The field service knowledge gap is rearing its ugly head in just about every field service organization. According to the Manpower Group’s Employment Outlook Q3 2021 survey, a whopping 69% of companies have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring – a 15-year high. Market dynamics are causing the knowledge gap to widen to the point where customer satisfaction is suffering, labor costs are increasing, and margins are under pressure.
The knowledge gap is aggravated by three irreversible employment trends that have combined into a “perfect storm” of challenges for field service executives. First, we are facing an unprecedented Silver Tsunami with baby boomer service technicians retiring in droves. Second, industrialized countries are experiencing tight labor markets where companies face more difficulty than ever attracting and retaining skilled workers. Third, products are getting more complex. Ten years ago, few would have predicted that coffee-making equipment or commercial washing machines would carry onboard CPUs, have software interfaces, and be connected to the Internet.
Technicians Need Better Knowledge
The difficulty hiring service staff and the growing complexity of equipment presents new challenges for field service managers. In the Service Council’s 2021 survey of 900 field service technicians, over 90% said they needed more knowledge to meet their job responsibilities. If younger field service technicians are expected to service increasingly complex products, they must have easier access to technical information unintentionally locked up in corporate silos or trapped in the heads of their baby boomer teammates.
The challenge facing field service executives is capturing and making available valuable installation and servicing knowledge. One innovative and cost-effective solution is repurposing CAD data produced by product design teams to develop 3D instructions that are delivered to the field service staff’s mobile devices.
It’s no secret that a field service organization’s success is dependent on the speed and quality of the service provided by its technicians. Long gone are the days when field service technicians could quickly flip through a service manual to find the information needed to install or repair a product.
Even the best examples of 2D installation and servicing instructions can still leave less-experienced field service technicians confused and frustrated as they struggle to interpret the steps to a successful installation or repair.
Today’s sophisticated equipment requires hundreds of pieces of information to install, service, and maintain – information that is not easily digestible from PDF manual. It’s no wonder technicians are frustrated by the lack of quality knowledge available while on-site with a customer.
3D Makes the Complex More Digestible
3D instructions deliver information more efficiently by providing the visual elements lacking in traditional 2D PDF-based installation and service documentation.
New software technologies have been introduced that allow CAD data to be repurposed to generate a digital twin of a product including realistic images and animations.
With 3D instructions, field service technicians can interact with a digital twin of the product being installed or serviced including looking at the product from all angles. The technical information in a well-designed 3D instruction is the same as a 2D PDF; however, the technician follows a series of animated steps that bring the product to life and visually instruct the technician on the installation or repair procedures. In most 3D instructions, only limited text is used which minimizes the need for language localization.
Imagine being asked to replace the ink toner cartridge on an industrial printer that you rarely service. Your only information resource is a 300-page service manual in PDF format downloaded to your mobile phone. Translating what you read in the tiny text into a series of steps to replace the toner cartridge is a frustrating scenario that will increase the technician’s time on site and decrease first-time fix averages. Most likely, the technician will telephone a teammate to find help tying up two staff members.
Now, imagine how confident and knowledgeable you would feel replacing the toner cartridge if step-by-step instructions using a digital twin of the printer were accessible on your mobile phone.
3D instructions deliver the information that “green” field service technicians need without utilizing the valuable time of a more experienced coworker. With the use of links, technicians are not confined to just linear, 2D instructions. They can jump back and forth to different steps or even to a completely different set of instructions or web page.
The Future is 3D
The source of 3D installation and servicing instructions are repurposed CAD files that your product team created when designing the original product. It won’t be long before 3D instructions are essential to every field service organization’s digital transformation roadmap. Reducing technicians’ time on site, the number of telephone calls to teammates, and the number of times those calls turn into repeat service calls is a huge competitive advantage that will result in happier customers and less harried, more effective technicians.