Digital Field Services:
on the way to Technician 4.0

Maintaining infrastructures, operating connected equipment, developing new services, transforming the customer experience… Digital technology creates a continuity from maintenance requests to customer relationships.

 OVERVIEW

Transform the customer and employee experience

Water, electricity, gas, oil and even telecoms networks... These critical resources require uninterrupted service.. In this context, the work of field technicians is essential. The challenge for companies in the energy and utilities sector is to act as soon and as quickly as possible, to avoid any interruption of service.

At the same time, consumers are becoming more and more demanding, as shown by a recent Gartner Institute study. According to the study, by 2020, improving customer satisfaction will be a priority for nearly 70% of field services players, compared to 50% today1.

In addition to this challenge, there is another more technical one: equipment is becoming more and more "intelligent" with technologies that are constantly evolving. Mastering all of this equipment and its various standards is becoming a problem for field technicians who must perform increasingly complex tasks.

Finally, players in the energy sector face a major difficulty: recruiting and retaining increasingly scarce talent. According to a study by the Mines ParisTech engineering school, in 2012, 30% of young technicians and engineers were interested in working for energy companies. Four years later, that figure was down to 14%2. This record drop comes in addition to the risk of considerable loss of know-how due to the retirement of an entire generation of technicians, taking their skills with them.

In short, whether it is improving customer relations, strengthening the expertise of technicians or attracting talent, a profound transformation of the field services business is necessary. And that is without mentioning the efficiency, safety and responsiveness issues that remain top priorities for the energy industry. Or, in other words, how to optimize the management of field operations in order to position the best player at the right time and with the right equipment?

FOCUS

Four technologies to follow for the transformation of field services:

  • The Internet of Things, which generates technical and usage data to optimize operations.
  • Mixed reality, which improves efficiency and security for a better employee experience.
  • Big data and analytics, which focus on routing and maintenance productivity, including predictive maintenance and help in fault diagnosis.
  • Drones, which inspect equipment that is difficult to access and detect underground networks.

 TAKING UP THE CHALLENGE

Technician 4.0, the brand ambassador

Integrating software solutions helps to meet these new challenges. Platforms from all-rounders (Microsoft, Salesforce) and pure-players (ServiceMax) now optimize field operations (route management, follow-up of work orders, outage prediction using artificial intelligence, etc.). However, the digitization of field services isn’t limited to the mere provision of these tools.

While many technologies improve the management of maintenance operations, they still need to be  brought together in order to optimize their use by field agents. The ideal way to do this is to look at technicians’ needs through conceptualization workshops with a "design thinking" approach, without, however, forgetting the end customers’ expectations. The tools at their disposal, such as mobile applications, must be designed to facilitate interactions with consumers (chat, automatic emails to notify a visit, etc.).

Other challenges to take up include: access to information in non-connected areas and the security of sensitive data (GDPR, technician geolocation, status of network equipment…). Once again, solutions exist: data encryption and user authentication; and offline operation for mobile applications. With, potentially, secure synchronization of the tool on the company's premises, leaving nothing to travel over external networks.

USE CASE

Revolutionize the experience of 17 000 technicians and their clients

Faced with the obsolescence of the equipment used by 17 000 technicians, a DSO (distribution system operator) decided to completely modernize its tools. With the help of Gfi Informatique experts, this industrial company is gradually renewing its range of tablets and smartphones and is overhauling all its mobile applications. Thanks to the customized solutions developed, technicians can access their program for the day in a just a few clicks. They can even consult all the technical documentation necessary for their interventions. This makes their day-to-day work easier and facilitates customer relations thanks to practical functionalities such as one-touch calling to contact the customer before their appointment.

FOCUS ON INNOVATION

Mixed reality proven in the field

How can we free the hands of technicians, usually busy with a tablet or smartphone, in the field? Gfi Research experts have worked with a start-up, SL Process, on a mixed reality helmet: LYNX. Thanks to the helmet, technicians have their hands free. They can concentrate on their tasks and are helped by contextual information that they see directly in their headset. They can also be assisted remotely by an expert who sees the installation that the technician has in front of them, in real time. However, some technical challenges remain to be overcome, such as the weight of the headset, its battery life, and the ergonomics of the interfaces. Gfi Research's experts are making great progress in these areas.

#Expert Voice

The augmented, multi-skilled, connected technician

"Smart grids, modernization of energy distribution networks... the stakes for the sector are huge. Digitizing field services is totally in line with these challenges. It puts the technician at the center of the transformation of energy companies, and of a new relationship with customers."

François Boncenne, Director of the Energy, Utilities and Chemicals Sector, Gfi Informatique

Gfi Informatique Accompanies You

Your projects from end-to-end

Gfi Informatique is a publisher of GIS solutions and integrator of the main Field Services Management platforms, supporting its customers from end-to-end, from preliminary studies to application support. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, big data, analytics, web and mobile developments... our experts master all the blocks necessary to build a project of digitalization of field services.

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