Virtually unheard of until two or three years ago, the Internet of Things looks set to be a major disruptive force. Field service—and field service businesses—are squarely in its sights. Because when coupled to Big Data and predictive analytics, the Internet of Things is likely to totally transform how field service businesses operate.
The good news: for field service businesses that are prepared for this disruption, the Internet of Things will act as an engine of growth, building sales revenues and profitability. But is your field service business prepared for what lies ahead? Many, it seems, are sadly not.So how, precisely, is the Internet of Things poised to affect your business? Let’s take a look.
Billions of devices
There’s no unusual mystique about the Internet of Things: it uses the same underlying Internet that each of us uses on a day-to-day basis. But instead of it being humans like you and I who are using it to transmit and receive information, it’s intelligent devices which are transmitting and receiving information.
And these devices are of course the ‘things’ that the Internet of Things refers to: embedded microprocessors, controllers, sensors, gauges and so on.
By 2020, according to analyst firm Gartner, there will be some 26 billion such devices connected to the Internet, each capable of connecting and communicating through it.
Communicating what, exactly? Data to inform better maintenance and service decisions, in short.
That’s because Internet of Things intelligent devices can warn service desks of impending maintenance problems long before the customer is aware of any issues.
A gearbox vibrating, and running hot? Pressure loss in air or fluid lines? A slowing response on a PLC-activated valve? Coolant or fluid levels approaching minimums? Over the Internet of Things, such data is easily transmitted.
Which is where Big Data comes into play, storing and codifying all that information. It’s also where predictive analytics comes into play, looking for trends that indicate remedial action is necessary.
Think of it a bit like the ‘warning’ and ‘action’ lines in Statistical Process Control—but with the warnings and actions being received by the field service business, and used to trigger maintenance decisions.
From reactive to predictive
At its most obvious, it’s a revolution—a revolution in how a field service business operates.
Traditional reactive maintenance instead becomes Internet of Things-driven predictive maintenance. The service desk initiates the call, alerting the customers to problems, and scheduling a visit by a field service engineer.
Think a little more deeply, though, and the full magnitude of the revolution becomes apparent.
Thanks to field service software, the engineer will know in advance what maintenance issues need addressing—so the right parts and tools will be on the van, and the right time allocated for scheduling purposes.
Equipment will be more reliable, with less unplanned downtime.
And of necessity, tighter links will form between a field service business and its customers.
Are you ready?
Nor is this science fiction. It is, literally, happening now. The revolution heralded by the Internet of Things is already underway.
But is your field service business preparing for it?