A small team from MachineShop descended upon Amelia Island for Field Service East - a gathering of more than 300 professionals dedicated to best practices and technologies that will improve how organizations serve remote customers and products. As first time attendees we were curious about the aspirations of leaders within this segment. Service is the critical link to customer retention, reducing operational expenses, but also growing revenue through new revenue streams - most often service revenue streams.

 

Two key themes emerged from the discussions among practitioners and technology providers. The first of these themes is the notion of “Servitization”. "Servitization has roots that go back more than 5 years but essentially “involves firms developing the capabilities they need to provide services and solutions that supplement their traditional product offerings.” This point was reinforced well by Joe Kenny of ServiceMax/GE when he stressed that, in the future, products and services will not be sold independently.

 

The second major theme is not new, but certainly a recurring one as it points to the evolution from a focus on Break-Fix to Preventative Maintenance to Predictive Maintenance. Moving from the beginning of this continuum to its end is not only good news for the customer, but certainly for the product provider as well.

 

It was also ironic how often speakers talked about IoT-enabling their products, and this reinforced how the over-used term clearly just means something as simple as connecting products to a network and ultimately the Internet. There was a noticeable gap between the haves and the have-nots in this respect. A number of the larger organizations with more field service and customer engagement strategies all connected their products some time ago. While a number of the small to medium sized providers have not. A key impediment to this basic notion of a connected product is reliance on collaboration with the actual customer. Getting on the customer’s network brings with it lots of headaches and management issues that many providers just don’t want to deal with. Of course the way many vendors avoid this issue is to use cellular or some similar wireless network to avoid the customer’s IT department altogether.

 

In the alphabet soup of emerging technologies discussed, of course there was IoT, but also Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and even a little robotics. While there is clearly value that can be realized through these technologies, it will take time for us to understand how to apply them and create a return on the investment in these advanced tools.

 

On a more fundamental level, a connected product can allow organizations to do two very important things. First - basic remote monitoring of the product. Is it on? Is it online? Is it operating properly? What customer usage data is it generating? Basic information like this is critical to optimizing the customer experience and reducing operating expenses to service the product and the customer. Second, a connected product can also be remotely configured, updated, turned off and back on again. Many of the service needs of connected products can be delivered remotely with the appropriate infrastructure and tools to monitor and manage these devices. These tools and this infrastructure are the essential starting point for the truly advanced technologies we like to talk about that will ultimately allow us to realize absolute customer satisfaction and self-healing products.

 

We’re excited to be on this journey with a number of exciting new customers and partners, providing the simple foundational tools they need to deliver compelling solutions in a wide variety of markets. If you didn’t get a chance to talk to us on-site, feel free to visit our website to find out more about remote device monitoring and management, or drop us a line here.