IoT-enabled field services in-motion

Dr. Setrag Khoshafian,

The manufacturing industry – especially automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – are in a major digital transition. It is not just the connected Industry 4.0 shop floor. Smart manufacturing is extending into smart aftermarket services. Connectivity of manufactured devices for vehicles or automotive fleets is disrupting the relationship dynamics of the manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, service organizations and – most importantly – consumers. In the emerging era of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, the value streams from manufacturing to aftermarket services are being radically transformed.

The connectivity of manufacturers to customers, and specifically for automotive OEMs, is shifting to a much closer, monitored, and responsive relationship. This spans the end-to-end value streams from production to aftermarket services, such as field service, parts return, warranty management, and digital prescriptive maintenance. The disruption in manufacturing is due to the digital transformation trends that are sweeping all industries. Core to this are the cultural changes of an ever-emerging tech savvy younger generation that is increasingly expressive on social media and demanding to be treated differently.

Manufacturers need to empathize and listen to this new generation of digital consumers if they want to survive.
Field service is a critical touch point between the customer and the manufacturer.

The Internet of Things (IoT), also referred to in manufacturing as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is one of the most important digital technologies in this new smart manufacturing era. IoT connected devices – including autos – are providing transparency and intelligence that could substantively support optimizations in the customer experience.

IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the relationship between the manufacturer and end-consumer. But above all, the road to IoT and AI success runs through Digital Process Automation (DPA).

This transformation is much more than intelligent and even cognitive digital connectivity. It is at its core a cultural transformation that is impacting consumers, manufacturers, and value chain service providers, such as field service technicians. As we shall see, it is a culture of much closer affinity between the trichotomy of manufacturers, connected devices (including IoT connected vehicles), and consumers.

Field service is an important touch point in manufacturer-customer connectivity.

Like the “smart” (IoT connectivity, AI, DPA) in manufacturing, the various domains of aftermarket services are also becoming increasingly smart – especially those that are touch points with the customer, such as field service. This means IoT together with AI and especially DPA are integral enablers of aftermarket services.

IoT connectivity for aftermarket services is core to the success of smart manufacturers and is changing the customer experience.

IoT connects the manufacturer to the customer.
IoT-enabled aftermarket services, such as field service, are the solutions that optimize the customer experience.
DPA powers the end-to-end automation of aftermarket services.

Optimizing the customer experience and operational excellence

The optimization of the customer experience emanates from timely and high-quality resolutions to customer situations. With the value stream expanding beyond the confines of the manufacturer and their supplier value chain, and spilling over in the automotive OEM space to the distribution, dealer, and consumer, the manufacturer needs to be in-motion – especially in its aftermarket services. OEM situations may involve faulty devices, parts, or vehicles that need to be returned or fixed, diagnostic events that need to be addressed, or overall predictive maintenance of the devices. That makes field service one of the most impactful touchpoints with the customer.

Manufacturers who are in-motion have the following characteristics:

  • Accelerated obliteration of silos: Enterprises are often crippled by silos of different genres, such as organizational or operational. In-motion manufacturers work to eliminate these as well as the silos in various disconnected applications, systems, and the overall ecosystem involving manufacturers; potentially dealers, suppliers, and of course field service organizations that interact with the customer.

    The obliteration of silos extends to aftermarket services. It enables the organization to streamline from suppliers, to smart manufacturing, to field service; potentially involving prescriptive maintenance, warranty management, dealer relationships, parts return, and supply chain.

  • Accelerated and continuous change and optimization: Digital transformation is a priority and continuous, with the enterprise accelerating its velocity for change and optimization. Customer experiences as well the optimization of manufactured products or devices are continuous and, as much as possible, predictive and prescriptive.

    Visibility – empowered by IoT and made possible through DPA – extends across the entire value stream. Aftermarket services are made an integral part of the “smart” in smart manufacturing. Connected devices and field service technicians become participants in field service optimizations through digitized and automated processes.

  • Accelerated and adaptive innovation: As with most digital transformation approaches, failure is not feared, it’s managed with a “fail fast and succeed faster” attitude and is part of an adaptive operational culture.

    Disruptive innovations from new emerging tech-savvy companies could become an existential threat. Connectivity of devices together with end-to-end automation of value streams are providing a fertile ground for innovations both in existing aftermarket services such as prescriptive maintenance and field service as well as potentially new innovative solutions for existing or even different customer sectors. The enterprise in-motion needs to innovate for the customer experiences while at the same time optimizing the operational excellence.

Through these enterprise in-motion capabilities, IoT connectivity for aftermarket services are now core to the success of smart manufacturers precisely because of the dynamic relationships between all parties involve serving the consumer: manufacturers, but also dealers, suppliers, and field service technicians. The customer experience optimization needs continuous visibility to all the parties: from geolocations to the health of the devices.

Field services in-motion

Specifically for field service, IoT connectivity has changed the customer experience – helping optimize customer service by enabling access to remote devices as well as real-time data and analytics. IoT connected devices are participants in processes, activators of processes, or both, and most commonly leveraged in aftermarket services for the following use cases:

  1. Things as participants in digitized process and cases: Check temperature; shut off; deliver package. Things also include mobile devices and connected vehicles and devices used by field service technicians.
  2. Events activate dynamic case management to respond to the event: Connected vehicle broke down – instantiate field service process.
  3. Stream of events – to correlate and handle complex scenarios: High pollution levels by different sensors within 5 minutes instantiates case.
  4. Detect patterns and act – using big data and predictive analytics: Detected vibration anomalies and prescribe fixes before any adverse event.

DPA supports the orchestration and automation of end-to-end value streams related to these use cases. For field service technicians that may mean:

  • Identifying work location: Connected devices provide their geolocation via on-board GPS, which is quite common in connected vehicles.
  • Determining resource criteria: With connected devices or vehicles, a pre-field service diagnostic can greatly help the identification of the criteria for the service.
  • Selecting field service technician: To expedite the best dispatching of the field service technician, geolocationing also can be leveraged for the proximity of the work location.
  • Fulfillment and confirmation: When a device is connected, the operational health of the device can be verified and monitored by all the parties. Completion of the fulfillment can involve automatic connected device notifications.

DPA orchestration also means that field service activities are coordinated with other end-to-end value streams, such as digital prescriptive maintenance, which touches diagnostics, supply chain, parts return, and warranty management. Common applications might include:

  • IoT diagnostics: Things will either have on-board CPU and execution capabilities or be able to connect to a device that has on-board execution for the device or Thing that will support:
    • Automatic updates of on-board device software.
    • Automatic sense and respond to data or measures from edge device.
    • Automatic control for maintenance.
  • IoT supply chain and parts return: The edge device that needs to replace a defective device can be monitored from the supplier to the distributer or customer.
  • Warranty management: If the connected device or any of its parts being fixed or replaced are under warranty, the end-to-end value stream can also process the claims. This includes analyzing the claim, as well as processing the payment to a third party, such as the field service organization or dealer, and even supplier recovery for defective or failed parts.

IoT-enabled field service in-motion is a critical touch point and aggregation between the smart manufacturer and the most important participant in manufacturing: the customer.

IoT business value is achieved through end-to-end value stream orchestration and collaboration with connected devices (Things) and people with different skills, as well as different departments of the extended digital enterprise. Field service technicians are an integral part of these value streams. Enabled and empowered through IoT but automated through DPA, field service needs to be in-motion and smart!

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Tags

  • Industry Group: Manufacturing
  • Industry Group: Automotive
  • Topic: Internet of Things
  • Challenge: Operational Excellence
  • Product Area: Field Service

About the Author

Dr. Setrag Khoshafian is an author, speaker, and leading expert on the Internet of Things, digital process automation, and digital transformation. As Pega’s chief evangelist and VP of BPM technology, he provides valuable insight on business transformation and innovation to our clients.