Professional maintenance of your machines, systems and technical products is an essential factor for your business success. Only when they're in perfect technical condition can the high demands on performance and longevity of your machines be met. Your primary goal: to reduce operational disruptions and thus expensive production downtimes to a minimum. This ensures both productivity and customer satisfaction.
However, your maintenance processes are only as efficient as your Service Technicians on-site. In view of increasingly complex machines and systems, they face a wide range of challenges. Technical know-how and solution-oriented thinking alone are no longer enough to enable them to act quickly and safely, especially when on critical maintenance jobs. In such situations, even experienced professionals are dependent on additional Service information, for example in the form of detailed maintenance instructions or troubleshooting procedures.
For your teams in the field, this means that as soon as important service information is not available, workflows are made considerably more difficult and costly machine downtimes are additionally extended.
But what information is actually needed to improve Service efficiency in a targeted and sustainable way? We've summarised the most important points for you.
Creating added value – with the right information
Simple parameter adjustment or complete dismantling of a turbine? During their day-to-day work, Service Technicians have to solve tasks of varying complexity. The range of information that should be available to Service personnel – at least in theory – is correspondingly wide.
The following list illustrates how extensive Service Documentation can actually be:
- Spare parts lists
- Design data for the machine (e.g., circuit and wiring diagrams, construction drawings)
- Maintenance plans
- Installation and dismantling instructions
- Step-by-step maintenance instructions
- Training documents for Service Trainers
- Guided troubleshooting
- Service videos, 3D animations
So how can the specific information needs of Service teams be determined? To do this, it makes sense to take a closer look at the following two aspects:
- For which Service activities do various Service teams need additional information most frequently?
- What experience (and what level of knowledge) do the responsible Service Technicians possess?
The level of experience within a Service organisation is of particular importance. For example, many veteran Service professionals have mastered their manual operations and only need to look up missing information, such as specific parameter values, on a selective basis. New and inexperienced employees, on the other hand, want to be taken more by the hand and increasingly need detailed step-by-step instructions and guided troubleshooting procedures.
What do manufacturers have to adjust to? In short, the need for information – specifically in Service – is becoming increasingly great. Aspects such as the shortage of skilled workers, the increased use of less experienced lateral hires, and the loss of knowledge (due to generational changes) in working life are the critical factors here.
The challenge for Service organisations resulting from this development is clear: their own teams should be supported at all times with Service Documentation that's as comprehensible and as "usable" as possible – an ambitious goal that quickly becomes a Herculean task in practice.
What are the biggest pitfalls in the information process?
Designing, creating and maintaining Service documents are demanding activities that tie up valuable company resources. Basically, it can be stated that: The creation effort correlates directly with the degree of complexity of the information and its usefulness for Service teams.
But what does this mean exactly? For example, design data for a machine, such as circuit diagrams or engineering drawings, can usually be taken directly from the design systems (or derived from them). The workload on the Service-side is practically zero for such simple data packages – as long as the existing information sources are effectively exploited. At the same time, however, the practical benefit of this design data for Service Technicians remains very limited and is restricted to entering specific parameter values, for example.
In contrast, more in-depth and sustainable expert knowledge can only be created with more comprehensive information products such as detailed step-by-step instructions or extensive training documentation. Understandably, this type of Service-focused content cannot be simply exported from the various systems at the push of a button and is therefore much more time-consuming to both design and create.
In this area, technical expertise and didactic knowledge are required in addition to technical know-how. These are important prerequisites for meeting the high demands of the target audience for comprehensibility, clarity and consistency of the information.
How can the information process for Service be optimised?
The specific procedure naturally depends on the current state of the Service organisation and should therefore always be considered individually. In order to identify the areas with the greatest potential for optimisation, it's always advisable to define the current state of information management within the Service organisation. To do this, it's advisable to analyse the following topics in more detail:
- What Service information do Service teams work with in practice?
- How is the Service information created and distributed – and then made available to the entire organisation?
- Is the quality of the existing information sufficient to support the teams during their daily work in the best possible way? Where is there potential for improvement?
- What important Service information is still missing?
- Who is responsible for creating the Service information? Are current resources sufficient to create missing information?
The vulnerability analysis helps to identify the specific information gaps of the Service teams and the main pitfalls in the information flow. Important for planning improvement measures: Valuable information that already exists within the Service organisation often goes unused. This information exists in various systems, often only in the heads of the Service Technicians. The first step is therefore to tap into the unused sources of information and make the information they contain accessible to all employees. How can this be done? For example, by uniformly documenting frequently recurring questions about specific maintenance orders (with their associated solutions) and storing them centrally in an FAQ list. It can also be helpful to digitise the handwritten notes of Service Technicians, and to provide them with intelligent keywording.
Benefiting from new technologies
Measures of this kind are well suited to effectively closing smaller informational gaps with little effort. But what steps are necessary to raise the entire level of Service to a new level? Sustainable optimisation of the information process usually requires fundamental technical and methodological adjustments. This can affect, for example, the way in which Service information is created and distributed within an organisation. Here, the trend is clearly pointing in the direction of modern information solutions, such as digital information portals. With them, the entire collection of Service documentation can be managed in a central location and thus be made easily available to all employees within your Service organisation – regardless of the systems or formats in which the information is stored. Thanks to mobile app support, the information is also available in the field at any time – and even offline. Another positive point: Digital information management means that new work instructions, checklists, or notes can be easily documented and stored directly on-site. In this way, the valuable expert knowledge of your Service professionals is already skimmed in the field and made directly available to all employees.
Leveraging existing qualifications
From a methodological perspective, it can make sense to question the process of creating Service information. In many cases, Service personnel create the information themselves – an additional burden that should not be underestimated when considering the stressful daily Service routine. What's the possibility of providing relief to Service Technicians? Many companies already have the qualifications needed for professional and efficient technical communication – usually in the form of Technical Editors. Their knowledge and skills could be put to greater use in preparing information for Service. This reduces the effort on the Service-side and, all-in-all, creates significant added qualitative value for Service Documentation.
Would you like to learn more about the technologies and methods you can use to improve Information Provision in Service? Then contact us: Our team of experts would be happy to advise and support you.