Best Practices in Field Services
By Gerald Norz, VP Global Customer services, Babcock & Wilcox MEGTEC
Field service management software or workforce management solutions aren’t anything new. Large enterprises, like Babcock & Wilcox MEGTEC (B&W MEGTEC), a subsidiary of Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc., have hundreds of people in this field, and have relied on these solutions for years. However, sharing best practices can also be used to positively impact the areas of business most in need of optimization.
B&W MEGTEC, based in De Pere, Wisconsin, is a long-recognized world-class supplier of engineered products and environmental solutions tailored to match its customers’ manufacturing requirements. The company employs roughly 350 people in the US and approximately 600 globally, and maintains a worldwide service and replacement parts support network.
Gerald Norz, Vice President of Global Customer Services, manages the 65 million dollar aftermarket business on a global basis. Their solution is a little like an air traffic control system that distributes jobs to remote technicians. We do this by using an automated scheduling solution, through remote monitoring, and by using some of our proprietary tools.
B&W MEGTEC provides aftermarket services, including equipment upgrades and rebuilds, process energy optimization, preventive maintenance, and parts for its own equipment as well as for other manufacturer’s equipment.
The View from 30,000 Feet
Field service management includes a wide range of functions, including scheduling service calls, dispatching field technicians and replacement parts, remotely monitoring equipment, tracking vehicles and assets, and providing 24/7 customer support. The goal of using all these tools is in meeting customer expectations. With time at a premium, the end game is to manage resources to optimize field service efficiency and maintain safety, customer satisfaction while meeting business goals.
One of the ways this is accomplished is through the use of automated scheduling software. The company’s web-based solution automates everything required to support commissioning, emergency service support and preventive maintenance (PM) contracts, from processing the initial customer request through invoicing, and follow up on each year.
Using this integrated suite of software tools, the PM schedule is generated from usage forecasts and mean time to failure (MTTF) expectations of components. All service requests and corresponding tasks are automatically generated from this schedule. Meanwhile, the dispatch center provides a unified view of all field service tasks for scheduling, including a planning board. Using tools such as Google Maps, customer locations are then cross referenced against the installed base information.
"Our solution is a little like an air traffic control system that distributes jobs to remote technicians. We do this by using an automated scheduling solution, through remote monitoring, and by using some of our proprietary tools "
The Best Candidate Fit
Regardless of the automated solution, assigning the right field technician to a specific job site, providing the right parts and tools, managing shifting schedules, along with locating a technician within the proximity of the job can be a daunting task. The scheduler consults a capabilities chart to ensure that a given technician is qualified for a specific work assignment. At B&W MEGTEC, the predetermined technician profiles and skill sets are maintained in proprietary Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
Additionally, B&W MEGTEC’s proprietary tool also takes into account the amount of time it will take to complete a given work task. This target task time is based on product type and through extensive field experience. It is used to establish a baseline for repetitive work such as installation, equipment commissioning, mechanical inspections and preventive maintenance.
The Tools of the Trade
Another mission-critical aspect of aftermarket services is having the right parts in stock based on an MTTF of components cross referenced with historical usage. The size of the installed base compared with historic usage must be taken into consideration in the ERP system for parts stocking. Having the ERP and service management system integrated within one common database is beneficial.
Using this system, schedulers are able to dispatch the most suitable field technician, and provide the right parts. This enables field techs to resolve technical service issues in a timely manner -- while honoring service agreements and warranties. Additionally, the use of tracking tools helps to improve service effectiveness by reducing idle time.
Through the use of automated software, the optimized schedule results in a decrease in travel time and associated costs. Additionally, follow-up tasks are established in the work order system to plan parts, track travel, the work assignment and to handle follow up for future PM work levels.
Out In The Field
At the same time, a technician portal allows technicians to receive and manage work tasks assigned from a personalized dashboard. This enables the field technician to update task status to report back to the scheduler as well as debrief on parts, labor and expenses. These real-time updates provide the scheduler with the data they needs to meet the specified SLA.
The dashboard also provides the field technician with access for service request creation and a knowledge database. Access to information about the customer, historical data, product and contract enable him/her to provide superior customer service and complete the work within the specified time frame. In addition, the technician portal provides company news and updates specific to the field service staff. This information is available from the technician’s laptop and is accessible wherever wireless connectivity is available.
Having access to technical documentation and other support documents help us the most with first time fix rates. So we need to make sure the field service engineer has support information available including the machine history.
The service history is maintained in a central database so that it is accessible to everyone in the organization. The history of the service requests (SR’s) are held for both a customer record and a machine record.
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Technology
B&W MEGTEC equipment is automated equipment operating without direct operator control. To assist in troubleshooting and proactive maintenance, data is collected continuously from the equipment and stored in the cloud. This data is then analyzed on a regular basis or can be referenced directly after an equipment fault to speed up troubleshooting.
Remote monitoring provides ways to further optimize operations because it allows us to respond to machine-generated service alerts. This ProcessMonitorTM tool collects data direct from the machine’s programmable logic controller (PLC). Remote access capability helps us to identify service problems prior to breakdown, and diagnose faults before a field technician is dispatched.