Service businesses and mobile devices are not in any way strangers—I’ve written many articles about the relative maturity of the mobile service market, across a variety of industries. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time recently discussing the various business changes impacting manufacturers, whether they be industrial, medical, or high-tech (and yes, I know that these three groups don’t represent all manufacturers). So let’s smoosh those two things together and think about the unique case of mobile service for manufacturers!

There are two main things that set mobile apart for manufacturers. The first is the fact that for businesses that are just now embracing servitization, mobile service might not be very mature for them at all. In fact, the utilization of mobile devices for any business process might be a completely new process. The other element at play is the gigantic scope of what manufacturers might be servicing. A company servicing an exercise bike is beholden to different physical requirements than industrial kitchen equipment. So let’s outline some of the major considerations:

Interface
I’ve been a broken record on this for many years now, but any sort of mobile device that is used for service activities needs to have full 1:1 parity with its desktop counterpart. This is especially important for businesses embracing servitization. If service managers are accessing, say, inventory systems that reach outside of service departments, it’s important to ensure that while on a job site, they can access everything in real-time. Not having that information either increases the time from ticket to invoice as the tech shuffles back to a computer, or, more troublingly, creates inconsistencies between systems. Best-in-class service software will have that complete parity right out of the box, and it’s incredibly important.

Knowledge Management

Mobile devices have already gobbled up some of the physical libraries of our lives, whether it be our CD collection, or movies, or books. They should obviously, then, be able to do the same for the reams of reference materials that technicians often need access to. Mobility also offers an opportunity to approach and access knowledge management in ways that take fuller advantage of the form-factor. Simplistically, this can mean things like universal search. Forward-thinking companies use cameras and other mobile-specific goodies to enhance the experience through remote assistance, AR-powered step-by-step instructions, and other similar utilities. To that point…

Wearables

Please excuse me for this: Be wary of wearables. Does that mean don’t use them? No! But they’re often heavy and take up space. If a technician is only going to pull them out once a week, then what is the value? With any technology, whether it be hardware, software, or wetware, there’s no excuse for not properly vetting solutions for practicality, usability, and return-on-investment. For industrial manufacturers, wearables (especially when paired with remote assistance) may be an invaluable asset. For other types of manufacturers, the cons may end up outweighing the pros (and maybe by only a small margin!). I love a good wearable, but unless it’s deliberately deployed, it’s hard to recommend. The bottom line is this: Don’t grab every shiny object that is dangled in front of you. Not unless you can make the case for your business.

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service