How Technical Documentation Impacts Field Service Procedures

Internet of Things | 12 August 2019 | Team EACPDS

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Let’s talk about how technical documentation impacts field service procedures, high costs of inaccurate technical information, the root causes of service failures, and how to achieve high field service productivity and effectiveness.

Many of the fundamental issues in service occur due to inaccurate service information and technical documentation that is difficult to understand.

We have all been in a situation, at least once, that involved failure to deliver a service as promised. Why? It’s because all brands and businesses make promises! But the truth is… service issues happen

When service fails to deliver on promises, or a buyer experiences poor customer service, the result almost always ends with lost customers, canceled subscriptions, and tarnished brand reputation.

The impact of a service failure can be devastating. Let’s talk about the root causes impacting service issues and failures

The impacts of service issues

The greatest influence on service almost always has to do with one thing; technical documentation. By technical documentation I am referring to tech pubs, standard operating procedure documents, service instructions, maintenance manuals, guides, work instructions, procedures, bulletins, etc.

I’m talking about anything and everything that is provided to help assist and guide service technicians. Many of the fundamental issues in service occur due to technical documentation, let’s talk about why.

Technical Documentation and Field Service

Today many field service and manufacturing organizations rely on traditional time-intensive methods to develop and deploy technical documentation such as service procedures, work instructions, guides, manuals, etc.

But the fact is – oftentimes the tech pubs, guides, and manuals that are created, aren’t even read (or in some cases even used) by field service representatives for which they were designed!

In addition, technician instruction manuals and documentation designed to be used in field service are often out-of-date. This is due to the high maintenance and distribution costs to create, maintain and produce continually up-to-date field service documentation.

This issue compounds as products become more and more complex in response to ever increasing customer demands for innovation and customization.

This rise in complex products has resulted in complex service and maintenance procedures, affecting and influencing inaccuracies in technical writing and documentation. As the demand for complex maintenance and service procedures increase, technician efficiency decreases due to more time being spent searching for the correct service information in a format that can be used on the field. This often results in repair and maintenance delays.

When service technicians encounter unfamiliar problems and don’t have reliable service information to solve a problem, the need for repeat service visits increases. There are many major negative consequences from these situations.

For example, a customer might experience equipment downtime. This downtime impacts both the service provider, as it inflates the cost of service, as well as the customer, as they lose productivity.

The high costs of inefficient field service

For you, as a service provider, the consequences of poor service information, complex products, and poor technician efficiency can drastically impact your costs of service in a number of ways.

For starters, let’s assume you work with service contracts. Service contracts often contain elements such as equipment up-time clauses. In the case you were to unintentionally breach one of these ‘set clauses’, it’s fair to assume the organization would face undesirable penalties and costs.

Take a deep breath. All is not lost. The added costs from inefficient service strategies are completely avoidable!

Repeat field service visits also drastically increase business costs. Multiple repeat visits to service products quickly increase costs and become very expensive. This is why many organizations seek to avoid repeat service visits at all cost.

A rarely considered cost-driver for service stems from difficulties comprehending poorly written, inaccessible, and out-of-date technical documentation.

When service technicians are unable to easily identify which spare parts are required, they often order multiple parts in hope that one will be correct. This results in high part returns, and handling costs. Not to mention, the need to hold more parts in stock from inflated orders (the bull whip effect), also affects parts inventory.

The skills gap is also increasing the cost of inefficient service.

“Faced with continuing economic expansion and retirement of baby boomers, the US manufacturing industry is looking at a potential shortage of 2.4 million workers in the next decade.”2018 Deloitte & The Manufacturing Institute skills gap study

To put it in perspective, a large portion of our workforce is approaching retirement soon. This is causing the skills gap to widen. With the loss of tribal knowledge, access to consumable expert knowledge becomes increasingly necessary.

New and inexperienced technicians have repeat service visits which cause an organization to face higher training costs, while overburdened experienced staff members are forced to train and pick up the slack for newer employees.

All of these things impact customer satisfaction. These conditions damage service reputations for both an organizations product, as well as, service contracts. Most importantly, all of these scenarios impact an organizations ability to retain customers and garner repeat business.

How to gain high service productivity and effectiveness

In order to obtain high technician productivity and effectiveness you must re-evaluate your service methods and procedures

Increase technician comprehension with accurate AR work instructions

To increase technician comprehension, look into concepts to create accurate, in-context augmented reality (AR) work instructions that overlay digital information onto a physical product.

Establish accurate part identification

Consider implementing accurate AR experiences so part identification, replacement and ordering are easy and accurate.

Enable remote real-time work instructions

Enable expert technicians to give remote, real-time guidance on physical objects using assisted reality tools like Vuforia Chalk.

All of these help service organizations create a more flexible, agile, workforce. These changes result in increased equipment uptime and productivity. They result in happier customers and more empowered workers.

Most importantly – you can start implementing these benefits today. All the technology currently exists. We would love to work with you and your organization to understand your service operations goals and map a path forward.

An easy way to create digital work instructions for service