Discover More about the Importance of Sustainable Maintenance
Field Service organizations have been contributing to sustainability efforts long before sustainability was cool. Remot asset monitoring is not a new concept for Field Service organizations, as it allows them to avoid a truck roll by resolving issues remotely and effectively monitoring assets. This approach can help reduce costs and improve the first-time fix rate, ultimately extending asset lifetimes. What is new is the view on how teams on the ground make better decisions to improve service and support greater sustainability efforts. In this episode Aly Pinder; Research Vice President, WW Aftermarket Services Strategies, IDC, speaks with Chris Wolff on his thoughts around sustainability, how it supports the field service world and drives value to the customer.
Welcome to Speaking of Service, the podcast that uncovers practical ways to grow service, revenue control costs and improve customer satisfaction. If you're looking to innovate, gain a competitive edge, or just learn about the latest service trends, you've come to the right place. Sustainability is on everyone's mind. In this episode, Chris Wolffe welcomes Allie Pindar back to the show to discuss how field service organizations contributed to sustainability efforts long before was termed cool. Welcome to Speaking of Service and glad to have you with us again. Sustainability has been a hot topic for a long time, but for service professionals, particularly those delivering remote service, they've been sustainable since before it was cool. I'm delighted to have Aly Pinder here with me today to talk about some research he's been doing. You may recall Aly is the vice president of research for IDC. Welcome to the studio. Thanks for being with me, Aly. Thanks for having me. So before we get started, tell me about your family. Are you good recyclers? Are you sustainable in the Pinder house? I think there's a level of need for continuous improvement. Obviously, you know their goals in life to continue to do better. One things I like are tactile things. So we get the newspaper once a week, so that's kind of the easiest way to recycle. Just put the newspaper in the recycle bin. But we definitely need to get better at washing, take out dishes, post-pandemic, eat a lot of takeout. Rinsing those out is really important. Well, keep up the good work. And speaking of good work, I stole your quote, which is that service professionals were focused on sustainability since before it was cool. Tell me a little bit about the research you've been doing on sustainability. Yeah, the way in which I think it's important to think about sustainability specific to service in the aftermarket is the fact that every time you roll a truck to do a job, that's an opportunity to do something a little bit better than you did before. So if you get more efficient at doing work, getting it done faster, or maybe not even rolling truck at all, that's how I view operationalizing sustainability. So throughout my research, I've looked at opportunities that we could think about getting smarter at when we send a technician, when we prioritize what work needs to get done on site, and who really needs to go to do what to resolve the issue for a customer. Now, when you've talked about truck rolls, and I know software can have a lot of a role to play in avoiding truck rolls, but software can also help make sure that machines last longer in the field. Talk to me about that balance of fixing machines, as well as keeping them up and going and even designing them to be more sustainable upstream. I think you said something great right there, right? Software technology is an opportunity to get smarter at what we do. When do we know something's going to fail? In our research, we continue to see that about 45% of assets are connected today with the goal of being somewhere around two thirds of products and assets being connected in the future. As you get better connected data, hopefully you can get better at when something is going to fail and shrink the amount of time that something is down and assets down and prioritize when work should happen and who should do that work. So I think the real opportunity that technology plays within the role of sustainability is understanding when you should send someone out to avoid long periods of downtime for customers, which impacts their productivity, their output and their satisfaction. But you can also do it sustainably if you can predict when it will fail so you don't have to roll a truck a second time taking a big opportunity around software and technology is to know what failed or what's going to fail, what parts are needed, what skills needed, what technician is needed. So you're not sending to trucks, you're sending one truck or maybe no trucks. Well, let's dig into that a little bit. You said right now about 45% of assets are connected. Is that because there are so many long lived kind of older assets pre connected days? Yeah, A lot of the industries I work in are, you know, industries that have been around for decades, centuries, if not. Right. So you have a lot of equipment that may have been in the field for a long period of time. Oftentimes, those assets aren't as smart and connected as we'd like them to be. They do provide some data flow and you can add retrofits, answers, that sort of thing. But I think the real opportunity is to figure out how we can get smarter with things that are going to be in place for a long period of time. When we think about the last three years, we've all shifted some of our purchases to prioritize what needs to be new. So I think when we look at the opportunity for next coming years, I think that'll accelerate a lot more. We'll see more connected things. But right now it's still around that 45% range. And I imagine there's a tension between connecting homogeneous sets of equipment as opposed to wanting to get a single supply or OEM of equipment so that you can have the benefits of the connectedness and the intelligence they provide. Where's that that D mark right now? Yeah, heterogeneity. I see it as ecosystems, right? I mean, I think it's difficult to tell a customer facilities manager or an operator that all the equipment that you're going to to run your plant, run your hospital, run your facility is all going to be from the same manufacturer, Right? I think it's how these things connect to each other and how they talk to each other to figure out what is actually working in that network of systems. And so it's, you know, even in my home, if I think of a consumer environment, you know, I have manufacturers from all my dishwashers, definitely my refrigerator. It's different than my, you know, my smart thermometer. Right. Or h vac system. I think the opportunity is how these things connect to each other and how they talk to each other to provide us with better intelligence as to how performance is really going to occur in the market. Well, in the software world, we surely saw the trend towards open systems and standardization. Are you seeing that openness happening in all the markets or is people still clinging to proprietary platforms? It's a really good question. I think as we see the value of data and the value of real time insights to improve and enhance the experience, the customers can see what I say customers. You know, B2B customers, B2B2C customers as the value of this. These insights become evident to the market. I think there is more standardization and understanding that these data flows need to go across. Manufacturers need to grow across systems to inform the decisions that are made at the point of service. How are you seeing all of that data that's generated flowing back upstream to inform the design of these machines in the first place? It can be better. I think one of the real you know, I've been covering the space for about 15 years now and loving service and the fact that when things break, you can fix them or hopefully you fix them. But the challenge has always been that service has been siloed from the rest of the organization. Right. You send a person, you know, in a van or truck to go out to some location to fix something right there in front of something for the first time, maybe in a while. And they have to become experts at the point that there's need. Right. With a customer that is worried about, you know, having downtime. So I think the real opportunity is can we take service data and inform design decisions back in engineering, design and quality to improve not just the product for the customer's perspective, but also how can the design team improve the design for serviceability? Right. If if I'm a service technician, I show up to this very complex machine and the fix that engineering knows is going to be the prior fault is in the back of the machine, in the back of the compressor, and I have to take everything out to fix it. That's a very long, complex fix, right? What if, as a design team, we model out the fact that the most likely failure is going to be something that's going to be here? Let's put it right in front or in someplace easily accessible for a technician to get to. So when I think about design for serviceability, it's all about can we take that long list of data points that we've captured on these assets? Understand what the likely failure is going to be, and ensure that it's easier for that technician to find that fix that's most likely to happen. Now, just sort of tangential to the topic of sustainability, is this one of hybrid service models where you enable a customer or a layperson to perform service with an expert over their shoulder in their ear? What's that mix looking like between professional technicians and hybrid? It's even third party contractor. So it's not just me and you, you know, being able to do something complex piece of equipment. It's also, you know, people that don't aren't internal employees or internal technicians to the business. And we're seeing about, I want to say 45% of organizations are leveraging either third party contractors are looking at enhancing self-service capabilities for customers to be able to at least diagnose the issue. I think the real opportunity is to not send a technician in without knowing what is actually wrong. If you think about the, you know, the old days, you would call up somebody and tell them what is wrong with the thing that is broken. And this really that's kind of a black box you go into. Right. The technician is just assuming you know what you're talking about. Probably not, because you're not an engineer. Right. So I think the opportunity is to take data, to inform data and collaborative tools to give visibility to those less those novice technicians that don't really know the complexity of the assets and how to fix it and can make that really real for the remote expert that can actually see what's happening. Help maybe with some level of mixed engagement, a collaboration have walk someone through the actual fix. Is there an Uber moment to be head here for a field technicians who want to be their own bosses? Yeah, I think what is really interesting is there's an opportunity to make even junior workers, experts even make someone who doesn't want to go up on a turbine anymore, you know, be able to still deliver value and knowledge insights. And I think that collaborative aspect of of service not only removes the need to always send a physical person onsite, which goes back to sustainability or at least, you know, lessening your impact on the environment. But it also democratizes knowledge, right. And ensures that more of us understand how things work and how things can be fixed to hopefully improve performance of those assets. Let's shift gears just a little bit. In the US where we're fairly new to this whole sustainability and we're very enthusiastic about it, but this is not a new topic in Europe, probably not a new topic in Asia. What are the geographic implications for sustainability that you've seen? One thing we recently did a research survey. I'm still going through the data right now, so don't quote me on the exact data points, but a couple trends popped up when I looked at a question we asked, which was what are your current sustainability initiatives in place for product and service innovation? And what was really intriguing is in Europe, but what we saw was it was a lot driven from regulation, which should below shock, right? They're more forward looking in a lot of ways and they're looking at kind of a line from a compliance perspective, even though they're looking to be in cutting edge. That's at the aggregate, right? I think it was about 150 European executives responded to the survey. When I looked at the North America data, a lot of the decisions were actually driven by taking waste out of the service experience. So let's look at kind of more of we want to be more sustainable. That's also thinking about the cost implications of rolling a truck and let's align our goals around cost reduction with being better service citizens. If you if you will, around the opportunity, around sustainability. One other data point. I was expecting to see things like electrification of service fleets is big. Something that was high up. We asked ten options. It was the 10th option, which is still an opportunity. It was about a quarter of organizations in Europe were thinking about service fleets and that was just under a quarter in North America. But I think that's somewhat constrained by the grid and infrastructure to support, you know, this ability to have electric vehicles with your vans and your trucks. So, Aly, you've written about and spoken about how regulatory compliance requirements got the Europeans kind of off off the ball first when it came to sustainability. I'm curious, did that catalyze action among American manufacturers looking to do business into Europe? Definitely. When you think about American businesses that are global in nature, right, there's an opportunity as you think about any investment you make in technology, supporting assets and products and equipment, that there needs to be standardization, right? So if there's one market that you're in that is most stringent is the one you most likely want to standardize against, right? You don't want to have different pieces of equipment across the globe that are going to interact a little differently that need to be serviced differently. Right. If you think about improving service efficiency, you want one technician to be able to go both places and have the same answer to the same question. So think American organizations that do, you know, install and sell equipment globally. Do you need to take into account global regulations when you talk about sustainability? I suppose here in the US, everybody says whatever California sets as regulatory requirements for automobiles is going to roll back across the rest of the US. I guess that's happening globally as well. It's similar, right? I mean, you want to look at the most and I'm from California, so you know, it's one of those things where I like to be leading edge and a lot of in a lot of ways, I think organizations need to look at the the what is driving innovation and what areas are moving the needle forward and standardize against that. I think you do need to look at who is kind of leading edge in these opportunities because you don't want to be the laggard, right? You don't want to be coming in the back end and say, Oh, at the very end, I need to catch up, right? You want to get ahead of these things? Well, I have to confess, I drive a Tesla and when I hit the curb and my tire blew out, I was able to access service through my vehicle and they dispatched a technician with the tire to me in the field. And I was off and driving right that same day. So, you know, it's interesting to see how that connectedness is enhancing the service experience. It's an opportunity to improve your experience. Right? I think in a lot of ways you can turn a bad outcome or a bad experience into a positive outcome, right? You saw the value of having this connected asset that is tied into an entire network of processes that need to move in real time at the speed that hopefully you are going. Right right now. We've talked about the cost of a truck role in terms of sustainability, but what about getting longer life or greater utility out of a machine? I'm thinking firstly about keeping a machine up and running longer. But also what about as a service models to drive up the utilization of a particular machine across many users? Where do the trends sit today and how fast are the changing Fast? Right. I what is really interesting about this space and what continues to bring me back to want to cover a variety of topics is historically a reactive brake fixed model was the norm. A standard service contract of 2 to 3 visits was the norm selling consumables was how you drove revenue. What we're seeing is a lot of organizations are not just leaning in onto the as a service model of saying you don't buy, you know, the system, you buy the cooling that's in this room, you don't buy the elevator, you buy the throughput of people up and down. Right? It's also tied to can we sell other service products like remote monitoring capabilities, like dashboards that allow a customer to have visibility to asset performance, even down to the line of training and consultative services? Right. If you go back to that iPad collaboration, mixed reality experience, if I can sell to a customer a premium opportunity to have 24 seven 365 interaction with a remote expert, that's something I'm willing to pay a premium for because I know at the point of need I may be able to solve this problem without having to have downtime or have an asset go down. And so I think that's where I'm seeing the as a service model evolve a little bit, because not everyone can be as forward looking as those, you know, major engine manufacturers out of out of Europe. Right. You know, a lot of times you need to start small but show the value and promise to customers that say this is a new relationship we can have with the manufacturer. I was talking earlier with some leadership from the Service Council about, you know, the trends that they're seeing and service and the shift from service as a cost center to service as a revenue center. And these trusted advisers who come and call on the equipment location being the perfect people to deliver that value added service. So it sounds as though sustainability is a tailwind for them. Yeah, I mean, we see similar stuff in our research around the fact that there's, you know, there's you will have some companies that will continue to be a call center. I think that's industry, some industry vertical specific. So process manufacturing, if you think about some environments where services being delivered to your own assets, not to something you sold, but we definitely see an opportunity when you're in a profit centric environment, a customer centric environment, to sell value because that's where the premium is going to come from, right? Service can be a commodity unless you're delivering value and differentiation. So I think the opportunity around sustainability not only adds to your, you know, your ability to be better citizen of the world, but it also shows to a customer that you value your relationship and the ability to continue to improve. So let me shift up again. Did anything in your research surprise you? I think surprise me all the time, right? I mean, I think one of the great aspects of being somewhat of a data nerd or someone who likes to dive in a survey research is the fact that, you know, I expected to see more organizations want to drive at not just remote monitoring capabilities, but also investing in the fact that, you know, data can talk to each other. Right. I mean, I think a lot of what we're seeing in the tech world is, you know, full on AI. And let's get into the fact that, you know, machines will be able to do more. One of the things that I find in our research around services customers really value the human interaction piece with a technician, Right? I think in a lot of ways, if you if you look at a profit centric environment, that's customer driven, that technician getting on site or at least engaging with the customer is really valuable. That's the differentiator. So what gets me really excited will sort of surprise me is service businesses, though They want to leverage interesting, insightful technologies, which they are investing in. And AI is on the roadmap for many organizations I sample. They also understand that talent engagement of the workforce, engaging customers, providing tools and technologies that allow for a technician to feel like going to work is a great thing. How technology can support a customer. Having a lot of value with the manufacturer that builds on that brand promise is really, really interesting and critical to business moving forward. Set a generational factor. I mean, there's a certain generation of people who enjoyed that give and take. There's a certain generation who we assume don't enjoy it in the same way. What's the generational impact that you're see? Yeah. So, you know, it's I always want to think you know think about the opportunities as evolution as as as age groups move through the business. Right. We've been talking about retiring workforce for the entire time I've been covering the space. Right. And I think what the nuance that I'm interested in is the fact that workers what can and will tell you what they value in the work experience. So some workers would prefer to be behind a screen and never interact with the person, you know, you know, face to face. But we have tools for that, right? We have technology applications that allow for remote level of collaboration with some workers who want to shake hands and give hugs and have, you know, lunchtime chats while they're onsite. Those those workers should be allowed to have that type of environment that they can work in. And so I think it's less of generational. Say, you know, a younger generation only wants to use iPads and tablets and never wants to get onsite or older generations want to, you know, always get in front of people. I think understanding your workforce, understanding what they value and how they want to engage with customers and even how your customers want to engage with you. Right. Not everyone wants to have to get on a phone call and be on hold for 20 minutes. And I think any of us want to. Right. But some workers or some customers really just want to have resolution occur. Some want to see someone and have the trust and the the confidence that someone did go and the bowels of that hospital to solve that problem on the day. And it wasn't a remote patch that came over. I guess it speaks to, you know, consumerization and everybody needing to have that flexibility to meet the customer where they are and serve them the way they want to be treated. We saw a renaissance in the past two years in our CAD and PLM sales as it appeared to us at PTC that customers were trying to get their digital house in order, in order to enable the benefits of industrial Iot and augmented reality. And going forward, AI Does that jive with what you're seeing in your research? There was definitely an opportunity over the last few years to evaluate maturity of technology and digital transformation. IDC we we continue to talk about digital transformation. We've somewhat pivoted into a digital business model. So thinking about ways in which you can leverage technology to transform how you're engaging with your customers. And I think the first step to understanding where you are is to figure out what you have in place. How are you currently serving customers? How's technology currently solving problems or creating problems for your business? And I think a lot of the last three years organizations found that as they were looking at transforming how they engage with customers, they realized what processes were broken, which processes needed to be improved, and which technologies could support that improvement. And so a lot of what we're continuing to look at from the service side is, you know, what technologies did we acquire that, you know, aren't really making the job of a service worker better. It's just another application. It's another checklist that needs to be kind of marked on that sheet. So, Ali, I'm going to ask you to look into your crystal ball as an analyst and as a data geek. Maybe give us one or two things that you would recommend our listeners lean into that maybe a couple that they take their foot off the gas on related to sustainability. I think when I think about kind of two things to walk away with, two things that keep me up at night or get me excited about writing more research or covering more things is the opportunity to view sustainability as an operational opportunity for value that can be delivered. So let's not look at this as something that's going to happen in 2050 or beyond. This is something that happens today. Your business can really transform by what you do today to deliver different sets of outcomes to customers. Can you think differently about how you should prioritize work to ensure that assets don't necessarily need to be down for a long period of time? Right. Can we leverage technology to understand what needs to happen? When can we remove the need to physically get on site to solve a problem? So the first thing is, you know, can we operationalize sustainability? So our day to day? I think the second piece that I'm really excited about as an opportunity is we talked a little bit about the workforce shifts and changes in demographics. When you think about workers, the next generation really cares about this being core to why they come to work, right? It's not just, you know, this is something that we can put on a marketing campaign. You know, sustainability needs to be core to our business because it's going to drive not only better outcomes for customers, better outcomes for the environment, but it's going to drive why people want to come to work for your business. So I think those are the two areas that get me excited about this opportunity. Well, as we close up, I have two questions for you. Firstly, I'd love to know something about you that our audience might not expect of you. And then secondly, you know, what's the opening line of your research summary going to be? So I'll take the, the, the, the former first. So I had the opportunity in high school to play at Dodger Stadium. So if you know me at all, a big baseball fan, I got to a fairly high level enough to play an all star game and I got to run out on the field. Still a base, have my name called Over the Loudspeakers and it was a crowning moment at a younger age, and I hope I have not peaked yet. So to that point, the first line of the opening line of the research is definitely tied to, you know, how organizations need to continuously improve. So that point at Dodger Stadium wasn't the end of my journey. Right Service is a journey. There's an opportunity to continue to differentiate. Your business changed the way in which you interact with customers and leverage technology to understand what should be next. What's the next value proposition to customers? Well, with that, I'll just thank our audience for joining us. I really recommend that you tap into Ali's research on sustainability and his research more broadly with IDC. Thanks for joining us here at Speaking of Service. Thanks for listening to the Speaking of Service podcast brought to you by PTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and leave a rating or review and be sure to check out other episodes to hear new perspectives on improving life for aftermarket professionals, service teams, and the customers they support. If you have a topic of interest or want to provide feedback, email us at speaking of service at pittcon or visit us at FT.com. SGS Speaking of service.