Field Service Solutions for Discrete Manufacturing

Discrete manufacturing must reconnect with customers, expanding service offerings, and leverage the data they’re already sitting on. 

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    Historically, discrete manufacturing companies focused mainly on making and selling products and equipment — with minimal effort or consideration re: what happens after the big sale. 

    Manufacturers have always shouldered some responsibility to honor warranties, support 3rd-party technicians and service providers, and investigate recalls. 

    But — these “post-sale interactions” were largely about meeting compliance requirements or safeguarding their reputation. 

    In 2023, discrete manufacturers need to do more to stay in the game. That means looking beyond factory floors and regional warehouses and reconnecting with customers, expanding service offerings, and leveraging the mountains of data they’re already sitting on. 

    Experience a Day in the Life of a Field Service TechnicianExperience a Day in the Life of a Field Service Technician

    While field service management software seems like an unlikely fix, it’s actually a powerful addition to the discrete manufacturing stack. 

    Read on and we’ll explain why — using real-world examples to make the case for FSM in manufacturing. 

    How FSM Software Helps Discrete Manufacturing Companies

    Big picture: FSM software allows discrete manufacturing companies to cut costs, streamline & optimize operations, and gain full visibility and control of production and supply chain processes. 

    Before we dig in, it’s important to note that FSM tools are a small part of a greater whole.

    Discrete manufacturers rely on massive tech stacks that, at the bare minimum, include ERPs, CRMs, CAD/CAM design software, MOM platforms, and more. 

    Unify the Entire Business

    We talk about this idea of unifying all business operations in a single platform all the time. It’s worth repeating time and time again because, without end-to-end integration and total unity, you can’t reap the benefits of AI, ML, your ERP, or any FSM tools you might be considering. 

    For discrete manufacturing companies, achieving “unity” poses some unique challenges most companies don’t need to think about. Manufacturers typically run operations from multiple worksites — often spread across several states or even countries. 

    Each location is responsible for producing one part of a greater end product. Think — cars, planes, smartphones, or industrial equipment.

    So, if you’re running an automotive company, you might have a design team in California, a branch in Texas building windows and doors, and a factory in China making chips and sensors. Then, you might have another facility in Ohio where workers put all these parts together, then run safety and QC tests before cars go out to dealers.  

    Obviously, this is an oversimplification. But — you can imagine how complicated things can get as more locations, partners, and teams enter the mix. And, of course, the situation becomes much hairier with every new service or revenue stream.

    Now, field service software isn’t a standalone solution. But, it does play an important role in helping discrete manufacturing companies boost efficiency and maximize the full potential of their remote workforce. 

    For example, Champion Windows & Home Exteriors has 60+ years of experience building custom home improvement products, and today, operates out of 50 US locations. But, the company long relied on a patchwork of siloed legacy solutions and manual paper-based processes — causing visibility issues, high costs, and all-around inefficiencies.  

    With the help of their Microsoft Partner, Champion built an integrated system that allowed them to improve decision-making and automate processes. In this case, they started with D365 Finance and Supply Chain Management (Microsoft’s Enterprise ERP apps), then filled in critical gaps with D365 Field Service and Customer Engagement, Power Apps, Power BI, and SharePoint.  

    D365 Field Service enabled Champion to automate appointment scheduling, while D365 Customer Engagement, RFID data, and D365 Finance & SCM allowed them to streamline all operations and make profitable decisions. Beyond that, SharePoint and the Power Platform allowed them to build custom solutions to support day-to-day work. 

    This is just one example, but the point is, you’re trying to build an ecosystem that supports every business unit, strategy, and individual user. Field service is one of many pieces in that puzzle — it just allows you to take operations on the road without creating new silos in the process.

    Tap New Revenue Streams

    For every industry, embracing new business models has been a key driver for digital transformation initiatives. As companies digitize processes, workflows, and record-keeping practices, they’re uncovering new opportunities to monetize the assets they already have. Many times, “assets” are a euphemism for “data” that can be packaged and delivered in many different ways. 

    Business Leaders Guide to the New Digital AgeBusiness Leaders Guide to the New Digital Age

    Think — launching a consulting practice, delivering proprietary BI to app subscribers, or creating managed service programs that help customers get more from equipment, assets, or tech long after the original purchase.

    According to Salesforce, field service is one of the few ways discrete manufacturing companies can serve up the kind of differentiated experiences that fuel revenue growth and boost customer retention. While it might seem counterintuitive, FSM tech can power up the revenue engine in a few key ways: 

    Proactive Service. Top-performing field service orgs know they need to do more than respond to service calls when there’s a problem. Instead, they leverage predictive insight to prevent issues from happening in the first place, minimizing downtime and costly break-fix repairs. 

    FSM software (along with the rest of your digital ecosystem) captures and analyzes service history, asset performance, customer records, and more to surface opportunities to stop problems before they happen. This reduces costs, improves customer satisfaction and retention rates, and boosts the bottom line.

    Servitization. Manufacturers are increasingly hopping on the “as a service” train. Many are looking toward a servitization model where customers pay a fixed fee to use equipment, tech, or access a particular service. 

    The provider maintains the cost of ownership — providing support, upgrades, repairs, and preventative maintenance per the service-level agreement (SLA). FSM software includes a long list of features that support this model including asset tracking, contract & SLA management, subscription billing, and more.  

    Co-creation. Some manufacturing orgs are using their data to create personalized solutions for individual customers. As an example, Hoffmann Group, a company that makes tools, factory equipment, and personal protection gear, built a Microsoft Dynamics-based ecosystem that allows them to develop products and solutions with its customers.  

    Using Azure, D365 Field Service, Sales, and Marketing, the Hoffmann team has been able to deepen customer relationships and start developing products and digital solutions with individual clients. Field reps can use a mobile app to access customer records and capture information on the job — allowing them to provide personalized support and solutions without burdening them with extra work. 

    Optimize & Streamline Operations

    Unlike process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing doesn’t follow the rules of mass production. There’s no “recipe” for turning raw materials into commodities like toilet paper, socks, or TV dinners. You can’t just plug in a formula and sit back while some algorithm bangs out a bunch of products at speed and scale. 

    But — that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage the power of AI, ML, and automation to streamline and optimize operations. Digital FSM technology helps discrete manufacturers save time, cut costs, and deliver reliable, high-quality service with ease.  A few examples:

    Scheduling Optimization. FSM software typically comes with baked-in intelligence that automatically optimizes scheduling, dispatching, and real-time routing (and re-routing). Solutions like D365 Field Service can automatically match technicians to incoming work orders based on a number of factors like availability, skills, or location.

    Automation. While you might not be able to automate every production process, you can still take advantage of AI/ML automation. For example, FSM software can automate billing and invoicing, data entry, and other manual tasks that eat up employees’ time and put your business at risk. 

    Process Optimization. Many FSM solutions now come with built-in process optimization solutions that use AI to ID inefficiencies and surface opportunities for improvement. 

    For example, Dynamics 365 Field Service users gain access to several features that help optimize service operations — they can customize user interfaces, track costs by work order, enable AI-enhanced search, and pinpoint the location of assets in a physical space to improve service efficiency. They can also use the Power Platform’s Process Advisor to understand workflows and fix bottlenecks or other inefficiencies.  

    The Right Microsoft Partner Can Drive Business SuccessThe Right Microsoft Partner Can Drive Business Success

    Final Thoughts

    Manufacturers need a comprehensive platform that weaves field service capabilities into their existing stack. The right FSM solution should integrate seamlessly with ERP, CRM, CAD, and whatever else you need to run your business. It needs to connect everyone — whether they’re in the office, the warehouse, the field, or at home — to real-time insights, customers, and colleagues. 

    Ultimately, the goal is building a digital ecosystem that supports the entire business, without making things harder than they already are. 

    Velosio’s field service team has vast knowledge and years of hands-on experience — not only working with discrete manufacturing clients, but leading field service operations and working on mobile teams themselves. 

    Beyond that, Velosio has been a Microsoft Partner for more than three decades. Our experts know the tech inside and out — and can help you build a cohesive solution that checks all the right boxes. Contact us today to learn more.


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