The new challenges of field service companies
Monday 25 february 2019
Maintenance providers are mainly involved in real estate maintenance and are responsible for the installation and repair of electrical, heating, plumbing, ventilation or elevators.
There are two areas in this real estate maintenance ecosystem: residential buildings (individual or collective) and commercial buildings. Each has different maintenance issues, but both are characterized by the need for preventive interventions (e.g. annual maintenance) and curative interventions (for example, a heating failure or a water leak).
The sector is therefore characterized by a certain distance between the technical teams in the field and the administrative teams (the back office). Optimizing the communication between these two facets (these two teams) of the maintenance service companies is a key element to increase productivity.
Maintenance companies must not only provide a high-quality service to their customers but they also have to operate in a complex environment where there is an increasing number of stakeholders involved in an intervention. Over time, companies in the sector have come up with new solutions to successfully manage their interventions.
Integration of new technologies
The first challenge is the use of new technologies. Tools now exist to facilitate contact between teams. Nevertheless, service delivery companies have some technological retard to catch up. The key developments for the sector came about ten years ago. It includes the large-scale wireless network, 3G network expansion, and cloud computing, which allows permanent contact even on the move. At the sector level, this is a fairly recent change. Many service providers did not immediately realize that these new technologies can significantly improve their daily lives. For example, the distribution of interventions is still often done through the distribution of paper intervention vouchers. Yet, the use of new technologies by companies has a very affordable cost, even minimal, and ROI is often very important.
As a result, new practices have emerged with new technologies and, when properly mastered, can provide a real competitive advantage to service providers. For example, the adoption of a cloud computing solution is an increasingly important solution, until becoming the standard for some service providers. They have understood that having the latest technology allows increased performance, without having to worry about updates and delays. It also allows secure storage of information.
Among the evolutions of the sector, we notice that there are more stakeholders involved in the interventions of today: owners, tenants, technicians ... All of them produce data which can be centralized and shared. The challenge is to get live-sharing information and to avoid time-consuming re-entry. Digitization and the abandonment of paper are therefore essential to facilitate both internal communication and external communication. It is necessary to switch to intervention management software for both planning and monitoring interventions, but also billing and quotes.
For some of the service providers, the main challenge is to find a technological tool to manage maintenance contracts. The recurrence of the interventions leads to the creation of a certain number of data that must be stored and reused in order to better plan the next intervention.
Another challenge facing maintenance companies is aging teams: 50% of maintenance employees are over 45 years old. To recruit and attract new technicians, offering a connected and modern work environment can be a differentiating argument. It is also necessary to emphasize that teams in the field are now quite comfortable with the use of mobile solutions and are almost always equipped with smartphones. Technicians, therefore, expect to find tools such as professional mobile applications in their jobs. Applications have also evolved to be more intuitive and simple to use.
Maintenance providers can also turn to the use of augmented reality. It is a modern and powerful solution for developing knowledge sharing between different generations of workers. Thus, the integration of augmented reality can, in particular, allow coaching and remote monitoring of young technicians without having to send someone on the ground.
The integration of these new solutions, called CMMS (Computer Assisted Maintenance Management) also leads to managerial change. The latter is in addition to changes in the market, regulations and customer requests. It is, therefore, necessary to integrate teams enthusiastically in the implementation of new tools. Appointing an interlocutor for the implementation of a new tool can reassure teams and make it easier to respond to their fears. It is necessary that the technicians and the back office understand the added value of this evolution. The willingness to evolve and adapt to change will distinguish companies that are successfully transitioning from digital to those that have a negative view of technological change.
Adopting a powerful and modern tool for the management and monitoring of interventions is essential to meet the expectations of customers and new employees.