Some companies build things. Other companies service things.
That basically describes how a portion of people see the relationship between manufacturing and field service. Manufacturers produce things in a dedicated facility, forming a link in the global supply chain. On the other hand, field service providers travel to wherever a system needs to be installed, maintained, or repaired. It doesn’t matter how much commonality there may be between the people, processes, and equipment involved—some perceive manufacturing and field service as fundamentally different.
It’s understandable. It’s also incorrect, though.
A deep link exists between manufacturing and field service that deserves to be acknowledged and demands to be leveraged. Attitude shifts are overdue. More importantly, manufacturers must operate in sync with field service, starting by embracing tools to make such a thing possible.
Where Manufacturing and Field Service Overlap
Manufacturers may focus on production first and foremost, but field service (often called “maintenance”) also plays an integral role. If machines break down, assembly lines stop until someone can make a repair. When equipment needs scheduled service, technicians do the work to keep efficiency and output at the expected levels. And when production quotas grow, experts arrive on-site to install additional or superior equipment. Some companies build things, yeah, but they depend on field service at every step.
To put that into perspective, consider the economic impact of field service on manufacturing:
- Unplanned downtime costs manufacturers and industrial companies nearly US$1 trillion annually.
- Machine failures and unplanned outages waste 3.3 million production hours yearly.
- Maintenance accounts for up to 40% of total production costs.
- The average facility dedicates 33 hours each week to scheduled maintenance.
These statistics reveal that manufacturers invest large amounts of time and money into performing field service and maintenance activities across their production environments. And when their efforts are lacking in any way, resulting in downtime, the costs are immediate and extreme.
Rethinking the Role of Field Service
Field service plays a fundamental role in the capability, scalability, and underlying cost of manufacturing. That explains why competitiveness in manufacturing increasingly depends on the efficiency of field service operations. Manufacturers can reduce maintenance and overall production costs by utilising technicians and inventory more efficiently.
More significantly, excellence in field service helps manufacturers reduce scheduled and unscheduled downtime. Performing preventative maintenance by addressing issues before they lead to breakdowns requires careful coordination of field service resources, but the result is reduced breakdowns and continually optimised production environments. Likewise, improving service delivery shortens planned downtime. The resulting production gains are hard to estimate but impossible to deny.
Imagine a factory where downtime was never a disruption. That results when manufacturers see field service as a core competency and treat it like a strength.
The most significant challenge in field service arises during periods of growth when tools lack integration. Disparate systems for Field Service Management (FSM), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) result in inefficiencies and communication gaps. Without seamless integration, companies expend substantial resources on importing and exporting databases, configuring complicated APIs, and managing multiple spreadsheets. Tasks like report generation, technician scheduling, and service-level agreement (SLA) sales become cumbersome, ultimately hindering growth.
The Power of Integrated Solutions for Field Service
Ongoing labour shortages and rising wages make it unlikely that manufacturers will be able to elevate their field service operations by hiring more staff. Since the goal is improving field service efficiency while lowering overall maintenance costs as much as possible, manufacturers won’t be able to expand their field service footprint significantly. They must do more with what they already have.
Technology makes that possible. There’s a cost involved with implementing new software. However, by integrating, automating, synchronising, and mobilising all aspects of field service, manufacturers see maintenance costs and downtime plummet, delivering a return far exceeding the investment in software.
Since manufacturers have historically seen field service as separate or secondary, many have not implemented robust technology (or any technology) to upgrade how they dispatch technicians, manage inventory, track service histories, or capture data in the field. Even among manufacturers with field service management (FSM) software in place, however, it may not be integrated or interoperable with the system(s) for managing other aspects of manufacturing, creating a disconnect that can only undermine service standards.
With an FSM solution that works seamlessly on-platform with the ERP, such as Next Service field management software and Oracle NetSuite’s ERP system, the full potential of field service is unleashed. Manufacturers can adopt a predictive maintenance model using tools that make tracking when equipment needs attention easy and automatically deploy a technician to the right place at the right time. They have more visibility and control into the individual and collective pieces of field service to do everything from reducing inventory shrinkage to increasing technician morale and retention.
Linking the field service software with the ERP has the biggest impact because it brings more tools and data together into one platform so that decision-makers at all levels see and do everything in alignment.
Centralising FSM within NetSuite ERP offers many benefits, enhancing streamlined reporting, advanced analytics, real-time inventory management, demand planning, and precise forecasting. In comparison, relying on a stand-alone low-cost FSM tool can result in substantial long-term costs. The costs associated with team inefficiencies, reduced visibility, and data fragmentation accumulate significantly. Unplanned downtime, extended equipment outages, and suboptimal inventory management will likely result in financial losses.
Integrating Next Service FSM and NetSuite leads to substantial savings and operational efficiency improvements:
- Manufacturers experience a considerable reduction in unplanned downtime. Ibema reported a 20% reduction in missed maintenance tasks.
- Efficient predictive maintenance models facilitate a significant decrease in machine failures and enable service plans. Bode Equipment increased service jobs by 34% over two years of use.
- Maintenance costs can be reduced by up to 40% and shrinkage to virtually 100%. Headland reported lost stock, and tools were cut by 98%.
- Manufacturers can utilise their existing workforce more effectively, reducing the need for additional hiring. Thermflo increased the dispatching team’s efficiency by 30% to 50%.
- Real-time inventory management and precise demand planning result in cost savings. Eagle Point Solutions reduced inventory reconciliation time by 75%.
Manufacturing and field service are natural partners, integrated technology is how they team up.
There are clear opportunities for implementing software to digitise field service and manage it on the same platform as production. The advantages of centralising tools within your ERP for comprehensive field service are not only substantial but also cost-effective in the long run.
The choice to integrate is an investment, and with it, there are high risks of selecting software that delivers little value or, much worse, causes chaos in the field because of flawed features. Manufacturers eager to seize the advantage by acting early rather than waiting until later and falling behind the curve must put solutions in place soon. But they must choose wisely, as well.
For best results, depend on a software partner like Klugo with a team of professionals with equal manufacturing, field service, and technology expertise. Book a demo today to see how Klugo + NetSuite + Next Service unlock your operating potential for increased efficiencies, higher profits, and customer service excellence.
NetSuite + Next Service
Klugo’s vision is to unlock the full operating potential of our customers to maximise the value of their business. We do this by helping them achieve operating excellence using NetSuite + Next Service, the world-leading cloud ERP and FSM business platform for small-to-medium-sized businesses.
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