When it Comes to Servicing Medical Devices, is There a “Silver Bullet”?

The demands placed on the medical device field service industry are growing rapidly. How can medical device service organizations achieve compliance, set themselves apart from the competition, and provide support for the new generation of technicians, all while ensuring they are achieving maximum efficiency in the field and increasing profitability?

In a new guest blog for Field Service Digital, AnswersAnywhere’s VP of Sales and Business Strategy Bo Wandell explores why more and more medical equipment companies are turning to knowledge management to help, and how they can ensure they have the right system in place.

 

Posted by / July 24, 2019 / Posted in Blog

Is Your Field Service Knowledge Up to Date?

In field service, things change quickly. And that includes your company’s knowledge.

The ugly truth about knowledge management is that a knowledge base is outdated as soon as it’s published.

Installation manuals, parts lists, and technical information all need to be kept updated frequently.

Field service technicians lose faith in knowledge that’s inaccurate or outdated. Costly errors occur from ill-informed decisions. Incorrect parts are ordered. Time technicians don’t have is spent searching for the right answer.

All of this lowers their productivity, increases your service costs and frustrates your customers.

Sound familiar?

There’s no doubt that knowledgeable decision-making leads to more first-time fixes. And better business for you.

Get your priorities right

Trying to capture and manage all knowledge can be mind-blowing. It quickly becomes impossible, unless you have a more technological system in place (like AnswersAnywhere, dare I say?)

So, in the short-term, focus on the knowledge that your field service team actually NEEDS in order to service and fix the equipment.

It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed by how tangled up many businesses can become at this point.

Our advice? Speak to your field service team and establish these priorities with their involvement.

How to keep it current and accurate 

Once your knowledge priorities are clear, identify the key personnel to involve. You’ll probably need to get different departments talking to each other and sharing resources.

This in itself, can be a big hurdle.

Try to develop a system that works for your business and your level of knowledge management. Ponder these questions:

* Where can updated files and documents be found?

* Who collates them?

* Who processes them?

* Should your documents be coded or tagged?

* Where will your updated knowledge be stored?

* How will this be communicated? To whom?

Look Towards the Future

Granted, it’s time-consuming to keep your knowledge current. Especially with limited technology and support. But the potential benefits to productivity, customer service, and profitability make it an essential task to master.

And consider this: future, game-changing technology such as AI is likely to depend on it.

Think about what your knowledge needs to look like. Would templates help the management process? Should lengthy documents be summarized? Scrolling through a 200-page manual to find the answer is hardly productive.

Also consider how and where you’ll store your current knowledge. A shared drive? A login section on your website? In the office, ready to support phone queries?

The more central, collated and systemized your knowledge is, the easier it will be to keep current and accurate. 

How to transform your knowledge management system 

If your present way of doing things is driving you and your field service team mad, consider a change that’ll make a huge difference. Ask me about our Discovery Workshop. It’s an affordable starting point for a daunting task.

Our knowledge experts will walk you through the process of identifying and utilizing your knowledge. We provide you with the people, technology and expertise needed for a knowledge management project. Essentially, we do all the work and you avoid all the stress!

The result is the ability to arm your field service team with the answer to everything. Instantly.

This is how you thrash those KPIs, once and for all.

Does Your Business Depend Too Much on Online Access?

What happens when your field service technicians can’t get online?

Even in 2019, it can happen. You might be working in a remote area or underground, where you can’t get a signal. Some organizations won’t allow online access while you’re on-site, even if you do have a signal.

Hospitals are a great example of this. Technicians that service medical equipment are often asked to put their device into flight mode. In these situations, downtime is critical. A broken MRI scanner can literally impact the health of the nation. Your client needs an immediate fix and will measure your performance accordingly.

It’s no secret that poor access to technical information can be detrimental to your KPIs.

We rely heavily on that signal for so much, don’t we?

Sure, there are workarounds.

Technical manuals and parts lists could be saved as PDFs on the device, but storage space might be an issue. The technician could decide to carry paper manuals, but that seems cumbersome. Plus, PDFs and paper manuals still require technicians to search through hundreds (or hundreds of thousands!!!) of pages of information to find the answers they need. Some technicians try to anticipate the likely fault ahead of the site visit, but if an unforeseen problem arises, they’re stuck.

Bottom line is that none of these solutions is efficient and all negatively impacts up-times and service costs. Offline access is the ultimate solution.

Did you know that AnswersAnywhere works offline? Wherever you’re working, whatever the signal, you’ll have immediate access to all your knowledge and data. All in one place, available all the time.

Implementing digital knowledge management is not a quick fix, but it is a robust and long-term investment in the future of your business. And that’s why proactive organizations are talking to us about how to revolutionize their mobile knowledge management.

What are the Top 5 Most Common Knowledge Management Mistakes companies make? Watch our short video to find out!

How to Motivate Your Field Service Millennials

You’re losing your experienced workforce to retirement and recruiting younger workers. Millennials might seem like a whole different breed and there’s no doubt they are shaking up the way businesses operate!

Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials (Generation Y) are now well-established in the workplace. They’ve grown up in a fast-paced, digital environment – very different from the earlier internet-free, job-for-life culture.

Every generation has its own strengths and weaknesses. Millennial strength is learning digital tools quickly. Considering the massive digital transformation that field service is currently undergoing, this is a fantastic opportunity for organizations!

Of course, Millennial workforces aren’t without their weaknesses and organizations are feeling those frustrations.

Many Millennials lack the in-depth knowledge needed for their role. It’s not their fault – they just haven’t had the opportunity to build up the years of experience their older colleagues have.

With the growth of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, “human” research into problems will diminish. Perfect for Millennials! But until such technology is common-place, younger engineers will “Google” for an answer (unless they’re working with a more knowledgeable colleague). Where else can the answer come from?

Even more frustrating is that Millennials change jobs more often than any other generation. They are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and are more eager to “move up or move on” than their predecessors. In a recent survey, two-thirds of Millennial respondents said the “right” amount of time to stay in a role before being promoted or searching for a better opportunity was less than two years and a quarter said less than 12 months.

So, you risk building up knowledge in their heads, only to lose it again!

Develop Your Business the Millennial Way

Millennials are your workforce now – embracing them (and the tools they need) will enhance your productivity and put you ahead. Here are some simple actions to consider:

  • Make time for regular team feedback so that learning can be shared.
  • Buddy Millennials with older engineers (while you still have them!). Not only will this help foster camaraderie in the workplace, but it is a way to capture that valuable tribal knowledge from your more experience workers.
  • Collate your knowledge onto a shared drive, so workers know where to go for answers and won’t resort to “Google”.
  • Make your organization a great place to work – Millennials value emotional intelligence and a healthy work/life balance.
  • Involve younger engineers in shaping your future field service systems and let them know their input is valued. The worst think you can do is treat Millennials like “kids”. They have a unique set of strengths and want to feel respected.

Of course, the ultimate solution is a mobile, digitized knowledge management system that holds all the technical information they’ll ever need to access. It plays to the strengths of Millennials 100%.

By taking smaller steps now, you’ll be better placed when you’re ready to develop a more advanced system.

Want to learn more? Check out our infographic on how to get the best out of Millennials!

Combating the Challenge of an Aging Workforce

We’re all getting older…

Something we’re hearing time and again from customers is the challenge of an aging workforce.

I spoke to an attendee at Field Service USA last month who told me how at his company, all the complex technical questions went to a handful of people who had decades of know-how in their head. Unfortunately, these people will all be retiring soon.

His story probably sounds familiar to you. Every company is grappling with this same question: How do you extract the information from their heads and into the hands of less-experienced, junior colleagues?

Yes, the Baby Boomers are retiring and there’s nothing we can do about it. But you can prepare for the changes this will have on your service organization and surf this wave successfully.

Develop your plan now.

The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation.

Get key people in your organization talking about this. What knowledge does our organization hold in manuals and other sources? And what resides only in the heads of our ageing workforce? Who are our aging Knowledge Gurus and what are the common questions they get asked?

Can older engineers help you extract their knowledge through workshops, mentoring and coaching programs? Is there a way to turn their knowledge into how-to videos? In fact, according to Forrester Research, 75% of employees would prefer to watch a video rather than read an email or web page.

A danger with these plans, of course, is if the younger engineer leaves you’re back to square one. Millennials are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and they’re only half as likely to be employed by the same company after 10 years.

This is why diversifying your field service workforce with new hires that include mature workers is a great idea.

One of the most important steps you can take right now is starting a project to collate all your knowledge from various departments and put it in one place. That might simply be on a wiki or shared drive for now or it could be something like AnswersAnywhere.

But by just starting the first steps, you’re already ahead of many!

Want to learn more about how you can address the talent gap and surf the silver tsunami? 

The Take-Away from Field Service Palm Springs? It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated!

Field Service USA is over and we’ve waved good-bye to gorgeous Palm Springs (and its 100° Fahrenheit heat) for another year. As always, the event proved to be chock-full of great discussions, insightful sessions, eye-opening innovations… and flamingos of course!

Knowledge Management emerged as a big theme this year, both on the expo floor and during the sessions. It’s no wonder – 62% of executives attending Field Service said they planned on investing in knowledge management within the next 24 months!

Jonathan Ralphs, CEO of AnswersAnywhere, joined Microsoft’s Clayton Fernandez, Johnson Control’s Pat Foley, Tokyo Electron’s Ed McMurray during Day One of Field Service to discuss the latest tools and best processes for effective knowledge management.

What Does it Take to Make Knowledge Management Work? Quite a lot!

One of the first questions brought up on the panel was “What exactly is involved to make knowledge management work?” The unanimous answers seemed to be: Quite a lot!

As Jonathan explained, knowledge management requires a combination of people, processes and technology in order to be successful.  It’s too easy to underestimate what’s involved and over-promise on results. In fact, most KM projects undertaken by corporations fail because of the complexity and volume of work that might be involved.

The panelists agreed that a KM project is more than just choosing platforms and technologies; it’s about understanding the required outcomes and working back from that to determine how to achieve them with whom.

A member from the audience asked who typically leads the knowledge management initiative within an organization. Pat and Ed both observed that usually the responsibility is assigned to one individual; however, it’s typically given on top of other responsibilities, making it difficult to prioritize knowledge management.

This may not always be the case though. As organizations begin to recognize the importance of knowledge management, Jonathan predicted that it wouldn’t be long until the position of Chief Knowledge Officer becomes as commonplace within corporations as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

Where in the World Do You Start?

Another important discussion on the panel was where someone should start with their KM strategy. Jonathan stressed that implementing knowledge management doesn’t have to be complicated, “Like any new project, break it down into its essential parts and ensure that stakeholders are involved from the very beginning. Don’t become too ambitious too soon; better to have lower expectations and build out one piece well rather than going all-out straight away.”

Where do I start? is a question that we get all the time at AnswersAnywhere. Knowledge management can feel like an overwhelming task that often leaves people wondering where to begin. During the panel, Jonathan advised starting with the major pain points:

  • Identify which groups of products are taking up more time and costing more to support
  • Measure these product support costs (against the average).
  • Start with the field service end and work back to identify which steps of the product support process is causing the bottleneck.
  • Determine what is required to free this bottleneck and together with stakeholders and field engineers, discuss what the priorities need to be
  • Agree to a pilot including some or all of the ‘difficult’ group of products and agree a realistic plan to deliver this initial phase
  • Deliver the pilot with training and support. Measure the outcomes and compare to the starting point.  If successful, these will be important to work up the business plan to take to the next stage.

 

Jonathan concluded his advice with this: “Let me give you an example. Recently I had a discussion with a service company that wanted to reduce their call outs to fix their customers broken-down cars. We implemented a pilot in the call center with 20 basic questions for the agents to ask the customer as a form of basic triage. Used 20 agents for the trial – a cross-section including those with NO car experience so they couldn’t use their own ‘expertise’ – and gave them very basic training. They ended up reducing call-outs by 75%!”

What’s Next for Knowledge Management?

Wrapping up the session, the panel discussed where they saw knowledge management going in the future. The panelists agreed they saw a blending of the lines between the different technologies and systems that gives a seamless experience without toggling from system to system.  For example, creating a ‘hybrid’ KM where the service tech has a 360 degree view of the customer, the product and all knowledge relating to it, all in one place through one interface.

Jonathan also added that knowledge management should be always available, even offline where feasible, and present the latest ‘approved’ knowledge so the field service tech can close the job faster and accurately.

As for final thoughts on knowledge management, Jonathan concluded that he hoped the take away from the session would be one thing: “It doesn’t have to be complicated!”

Want to learn more about implementing a Knowledge Management initiative? Let’s talk!

Speed to Knowledge: The secret to knowledge management in the MedTech industry

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Field Service Medical Device in San Diego, CA. The event provided an endless supply of in-depth conversations regarding the pains that Med-Tech companies were facing in the field. One topic that came up again and again was the need for engineers to have better access to technical information while on site.

One service director I spoke to was lamenting the amount of time his field service engineers spent searching for the correct piece of information. He made a great comment that probably rings true for a lot of medical device field service organizations: if you put an experienced field service engineer in a room with a broken piece of equipment, most likely they would eventually get that broken machine up and running again. However, he continued, that’s not how field service works.

Efficiency is the Name of the Game

The attendee makes an excellent point that I’m sure we can all agree with: When it comes to MedTech field service, efficiency is the name of the game… and efficiency doesn’t happen without access to knowledge.

Did you know that field service organizations incur $1.68M of unnecessary costs per year due to lack of access to knowledge? It’s easy to read this statistic and think the solution is simply to give your engineers access to knowledge. However, simply giving them all the knowledge they need isn’t enough to deliver efficient service.

Many organizations recognize that their engineers need more efficient access to knowledge. However, too many focus on the publishing and creating of new knowledge. While the creation of new knowledge certainly has its place within an organization, this is definitely not the most effective approach.

In KMWorld’s 2016-17 Knowledge Management Survey, 56% of corporate executives said the main challenge to developing and delivering a knowledge base is the fact that knowledge sharing is not integrated into their staff’s daily work regime and the required information is locked up in enterprise silos. Couple this with the fact that it takes 12 days for field service organizations to create just one new knowledge base article and you can see why creating new knowledge is not the efficient solution it might first appear to be!

If Creating New Knowledge Isn’t the Answer, then What Is?

A much-more efficient approach for field service organizations intent on getting knowledge to their engineers is to focus on the delivery of existing knowledge which already has been created and validated by internal departments.

Virtually every corporation has an enormous amount of valuable explicit knowledge locked up in departmental silos in the form of paper based documents, PDFs, product and installation manuals, service notices, training materials, part lists, images, 3-D renderings, exploded diagrams and databases.

In short, why recreate the wheel when all the information that your engineers need to do their job efficiently already exists?

Of course, it simply isn’t enough for field service engineers to have access to the information needed to fix a piece of equipment. They also need to be able to quickly search and locate the information they need while on site, know that that information is up-to-date and compliant with current regulations, and have access to it no matter what their location’s connectivity is like. After all, when you’re in the basement of a hospital trying to get a critical piece of medical equipment up and running, the last thing you should have to worry about is how good your wireless connection is.

By working with a Knowledge Management company that specializes in taking the wealth of knowledge that exists within a corporation and transforming it into a single knowledge base that is mobile, current and easily searchable, organizations can bypass the exhausting and time-consuming task of creating a knowledge base from scratch.

Or, as our knowledge experts at AnswersAnywhere like to call it: Speed to knowledge!

2018: A Year in Review

A new year is upon us (believe it or not)! Now is the perfect time for reflection on our achievements and lessons learned. 2018 was an incredibly busy year for AnswersAnywhere as we continued our upwards momentum. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2018 as we sail into the new year.

Were You at Field Service This Year? We Were!

2018 was a year of networking and travel for AnswersAnywhere, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! We were proud to sponsor three Field Service trade shows. First, we headed to sunny Palm Springs, CA in April for Field Service USA. In August, we jetted to the sandy beaches of Amelia Island, FL for Field Service Fall. Finally, we joined our AnswersAnywhere UK colleagues in Amsterdam to cap the year off at Field Service Europe.

Watch Bo Wandell, VP of Sales and Business Strategy demonstrate AnswersAnywhere at Field Service Fall ’18.

The Field Service events continue to be the premier place to learn about best practices and leading edge technology, while interacting with industry leaders and top tier vendors.

We’re not slowing down in the new year! Sign up to stay up to date on AnswersAnywhere news and events in 2019.

Taking Work to the Next Level at Knowledge18

Of course, the Field Service shows weren’t the only events we sponsored this year, as we attended Knowledge18 in Las Vegas, NV. AnswersAnywhere is a proud technology partner of ServiceNow, and Knowledge18 presented the perfect opportunity to network and reconnect with a community of ServiceNow customers, experts, and partners.

Learn More about our integration with ServiceNow Field Service Management!

Setting New Standards of Field Service Efficiency with ServiceMax

In May, we were extremely excited to announce the successful completion of certification testing of the app-to-app integration capabilities of AnswersAnywhere and the ServiceMax Field Service App. Through the new integration, users can seamlessly launch the AnswersAnywhere app from within the ServiceMax mobile app and pull up the relevant technical and parts knowledge, before passing the selected parts directly to the ServiceMax Field Service App.

This integration showcases the ongoing dedication of both AnswersAnywhere and ServiceMax to supporting service technicians in completing service visits faster, more accurately and more profitably.

Learn more about our partnership with ServiceMax and watch a video demonstration of our integration.

Most Read: How Mature is Your Field Service Organization?

Mobility continues to be a hot topic in field service, as our most popular blog of the year proves! More and more companies are making investing in mobile technology a priority for 2019 and beyond. However, it’s clear the industry has a way to go still. Market intelligence company, Aberdeen, recently published its Mobile Field Service Survey, which found that only 54% of field service organizations can be classified as “mature”.

Find out where your organization falls on this maturity scale!

3,000 Views and Counting!

At the end of November, we released our new AnswersAnywhere video. We’ve been thrilled at the great response the video has received, already receiving over 3,000 views on YouTube! The video runs just over one minute and provides insight into the process of transforming customers’ existing technical information into an interactive, optimized mobile knowledge base. If you haven’t already, watch now for a better understanding of how this powerful Knowledge-as-a-Service solution empowers your field service technicians with the knowledge they need.

Watch Video to Learn More

These are just a few of the highlights from an outstanding year. We can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store as we continue our commitment to knowledge management innovation and field service efficiency.

We’d love to talk to you about your organization’s knowledge management efforts! Contact us today for a no-obligation discussion.