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Industrial Products Group General Manufacturing

Tips for Successful Field Service Work for Manufacturers

By OTC Insights Team on March 16, 2023

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OTC Insights Team

Established in 1963, OTC Industrial Technologies is one of the largest industrial distributors & service providers in the United States. We're committed to seeing industrial operations advance through expert technical solutions & unmatched support using our years of experience.

As manufacturers are facing labor and workforce issues, more pressure gets put on the internal teams that are left to cover the work.

Often, the work that may be most difficult to cover is internal maintenance and repair. You may have available resources to cover standard and scheduled maintenance, but an unexpected problem or an issue that requires more work will strain that team to the breaking point.

Many manufacturers outsource manufacturing solution providers for field service work to cover the gap.

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What Is Field Service Work for Manufacturers?

Field service is work done on-site by an outside service team. For example, equipment or a machine needing repair or maintenance that can’t be shipped to a repair shop or the vendor might need field service work.

Sometimes it’s impractical to move the machine, or it’s cost prohibitive. A field service team brings expertise and resources that won’t strain internal teams so the work gets completed quickly and efficiently.

Installation of a new machine is another area that may require field service work. In the past, you may have had the labor on hand to handle most, if not all, of the installation. Today, however, it’s not practical to pull the workforce off existing projects.

Types of Field Service Work

We’re covering the standard categories of field service work in manufacturing; however, the list below is not all-inclusive. When discussing a project or need with a solution provider, discuss your options for field service work if you are interested.

Here are the standard categories of field service work:

  • Installation: A technician can ensure that purchased equipment is correctly installed. They can handle any testing of the equipment, and make sure it’s fully operational. They can also provide training as needed.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance is critical for preventing equipment breakdowns and ensuring efficient machine operations. While basic maintenance is typically handled by internal resources, it is a good idea to have an expert regularly conduct more extensive maintenance. This includes preventative maintenance to identify potential problems before a breakdown happens and proactive work that can be done during scheduled downtime to prevent future equipment failure.
  • Repair: When equipment does break down, you may need a field service team to come on-site to assess the problem and take corrective action. This also includes equipment that isn’t working as expected, or is running slower, more inefficiently, or drawing more power than usual.
  • Consultative: Bringing an expert on-site to provide an analysis or recommendations for future work is important to drive production improvements. This could take the form of a site audit or providing expertise in a specific process, or even planning a new line or machine.

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Tips for Successful Field Service Work

While every project is different, there are best practices that can be applied to most, if not all, field service work. As you plan your work, keep these best practices in mind.

1. Experience Matters

While training is essential for field service work, so is experience. Repairing an expensive piece of equipment on-site is very different from repairing it in a shop. Make sure to talk to the field service team about their experience handling similar work. Ask how they overcame challenges. You shouldn’t expect every team to have completed the exact work you are looking for, but familiarity with the work is valuable. A few quick questions with the solution provider can level-set expectations and eliminate unwelcome surprises during the on-site work.

2. Collaborate on the Scope of Work

Work with the service team to determine and agree on the scope of work. Make sure to involve the team early so they can provide insight to prevent any disagreements or scope overruns later. Clearly define the job and expectations. Determine and explain your goals. Identify any possible impediments to the timely and efficient completion of work. Adjust the plan as needed. Planning before the field service team is on-site is critical to the project’s success. This effort not only aligns expectations with results but can also uncover additional opportunities and prevent confusion.

3. Communicate the Project Schedule

With field service work, there is often a tangled web of stakeholders and people whose work will be impacted by the project. That’s why it’s critical to develop a schedule that works for everyone involved as soon as possible. Let them know the scope of work and the time needed to complete it, then get their feedback before finalizing the schedule. Once the schedule has been finalized, share it with everyone. As the project gets closer, send reminders to avoid any problems or surprises. This not only minimizes difficulties and frustration but builds internal support for the project.

4. Assign a Project Liaison

Streamline communication and decision-making between the field service team and the on-site team by assigning a project liaison. That person will be the single point of contact with each stakeholder, and any decision will go through them. This will avoid confusion and ensure that decisions are made quickly. Your liaison can streamline and drive efficiency across the project.

5. Determine Project Value

Set your business up for future success by calculating the value of the field service work based on the scope of work and project goals. For example, if you are doing preventative maintenance, look at the cost of unplanned downtime for the machine. From that, you can determine the savings. Or look at labor savings for the internal team or the time saved by having the work done on-site. This information is not only important, but it’s data that can be used to support future field service work.

6. Schedule a Project Debrief

Once the work is complete, make sure to schedule a meeting afterward. Go over the work that was done and any follow-up work that may be necessary. Discuss what went well, and what didn’t happen as planned. Begin to gather best practices that can be used for future work and look at ideas for optimizing and improving results. The data and insights you collect during these meetings are invaluable.

OTC Industrial Technologies Field Service Teams

If you have questions about field service work, what services are available on-site, or how to best deliver on your production needs or business goals, then contact the team at OTC.

With OTC, you have access to not only dedicated field service teams with experience successfully handling many of the most complex jobs at job sites across the country but also the entire OTC support team. Your project can utilize the engineering and project management skills of OTC offices nationwide, including fabrication and repair shops, industrial experts in various fields, leaders in repair and maintenance, and OEM-trained technicians.

Field service work can be a critical resource for your company. By utilizing best practices and working with the right team, you can boost efficiency and see a rapid return for your efforts. Contact OTC today to learn more.