efficiencies today. “IoT has passed the hype phase, so explain actual use cases and describe how connected devices and software are creating value for companies,” adds Pupko. “It’s important to highlight the tangible benefits like knowing when a truck requires servicing. That is what customers must understand in order to adopt this technology.”