By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
Eickhoff is a family owned company founded 1864 headquartered in Bochum, Germany. The company’s 1,300 employees worldwide support two business units: mining equipment and gearboxes used in industrial and wind turbine applications. Like many manufacturers, Eickhoff in recent years has been navigating a new world of customer expectations and determining the role service will play in the company’s ability to differentiate.
Service for the company’s two business units looks very different, as do customer expectations. On the mining side, Eickhoff manufactures the mining machines used in mines. The scope of responsibility to a customer is installation and assembly, training, maintenance, and repairs. Mining service is done in extreme conditions underground and, with such large equipment, service can take days or weeks or even months. Since the equipment can’t be transported, Eickhoff needs to ensure they have technicians and inventory in close enough proximity to customers to provide the appropriate levels of service. Mining customers are focused heavily on uptime and output since any downtime of the equipment is incredibly costly. On the gearbox side, Eickhoff manufactures an assembly that is supplied to a manufacturer, and service is requested either by that manufacturer or sometimes by the operator of the end solution. Eickhoff conducts inspections, repairs, part swaps, and returns refurbished pieces for spares.
“My role in the service department is product development, to bring Eickhoff service into the future, and to use new technologies to improve service quality for our customers,” says Dietmar Schmitz, Head of Product Development Service at Eickhoff. “The market has changed. Requirements from customers are different – they are demanding uptime and they want to simple-to-understand yet detailed insights (data). And the products have changed – they’ve become digital as much as mechanical. Therefore, service has changed, and we need to keep up. We must be able to deliver that part or make that repair at the exact moment it is needed. As a manufacturer, we have to think about how to evolve our operations to ensure the outcomes of uptime and information are met. Complexity has increased and continues to increase, and the only way to streamline that complexity to meet the needs is by investing in today’s technologies.”
OPTIMIZING ASSET-CENTRIC SERVICE
While there are significant differences between the company’s two service operations, what remains consistent is the intricacy of operations in that both are very asset intensive. “We differentiate on product quality and uptime,” says Schmitz. “At a point, we realized that wouldn’t be possible without optimizing our service operations.” Eickhoff knew that optimizing service management and then building upon that optimization to differentiate through service would be a journey. That journey began with looking to standardize on one service management system; to move to a “single source of truth.”
“We had more than 15 different applications we needed to replace with an integrated and intelligent system – a single source of truth – in order to streamline our daily business and provide us the potential for growth,” says Schmitz. “As I worked with our teams for around three months to scope the different, we determined more than 500 requirements for our project – a critical one of which was integration with our Infor ERP. We wanted a single system to support both business lines and bring all of our information into one place.”
Eickhoff shortlisted three companies before selecting IFS Field Service Management (FSM) based on its performance on the company’s matrix of user experience, IT, price, and compliance. “We wanted a solution that would meet our needs without requiring a dedicated IT staff of 10 experts to maintain,” says Schmitz. “IFS was the clear winner in the matrix evaluation and had functionality vast enough for our needs around asset intensive service.”
As the IFS FSM project kicked off, Eickhoff began to realize that the undertaking of consolidating, validating, and porting over its data was going to be quite complex. “As we dug in, we found a mess of data, product data, bill of materials of up to 10,000 entries and nine levels down, contact data, and so on. Because information was stored in so many separate systems, we found many redundancies and realized we needed to do a big clean up,” says Schmitz.
Not only was ensuring accuracy of the millions of entries of data put into the IFS FSM system key to building a strong foundation in optimizing the service operations, but as Schmitz says – service success lives in data from the past. “Service success lives in data from the past,” he explains. “The ability to provide good service relies on rich product history, assembly history, service history, operation history, and customer details – you may not need all of this information each time, but when you do need it, it must be there. Taking the time to clean and transfer this data properly was an investment in the long-term success of the project.”
Once this process was complete, Eickhoff began rollout of the FSM system and started with the back office. “Our thought process was that if the back office is not stable and comfortable with the solution, we don’t want technicians running around out in the field with access to the system and risk impacting the customer experience. We chose to phase back office first, then begin rollout to remaining users on the mining side of the business,” explains Schmitz. Once the mining side was deployed, Eickhoff began deployment on the gearbox side. Once IFS FSM was fully deployed companywide, Eickhoff worked to incorporate feedback and manage change.
“We had a lot of input from users directly after rollout, with feedback and new ideas for the system. It was important to put ample time into discussing the reasons for and benefits of the new technology as well as examining what feedback to incorporate,” says Schmitz. “We put effort into change management following the rollout to ensure user acceptance and proper use.”
STREAMLINE SERVICE MANAGEMENT, THEN BUILD SUCCESS
Eickhoff’s goal with the initial deployment of IFS FSM was to make the company more fit for the future of service. “With our initial rollout of FSM, we genuinely felt we were at a point in the business that to compete effectively it was simply a necessity,” Schmitz says. “We wouldn’t be able to progress into service of the future without this infrastructure in place.”
Not long after completing its initial project, Eickhoff had an opportunity to become an early adopter of IFS FSM 6 and completed the upgrade in January of 2019. In the new version, Eickhoff was able to eliminate system customizations, begin using FSM for all scheduling of technicians, move time and expense management into the system, and benefit from IFS Lobbies for reporting and data analysis. “Being a part of the FSM 6 early adopter program was a good experience because we gained some valuable capabilities, like saving immense amounts of time by eliminating paper-based reporting and manual data entry with time and expenses,” says Schmitz. “It also gave us an opportunity the help shape the future of the product.”
Present day, Eickhoff uses FSM to manage all assets including both product and software configuration in both mining and gearbox divisions. The system holds all history, including the immense asset detail, in a single source of truth, which Schmitz emphasizes is important when there can be multiple requests or tasks running in parallel for any given customer. The technician portal serves to provide everything an employee needs to get the job done on site. FSM schedules the right person, at the right time, to the right place. All invoicing, hours, and expenses are managed through FSM. IFS Lobbies allow for detailed reporting and data analysis. The company’s next area of focus with FSM is extending greater mobile capabilities to its field technicians – currently, they interact with FSM through the technician portal. This works well because it provides a high level of detail and access to extensive data – and while Schmitz doesn’t see this use decreasing, he sees value in expanding upon it with a rugged mobile device that technicians can also take into the mines to extract or exchange data with the machine, make software updates, and so on.
“IFS FSM has been instrumental in enabling us to differentiate on service and has prepared us for the future of service,” says Schmitz. “We’ve completely redefined our communication flow – our data accuracy and visibility from the back office to the field and back is excellent. Everyone has the information – the same information – they need at their fingertips to do their jobs well. This has enabled us to deliver faster service and improve customer uptime, eliminate massive amounts of administrative manual and busy work to maximize resource utilization, and have far tighter cost control.”
IoT OFFERS MASSIVE POTENTIAL
In building upon its success, Eickhoff is working to bring IoT data into IFS FSM. “IoT and data analysis are critical to Eickhoff’s evolution,” says Schmitz. “We have projects going on each side of the business – mining and gearbox – to expand our IoT capabilities and ultimately develop new service offerings for our customers.”
Schmitz notes that a modern machine reads 1,200 to 1,400 parameters of data each second and that the ability to collect and analyze relevant data points can not only help the company to operate more efficiently and move to predictive service, but can enable Eickhoff to develop insights that are very valuable to its customers. “Porting notable events from our IoT environment into FSM is helpful in terms of history and documentation, in detecting events that are worth alerting customers to take action on, and to schedule out and even predict service needs,” says Schmitz. “But moreover, the insights we can glean are a new line of customer value. Insights from the machines on use, productivity, and output in non-technical, easy to read reports help meet the needs from them of more information to help improve their own business operations. Their ultimate goal is uptime, so not only can we provide the machinery but also insights to help them achieve that goal.”
As mining customers streamline their own operations, they can have less employees working underground which means less money spent and improved safety. Furthermore, Eickhoff can feed the IoT data back into its own R&D operation to improve future product development.
“Delivering outcomes to your customers means you take on the onus of mastering service complexity, and you can’t do that without technology,” says Schmitz. “My biggest lesson from this journey we started a few years ago is you simply must start. As we often say: there is no alternative. You also need to understand that technology is not a barrier; it is an enabler. You cannot say let’s wait a few years and see how the business is going; you may not be in business. And so, start as soon as you can.”
Schmitz stresses the importance of looking at your journey through the eyes of your customers and knowing it will be a process. “Delivering outcomes is a process and you have to do this step-by-step. We knew that, to start, we needed to optimize our back-office processes. This is something customers don’t necessarily see, but it was critical in our ability to evolve,” he says. “Putting the customers view on your own eyes is imperative. If you don’t know how your customers use your equipment and what their business operations are like, you can’t design service offerings that will meet their needs.”