agsandrew - Fotolia
Service has not always been at the forefront of the manufacturing process. Companies make a product, sell it and then send someone out to maintain or fix it only after an issue arises.
Needless to say, this is not the most efficient process, and manufacturers are finding that being more proactive about service saves costs and leads to happier customers. One way to do this is through outcome-based services, which help companies become proactive with service. Products are sold not just on the products themselves, but on their performance and the quality of service (QoS).
PAC (Petroleum Analyzer Company), a Houston-based company that manufactures advanced analytical instruments to test petroleum products for refineries, faced a field service quality problem. These instruments, manufactured according to very specific guidelines, are absolutely vital to PAC's customers in the petroleum refining industry, according to Eric Rivas, PAC director of global service and customer experience. So, service is critical, and downtime is expensive.
To replace a field service management system that was disjointed and inadequate, Rivas said, PAC implemented an FSM platform from ServiceMax, a GE Digital company. The result has been a vastly improved field service process and the ability to use an outcome-based services model that allows PAC to use QoS to stand out from the competition.
PAC uses the IFS ERP system for logistics, operations, finance, accounting and supply chain, and although it has a service module, Rivas said that it is not designed for field service operations.
"We have a global service site, but everybody was doing something different. Some people were off-lining and doing service reports in Excel; some people were using the ERP functionality," Rivas said. "We had no way of measuring our service business because everybody was doing something different. Everyone was measuring utilization differently with a very basic key performance indicator (KPI). So, we needed a tool that could bring some consistency across our global organization and provide a consistent customer experience, and ServiceMax gave us that functionality."
Centralizing field service control
Before implementing ServiceMax, it could take several days just to set up technicians' appointments. When a customer contacted the company with a service issue, PAC would call a service technician to give a work order. Then, it would contact the customer to give the work order and let them know that the technician would call to schedule the service. If the technician was working on a remote site with limited cell phone service, this could take several days. ServiceMax centralizes the field service requests in one system, improving the consistency of scheduling service requests across the organization.
"Now, a field service coordinator uses the ServiceMax dispatch console to look at all the service technicians -- all of the current work orders that they've been assigned, where the region is where they're at in real time," Rivas said. "When a customer calls in with an issue and we have that location, we can see which technician is closest to them and when we can get somebody out there the soonest. We went from an average of about a 17-day response time to less than three days."
The outcome-based services that ServiceMax helps PAC deliver have become a differentiator in the market, according to Rivas, because the high level of customer service maximizes the uptime experience of the machines.
"This is important because, at a refinery, when they have an instrument go down and they're not able to ship the product out, it costs a huge amount of money every single day if they're not able to ship jet fuel or diesel or whatever product they're trying to get out," he said. "So, they appreciate that we're able to respond quickly, but not only that, now, our organization has a full 360-degree view with open work orders, open cases, things that are coming in the pipeline."
Improved service fuels growth
This focus on outcome-based services has become a major part of PAC's growth strategy for 2018.
"Service has a big piece of it, but without the data, we could never really promise anything or improve our processes," Rivas said. "We're driving better on improving our response times, getting to them faster, doing repairs faster, having the right parts on hand, scheduling the right technician for the right job [and], internally as an organization, looking at our profitability and maximizing our effectiveness and efficiency and scheduling."
ServiceMax is SaaS built on the Salesforce platform, which makes it much more accessible for PAC's field service technicians. Previously, technicians needed to access the field service function of the IFS ERP system through a virtual private network connection, but ServiceMax allows them to complete service orders on-site with an iPad. These can then integrate with the ERP system when the technician gets a secure internet connection, such as at a hotel.
"This is very big because we would have customers not be able to sign a service report because their tech didn't have any internet, and when the customer didn't sign the service report, we weren't able to invoice," Rivas explained. "All these work orders start piling up, and it became a real headache for us. But now, they can get the signature right there with the iPad and approve of the work performed, which really helps us stay on top of the whole work order management."
The data that PAC can now collect about service issues through ServiceMax can now be analyzed to determine trends and implement preventative measures. Rivas said that this was not possible before because PAC lacked the processes to capture the right data and a repository for the data.
"We really didn't know what our response time was or our repair time, but now, we do because of how ServiceMax is designed to capture the data points at the right time and in the right place so we know what we're doing," he said. "Our customers also like to look at this data, and we share with them their scorecard, and that's something else that nobody else is doing as far as in our industry. So, we're open and transparent with that, and we're continuing to improve."