By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
Munters is a global leader in energy-efficient and sustainable air treatment solutions for demanding industrial applications and agriculture sectors. Munters was founded in 1955 and has been listed on Nasdaq Stockholm since 2017. The company has net sales of about SEK 7.1 Billion, 3,100 employees, and manufacturing and sales operations in 30 countries.
As the Director of Global Customer Service for Munters, Roel Rentmeesters is part of the Global Services Management team, and is responsible for leading the entire infrastructure of services — including people, processes, and technologies — to success. His scope of responsibility includes Services’ Business Systems third-line support (a team of experts who support the field technicians), as well as Munters’ training academy.
The Quest for Servitization Surfaces the Need for Remote Assistance
Munters recognizes the evolution that is occurring in service and the need to embrace servitization. “We know we need to make ourselves ready to provide a different kind of service – to move away from break/fix work and move toward guaranteeing uptime to our customers,” says Rentmeesters. “This is a significant shift for Munters, and we have begun taking steps to enable our success with servitization.”
An integral aspect of this journey is ensuring a strong technological foundation is in place from which to build. “We are a longtime IFS Apps ERP user and have begun with working through how to standardize globally and how to extend the capabilities of the IFS portfolio to our service operations,” says Rentmeesters. “In addition, we know that there’s potential to leverage IoT, AI, and remote assistance to really change the way we deliver service. As a company, we are very open to investing in technology that will aid us in better serving our customers.”
Munters’ current business model relies heavily on completing on-site visits, often one to two visits even before initial installation of equipment. “Reducing our reliance on site visits will not only allow us to improve efficiency but being able to perform a remote resolution or diagnosis is a critical step in our journey to servitization,” says Rentmeesters. As such, evaluation of remote assistance tools has been underway at Munters to find a reliable tool that would enable Munters’ technicians to collaborate remotely with third-line support and, ultimately, allow Munters to interface remotely with its customers to reduce the need for as many on-site visits.
Coronavirus Creates Urgent Business Pressures; Necessitates Rapid Time to Value
While Munters’ pragmatic approach to building a strong foundation from which to build its servitization success is absolutely the right one, plans were impacted as the Coronavirus pandemic began. Specifically, the crisis created a level of urgency in getting remote assistance in place to preserve Munters’ operations. Rentmeesters and Munters’ Business Area President for Airtech, Peter Gisel-Ekdahl, with Sebastien Leichtnam, President of Global Services, discussed the need to rapidly deploy remote assistance to aid in the company. This was done not only in order to provide remote support to field technicians, but as an option for supporting a new production line in our manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic that Munters could no longer send experts on site to assist with. “Our President Peter is in Italy, and as Coronavirus began to spread, he saw the immediate need to leverage remote assistance to help support both our field and manufacturing operations,” says Rentmeesters. “By the beginning of March, it became urgent for us to get this technology in place to continue to be able to serve our customers and support our manufacturing operations.”
Rentmeesters reached out to IFS to discuss Remote Assistance, collaborative merged reality software that blends two real-time video streams into an interactive environment. “As I mentioned, I’d already been evaluating remote assistance tools,” he says. “IFS was a natural choice given not only the capabilities of the solution, but our longstanding partnership. My hope was that we could move quickly to get the technology operational in the shortest window of time possible.”
IFS Remote Assistance provides the ability for any of Munters’ employees to be anywhere, instantly. Two users can collaborate and interact in real-time while telestrating, freezing images, using hand gestures, and even adding real objects into the merged reality environment – whether that’s technician to third-line support, technician to customer, or expert to manufacturing facility. This provides opportunities for remote customer support and resolution, remote diagnosis to increase first-time fix, better utilization of valuable resources, as well as more rapid employee training and knowledge transfer.
Perhaps most impressive is the rapid time to value of remote assistance. “I first contacted IFS about Remote Assistance on March 6th, we had an agreement in place and were conducting the training of our first users by March 12th,” says Rentmeesters. “The solution is very intuitive, so training required is minimal and there’s actually some instruction built into the app, too. In less than two hours, each of our users was fully trained and equipped to begin using the technology.”
With an initial deployment in just six days, Munters is now expanding the use of IFS Remote Assistance to more than 200 users globally which it expects to be complete within the next two weeks. This includes field technicians and third-line support, who are using the solution on their existing mobile devices, as well as use by experts guiding the opening of the new production line in our manufacturing facility in Czech Republic. These users are testing the solution on Vuzix Smart Glasses so that the staff can receive instructions and visual collaboration hands-free.
“We’ve been very satisfied with the level of support, availability, and flexibility we’ve received from the team supporting our use of Remote Assistance,” says Rentmeesters. “The speed at which we’ve been able to get the solution operational is really impressive.”
Remote Assistance Brings Immediate Benefits and Immense Potential
Rentmeesters groups the value of Remote Assistance into two categories: how the technology is helping Munters navigate the business challenges of the current Coronavirus crisis and the immense potential that exists to further leverage the solution once the pandemic subsides and business returns to a more normal state. Currently IFS Remote Assistance is alleviating some of the pressures for Munters of the travel restrictions that are in place. “We’ve begun with use cases that allow technicians to collaborate with one another and with third-line support expertise, and plan to expand use to interacting remotely with our customers,” explains Rentmeesters. “We are also using the technology to allow our remote support team to guide the team for our manufacturing facility launch in the Czech Republic. Thus far, the satisfaction rating of the solution is 95 percent or greater.”
But the way IFS Remote Assistance is helping Munters alleviate the pressures of today’s unprecedented conditions is just the beginning of what Rentmeesters sees being possible with the technology. “How this technology will allow us to modernize our operations and embrace servitization is exciting,” he says. “When we consider how it will impact our own operations, we expect to improve efficiency greatly. This comes from the ability to perform maintenance inspections remotely, improve first-time fix rates as a result of remote diagnosis, reducing the amount of technicians we send on-site since third-line support can engage with technicians through Remote Assistance, providing remote support to our manufacturing facilities, and so on. These capabilities will help us reduce our overall travel immensely.”
Those are just the internal operational gains, however. One of the greatest potentials of the technology is how it will equip Munters to bring its vision for servitization to life. “This will undoubtedly be a tool that will help us reimagine how we engage and interact with our customers,” says Rentmeesters. “I believe it is an important piece of the puzzle in our quest to differentiate our service offerings and create new revenue streams. I’m thankful for how the technology is helping us address today’s challenges, and excited for what the future holds.”