The mighty field service relic – Panasonic Toughbook CF-41

Well, it was a surprise to find this in the cupboard – a Panasonic Toughbook CF-41. The very first model that was first launched in 1994; 24 years ago!

It was big news when the CF-41 was unveiled as it delivered many “firsts”. The world’s first notebook PC to integrate a CD-ROM drive (do you remember that compartment underneath the keyboard?). The first computing product to utilise magnesium alloy for strength and durability. The CF-41 was to be the first in a long line of Toughbooks that would revolutionise field work as we knew it.

Toughbooks were, and still are, designed to withstand extremely rugged use. They can be dropped from up to 70cm, stood on and driven over apparently (we’ve not tried). Furthermore, they can cope with severe vibration, spills, grime, extreme weather and the roughest of handling. The original launch back in 1994 was great news for industries such as construction, defense, emergency services, government, healthcare, law enforcement, manufacturing, oil, gas, telecom, and utilities. The incredible resilience of the Toughbook also helped to minimise repair bills and ensure less downtime from broken technology.

Our memories of early Panasonic Toughbooks relate to their use by one of our customers, British Gas. They however, started their widespread issue of them with the CF-27 in 1999. This model revolutionised the series by introducing a touch screen. At the time, they were remarkable pieces of technology to have access to out in the field, ensuring that employees had important data at their fingertips, wherever they were.

So, where has Panasonic Toughbook got to today? Still very much a brand, the latest rugged model is the CF-31. No, we don’t understand the number sequencing either. Coupled with its reputation to be all but indestructible (the claim of “bullet-proof” has also been tested by the determined, we’ve not tried that one either!), the specification has clearly developed significantly. You can specify an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, typically giving in the region of 2.6GHz. There’s 8GB of RAM and Windows 10 Pro available. Battery life is an incredible 18 hours and there’s an Intel HD 5500 graphics card. It even has a camera!

You might be interested to know that we have a few more IT skeletons in the cupboard. It’s quite amusing to see just how much things have developed since the back end of the last century and we look forward to showcasing a few more delights over the course of time.


The Biggest Field Service Trends of 2018 (and how they’re all connected)

Another year is upon us! It’s hard to believe we’re already nearly through January. There is no doubt that field service will continue to evolve in 2018, reshaped by new technology and new challenges within the industry. The following are the biggest trends to look out for in the next year… and it probably won’t come as a surprise that they’re all connected!

1. Service Management Solutions for Millennials in Field Service

This is a trend that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Millennials have been a hot topic for some years now. WBReseach named “Managing Millennials” as one of the major themes to come out of Field Service USA 2017, as well as a trend to watch for at Field Service USA 2018. In fact, by 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce!

While they may sometimes get a bad rap in the media, there is no denying that millennials bring a whole new skill set to the field service game. Unlike their predecessors, millennials understand and embrace new technology. After all, this is the generation that established nearly all of the tech that is digitally disrupting life as we know it (i.e. Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Netflix, Facebook, AirBnB, etc…). Because of this, they are in the best position to embrace the use of technology for solving the issues of the modern field service. Companies are quickly realizing and investing in ways to leverage this technical strength to their benefit – a crucial move for any organization that wants to stay competitive.

2. Knowledge Management & Field Service Automation

As the millennials are entering the workforce, the baby boomers are leaving it. This leads field service companies to another dilemma: how to retain and transfer the knowledge and expertise that the retiring workforce has built up over their career. In a recent survey conducted by The Service Council (TSC), 7 out of 10 organizations indicated that the loss of talent and knowledge in field service was the biggest challenge their company was either currently facing or would be facing in the next 5-10 years.

Companies are quickly realizing that the best solution is to capture that knowledge now. The Aberdeen Group states that Best-in-Class organizations are 62% more likely to have a centralized repository of service data, ensuring critical service knowledge doesn’t leave the organization along with the technician. In 2018, more and more service organizations will make investing in knowledge management solutions a top priority.

3. Field Service Optimization – Mobility, Mobility, Mobility

There is no doubt that mobile apps have redefined how field service technicians work. This trend certainly shows no sign of slowing down either. Aberdeen Group reports that more than half of “best-in-class” field service organizations have made investing in mobile tools a priority in order to improve field service technicians’ access to knowledge[5]. Mobile technology is helping service centers remove paper-based process while giving management insight into field performance and resources, and providing technicians with the most up-to-date work order and job information while in the field.

However, there is still one overlooked area of field service mobility: mobile parts identification and technical knowledge apps. Look for this to change in 2018! Organizations are beginning to recognize the need for these types of tools, and the opinion of them as a “nice to have” is starting to shift to a “need to have”. The benefits of mobility tools are well-touted, but few tools directly impact and deliver these positive performance benefits like technical and parts knowledge tools.

Of Course it’s all Connected!

It isn’t difficult to see a common thread tying all of these trends together. Companies are grappling with how to retain knowledge loss from retiring field service technicians, then deploy that knowledge to a new, technology-loving generation of workers. More and more field service organizations are realizing that, in order to stay relevant and competitive in 2018 and beyond, they need to invest in the right technologies and their new workforce.

Read our whitepaper for advice on how organizations can leverage technology to ensure technicians have the knowledge they need at the point of service.