Computer diagnostics of the car in auto-service

Benefits of Integrating IoT and Field Service

Owing to the complexity of its definition, many people loosely use the phrase Internet of Things (IoT) without having a solid grasp of its true meaning. A majority in this category take IoT to be nothing more than the automation of home gadgets, where the internet is used to interconnect computing components embedded in everyday devices.

Granted, the whole idea of IoT got its roots from the home setting. Nevertheless, IoT has outgrown that spectrum and has since penetrated into almost every area of business and industry. By employing IoT, you can literally take full control of everything in your business using a single device. From assigning tasks to monitoring security, managing bills to tracking time, IoT has revolutionized the way business is done.

Interestingly, not so long ago, most technology experts limited their forecasts to machine-to-machine (M2M) integration and Augmented Reality (AR), which also, admittedly, hit the technology industry with an admirable suave. Back then, it could have been laughable for anyone to have suggested that IoT would be so commanding in almost every industry, including real estate, medicine, automobile, and more.

It’s not for nothing, therefore, that the field service industry has also embraced IoT, integrating it in the daily running of business activities, including tracking machine diagnostics, detecting breakdowns, and assigning field engineers to attend to customer needs.

How the Field Service Industry is Benefiting from IoT

Machine uptime has remained an ongoing concern for many customers. In the traditional approach, whenever a machine breaks down, the customer alerts the service provider and then the field service manager checks to see if there is any field engineer available for a new task. Once an engineer has been identified, he’s then dispatched to the site. This worked, but it resulted in an extended machine downtime, a terrible experience for customers.

Thanks to IoT, things are now happening differently. 

IoT is now integrating machines to a central communications centre, where all alerts and status updates are sent. The notifications are instant. The field service manager, therefore, gets to learn of the status of machines at the exact time of status change. An engineer who’s not engaged would then be immediately assigned to undertake any needed servicing or repair. 

By employing IoT, the service provider receives timely reports relating to diagnostics, machine uptime, part failures, and more. The field manager can, as a result, foretell and forestall any possible downtime.

How has this been helpful?

Before giving a definite answer to that question, it’s crucial to note that more than half of all field service organizations now employ IoT in their Asset Management Systems and Field Service Management. And to answer the question, all the organizations that have the two systems integrated using IoT experience twice as much efficiency as those that don’t, states an Aberdeen Group report. As you already know, improved efficiency results in a corresponding upshot in customer satisfaction.

Apps Making a Difference in IoT-Field Service

The integration of IoT into almost every aspect of business prompted the design and development of different applications to link computing devices. Since the advent of IoT, the software development for the technology has come of age. Powerful and lightweight apps that don simple yet beautiful user interfaces are now readily available at affordable price tags. 

A good example of such an App is ecoVaro by Denizon.

ecoVaro not only helps businesses to monitor energy and other relevant environmental data such as Electricity, Gas, Water, Oil, Carbon, Temperature, Humidity, Solar Power, and more, but also provides analytics and comprehensive yet easy to understand reports. The data received from devices such as meters is converted into useful information that’s then presented in figures and graphs, thus allowing you to make decisions based on laid down controls.

The focus of the app is to instantly alert service engineers to go on site to fix issues.

With ecoVaro, field service engineers no longer have to return to the office to get new instructions. Also, customers don’t have to manually fire alerts to the service provider whenever something isn’t working correctly. By employing the latest in IoT, ecoVaro sends notifications to field service managers and engineers about respective customers that need support.

How ecoVaro Helps

Best-in-class companies aren’t ready to compromise on customer satisfaction. Therefore, every available avenue is used to address customer concerns with the deserved agility. By using IoT, ecoVaro makes it possible for field service providers to foresee and foreclose any possible breakdowns.

The inter-connectivity among the devices and the central communications centre results in increased revenue and improved interactivity between the system and the field engineers. This results in greater efficiency and lower downtime, which translates into improved productivity, accountability, and customer satisfaction, as well as creating a platform for a possible expansion of your customer base.

ecoVaro isn’t just about failed machines and fixes. It also provides diagnostics about connected systems and devices. With this, the diagnostics centre receives system reports in a timely manner, allowing for ease of planning and despatch of field officers where necessary.

Clearly, but using the right application, IoT can transform your business into an excellently performing field service company.

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Busy skilled maintenance technician repairing brewery equipment

Proactive Preventative Maintenance: How IoT and Field Service Management Software Helps

FieldElite, our mobile workforce management software, has been key to several industries’ return on investment. Whether it’s for plumbing, electrical, property management, cleaning, and maintenance, FieldElite has provided data centralisation for efficient management of these business activities. 

Field service management software is important to utilise current workload, and also helps resolve future issues. We’re talking about a proactive approach to preventative maintenance. 

How exactly do field service managements help in preventative maintenance? 

The answer lies in how field service management is interlinked with IoT in predicting future jobs for the mobile service industry.  

What is IoT? 

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices and sensors connected to the internet. These “things” (e.g. your smartphone or smartwatch) enable data to be sent and be received without human intervention.

Fundamentally, IoT is about devices being connected to the internet to allow remote monitoring

For many years now, remote monitoring for IT infrastructure has been widely used. 

What’s new that we’re experiencing right now is even the smallest devices — individual light bulbs and sensors — can have a network and internet connection, allowing entire systems to be monitored in great detail. 

Implementing IoT and accessing data can be challenging for most service organisations. However, when combined with predictive analytics and field management software, it can have a huge potential impact on individual businesses and the service industry as a whole. 

What is Preventative Maintenance? 

Preventive maintenance refers to regular, routine maintenance to help keep equipment up and running, preventing any unplanned downtime and expensive costs from unanticipated equipment failure. 

The goal of preventative maintenance is to decrease the likelihood of a machine or an equipment’s failure by performing regular maintenance. 

Preventative management can be very complex, especially for companies with a fleet of equipment or customers. It requires careful planning and scheduling of maintenance on equipment before there is an actual problem. 

Also, preventive maintenance is evolving. It’s not just about scheduling the same work every month to prevent failure anymore. Today, working smarter with better information about equipment conditions is critical to ensure maintenance is effective.

That’s where IoT and field service management software, like FieldElite, comes in. Together, they organise and carry out preventive maintenance needs for service industries. 

How IoT and FieldElite Helps in Preventative Maintenance

With FieldElite and IoT technology, you get the best in preventive maintenance management.

  • Evaluation of equipment or machines — the condition of machines or equipment is evaluated in order to predict when maintenance needs to be performed. 
  • Automated work order — automated time-based work order creation
  • Full condition-based plans — allows you to do the following:
    • Right-size your maintenance work
    • Lower costs
    • Extend the life of your or customer’s assets 
  • Quicker reporting — due to its efficient and automated nature, IoT and field service management software can reduce a field technician’s average report time from two weeks to two days, therefore boosting your cash flow! 

That’s the most important result a mobile service management software can produce (in connection with preventative maintenance). It’s cost-saving! This can be achieved over routine or time-based preventive maintenance, as tasks are only performed when they are needed. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and field service management software is changing field service as we know it. 

Companies who adapt and utilise these technologies will benefit the most from the resulting competitive advantage of preventative maintenance. 

Start elevating every field service experience now!  

Our field service software, FieldElite helps you: 
  • Accepts jobs in the field
  • Automate appointment scheduling
  • Manage scheduled jobs 
  • Get real-time visibility into all operations
  • Have a clear and easy viewing of job locations 
  • Resolve field service calls faster 
  • Enable mobile workers to get the job done right
  • Keep customers updated at every step 
  • Create quotations and accept payments 
  • Analyse efficient reports from field technicians
  • Helps in proper preventative maintenance management. 

Learn how to schedule jobs to field workers with ease. Check out FieldElite

CONTACT US

  • We seek to understand your technology and business challenges
  • We tailor a demonstration of our platform and solutions to align to your specific needs
  • We answer any questions and make sensible recommendations
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Field Service Organisations should use Digital Forms

For many Organisations, making use of paper based forms, is a common practice and method for collecting data and recording transactions. Whether it be for producing Quotations, Invoices or even getting sign off on completed jobs.

Paper based forms and documents have been the main stay of office communication and productivity for over 200 years. Paper-based forms are used to create anything from Invoices, Receipts, Purchase Orders, Contracts to the humble internal memo!

Paper-based forms radically improved productivity, efficiency and compliance by enabling people to create paper based instructions and enabling others to add additional information as required.

Over the past 3 decades or so, modern business environments have gradually been evolving towards the concept of the Paperless Office, resulting in the humble Paper based document migrating to a Digital Counterpart. The ease of availability of various Word Processing and Spreadsheet software products and cheap and easy data storage capacity have resulted in the Proliferation of thousands if not millions of files and documents being stored somewhere on the Company’s IT infrastructure.

People often create Digital Templates of forms that may be printed off and supplied to staff to complete using Pen and Paper or electronically. The data collation and reporting is often process

Often when conducting Operational Reviews, it is commonly found that the processing and analysing paper based forms is the least productive, efficient and profitable areas of business, although it is often vitally important.

Benefits of using digital forms for data collection

The ability to collect and analyse data effectively is increasingly important to businesses. Companies gather, examine, process and build reports on large volumes of data. Traditionally, they have deployed mail surveys, telephone interviews, door-to-door interviews as methods to collect information. With the ongoing digitisation, these procedures have become old fashioned.The digital transformation is changing many business operations at a high speed and a great deal of processes that were executed manually are now accomplished using digital methods.

Technology has had a major impact on how to approach data research and has provided researchers new tools that have transformed and improved data collection and analysis. The pace of change requires companies to be able to react quickly and adapt themselves to changing demands from customers and market conditions.

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green energy against a blue sky

Saving Energy Step 1 – Implementing a Management System

There has been much hype down the years regarding whether management is art or science. Thankfully, where people are concerned the pendulum has swung away from standard times in sweatshops in the west. However, when it comes to measuring physical things like harvest per square meter and the amount of energy consumed there is no substitute for scientific measurement, and this implies a system.

Managing energy cost and consumption down is like any other strategy. American engineer / statistician / management consultant W. Edwards Demming may have passed on in 1993. However he was as right as ever when he said:

  1. When people and organizations focus primarily on quality, this tends to increase and costs fall over time.
  1. However, when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time.

Demming believed that 90% of organizational problems arise from systems we put in place ourselves. This can be because we are so accustomed to them that we fail to notice when they are no longer relevant. The currently prevailing laissez faire towards energy is a case in point. What is managed improves and what is not, deteriorates. We know this. Let us take a look at how to apply this principle to energy management.

First, you need to get the subject out the closet and talk about it. How often do you do this is your boardroom, and how does energy rank against other priorities? Good governance is about taking up a position and following through on it. Here is a handy checklist you may like to use.

  • Do we use a consistent language when we talk about energy? Is it electricity, or carbon emitted (or are we merely fretting over cost).
  • How well engaged are we as a company? Looking up and down and across the organization are there points where responsibility stops.
  • How well have we defined accountability? Do we agree on key performance areas and how to report on them.
  • Are we measuring energy use at each point of the business? When did we last challenge the assumption that ‘we’re doing okay’.
  • Have we articulated our belief that quality is endless improvement, or are we simply chasing targets because someone says we should.

A management system is a program of policies, processes and methods to ensure achievement of goals. The next blog focuses on tools and techniques that support this effort.

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Energy Efficiency

EU Energy Efficiency Directive & UK’s ESOS

In 2012 the European Union passed its EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) into law. This aims to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020. It placed an obligation on member states to pass back-to-back local legislation by June 2014.

EED Guidelines

The EED provides specific guidelines it expects member nations to address. The list is long and here are a few excerpts from it:

  • Large companies must use energy audits to identify ways to cut their energy consumption
  • Small and medium companies must be incentivised to voluntarily take similar steps
  • Public sector bodies must purchase energy-efficient buildings, products and services
  • Private energy-consumers must be empowered with information to help manage demand
  • Energy distributors / resellers must cut their own consumption by 1.5% annually
  • Legislators are free to substitute green building technology e.g. through better insulation
  • Every year, European governments must audit 3% of the buildings they own

Definition of Energy Audit

An energy-consumption audit is a question of measuring demand throughout a supply grid, with particular attention to individual modules and high demand equipment. While this could be an exercise repeated every four years to satisfy ESOS, it makes more sense to incorporate it into the monthly energy billing cycle.

Because energy use is not consistent but varies according to production cycle, this can produce reams of printouts designed to frustrate busy managers. ecoVaro offers an inexpensive, cloud-based analytic service that effortlessly accepts client data and returns it in the form of high-level graphic summaries.

Potential ESOS Beneficiaries

As many as 9,000 UK companies are obligated to do energy audits because they employ more than 250 employees, have a balance sheet total over £36.5m or an annual turnover in excess of £42m. Any smaller enterprise that finds energy a significant input cost, should also consider enlisting Ecovaro to help it to:

  • Obtain a better understanding of the energy side of their business
  • Achieve energy savings and share in a estimated £3bn bonanza to 2030
  • Reduce carbon emissions to help meet their CRC commitments

More About ecoVaro

We offer web-based energy management software that helps you measure and manage energy costs. This strips data from your meters and generates personalised reports on a dashboard you control. This information helps you accurately zoom in on worthwhile opportunities. With Ecovaro on your side, ESOS truly becomes an Energy Saving OPPORTUNITY Scheme.

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4 Reasons Why You Might be Missing Out on Energy Savings…

…well your company actually, although for many small-to-medium businesses it boils down to the same thing. Governments usually lag behind in terms of innovation but are beating us hands-down when it comes to going green. I have heard that private sector energy savings average less than 1% per year and I for one would not be surprised if that were true. So what is causing this rot, when we started out so enthusiastically? Here are four possibilities for you to mull over.

  1. Your Team is Unevenly Yoked – A pair of mismatched horses cannot pull a wagon in a straight line any more successfully than a business team can achieve its goals, if there is no agreement on priorities. While your sales team may be all for scoring green points against your competition, your accountant has a budget to balance and your operations department just wants to get on with the job.
  1. Energy’s not in Focus – The above may in part be due to production goals you set your department heads. Energy is not nearly as greedy as raw materials and human capital. If you tell them to cut 5%, where do you think they are going to look first? You need to put energy savings up there, and agree specific targets as you do with other primary goals.
  1. Your Equipment Could be Over-Spec – It is a very human thing to put more food on our plates and buy faster cars than we need. Only a few generations ago our ancestors lived through feast and famine, and the shadow of this still influences our thinking. Next time you buy equipment sit around the table and agree the decision criteria together. Then stick to them and repel all attempts at up-selling.
  1. You Are Delegating Too Much – Delegation is part of company culture, or if you prefer the collective way of doing things. If you delegate something completely it is akin to saying I do not care much about this, make it happen. Energy saving is a financial and moral imperative. The fact the oil price is down does not mean there is no place for sustainability on your desk (and the price is likely to be up again soon).

Governments succeed in saving energy (whereas businesses often do not) because governments have a crowd of stakeholders beating down the door and demanding progress. As business owners we are more likely to do the same when the pressure is upon us, and that pressure surely has to come from us.

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ESOS Guide for UK Manufacturers Available

Peopl with lightbulb icon

The Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) is the UK’s largest sectoral structure. Its goal is to promote the interests of manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses in order to enhance their competitiveness.

EEF has positioned itself in London and Brussels in order to be in a position to lobby at EU and Westminster level. Part of its role is helping its members adapt to change and capitalise on it. When it discovered that a third of UK manufacturers must comply with ESOS (and 49% had not even heard of it) EEF decided it was time to publish a handbook for its members.

According to EEF’s head of climate and environment policy Gareth Stace, ‘For the many manufacturers that have already taken significant steps to improve energy efficiency, ESOS can be viewed as a ‘stock taking exercise’, ensuring that momentum is maintained and new measures are highlighted and taken when possible’.

He goes on to add that others that have not begun the process should view it as an ‘impetus’ to go head down and find the most cost-effective ways to slash energy costs. Ecovaro adds that they would also have the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions almost as a by-product.

Firms with more than 250 employees, over £50 million revenue or both must comply with ESOS across all UK sectors. In simplest terms, they must have conducted an energy audit by 5th December 2015, and logged their energy saving plan with the Environmental Agency that is Britain’s sustainability watchdog.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DEEC) that oversees it believes that large UK businesses are wasting £2.8 billion a year on electricity they do not need. Clearly it makes sense to focus on larger targets; however EcoVaro believes those halfway to the threshold should voluntarily comply if cutting their energy bills by 25% sounds appealing.

We are able to assist with interpreting their energy audits. These are often a matter of installing sub-meters at distribution points, and reading these for a few representative months to establish a trend. Meters are inexpensive compared to electricity costs, and maintenance teams can install them during maintenance shutdowns.

Ecovaro helps these firms process the data into manageable summaries using cloud-based technology. This is on a pay-when-used basis, and hence considerably cheaper than acquiring the software, or appointing a consultant.

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UK Government Updates ESOS Guidelines

Thermostat, Home Energy Saving

Britain’s Environment Agency has produced an update to the ESOS guidelines previously published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Fortunately for businesses much of it has remained the same. Hence it is only necessary to highlight the changes here.

  1. Participants in joint ventures without a clear majority must assess themselves individually against criteria for participation, and run their own ESOS programs if they comply.
  2. If a party supplying energy to assets held in trust qualifies for ESOS then these assets must be included in its program.
  3. Total energy consumption applies only to assets held on both the 31 December 2014 and 5 December 2015 peg points. This is relevant to the construction industry where sites may exchange hands between the two dates. The definition of ‘held’ includes borrowed, leased, rented and used.
  4. Energy consumption while travelling by plane or ship is only relevant if either (or both) start and end-points are in the UK. Foreign travel may be voluntarily included at company discretion. The guidelines are silent regarding double counting when travelling to fellow EU states.
  5. The choice of sites to sample is at the discretion of the company and lead assessor. The findings of these audits must be applied across the board, and ‘robust explanations’ provided in the evidence pack for selection of specific sites. This is a departure from traditional emphasis on random.

The Environment Agency has provided the following checklist of what to keep in the evidence pack

  1. Contact details of participating and responsible undertakings
  2. Details of directors or equivalents who reviewed the assessment
  3. Written confirmation of this by these persons
  4. Contact details of lead assessor and the register they appear on
  5. Written confirmation by the assessor they signed the ESOS off
  6. Calculation of total energy consumption
  7. List of identified areas of significant consumption
  8. Details of audits and methodologies used
  9. Details of energy saving opportunities identified
  10. Details of methods used to address these opportunities / certificates
  11. Contracts covering aggregation or release of group members
  12. If less than twelve months of data used why this was so
  13. Justification for using this lesser time frame
  14. Reasons for including unverifiable data in assessments
  15. Methodology used for arriving at estimates applied
  16. If applicable, why the lead assessor overlooked a consumption profile

Check out: Ecovaro – energy data analytics specialist 

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Will UK Retailers Skim the Cream with ESOS?

Fashion consultant showing clothes to the client

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) was quick out on the starting blocks with an ambitious plan to cut energy costs by 25% in 5 years. Their ‘25-in-5’ initiative is chasing a target of £4.4 billion savings during the duration. Part of this program involves ’cutting a path through a complex and inaccessible policy landscape’. BRC believes this drawback is making its members think twice about making energy efficiency investments.

The UK’s sprawling network of grocers, department stores and malls is the nation’s second most hungry energy customer, having spent £3.3 billion on it in 2013 when it accounted for almost 20% of carbon released. If you think that sounds bad, it purchased double that amount in 2005. However the consortium believes there is still more to come.

It bases this assumption on the push effect of UK energy rates increasing by a quarter during the duration of the project. ‘So it makes sense to be investing in energy efficiency rather than paying bills,’ Andrew Bolitho (property, energy, and transport policy adviser) told Business Green. The numbers mentioned exclude third party transport and distribution networks not under the British Retail Consortium umbrella.

The ‘complex and inaccessible policy landscape’ is the reflection of UK legislators not tidying up as they go along. BRC cites a ‘vast number of policies … spreading confusion, undermining investment and making it harder to raise capital’. The prime culprits are Britain’s CRC Energy Efficient Scheme (previously Carbon Reduction Commitment) which publishes league tables and ESOS. Andrew Bolitho believes this duality is driving confused investors away.

The British Retail Consortium is at pains to point out that this is not about watering things down, but making it simpler for participating companies to report on energy matters at a single point. It will soon go live with its own information hub providing information for retailers wishing to measure consumption at critical points, assemble the bigger picture and implement best practice.

Ecovaro agrees with Andrew Bolitho that lowering energy demand and cutting carbon is not just about technology. We can do much in terms of changing attitudes and providing refresher training and this does not have to cost that much. Studies have shown repeatedly that there is huge benefit in inviting employees to cross over to our side. In fact, they may already be on board to an extent that may surprise.

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