Sarah welcomes back Tony Black, President of Service at Husky Injection Molding Systems, who was this podcast’s very first guest when he was with Otis Elevator. In his new role, Tony shares with Sarah the catalysts for Husky’s move to predictive service, what’s enabled the company’s progress thus far, and what the future holds.
Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we’re going to be talking about Husky’s move to predictive service. I’m excited to welcome back to the podcast, Tony Black, who is currently the president of service at Husky Injection Molding Systems. Tony, welcome back to the podcast.
Tony Black: Thanks, Sarah. It’s great to be back. There’s a lot to talk about. I’m really looking forward to a good discussion today.
Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. So, for those of you that haven’t followed along since the beginning, I know we are quickly approaching 200 episodes of the podcast. But Tony was actually my very first podcast guest, so episode number one, which makes it very easy to remember. And at the time, Tony was with Otis Elevator, and has taken on a new role since, and I’m sure been up to a whole lot. So Tony, before we dig into the predictive service topic, tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to the last couple of years.
Tony Black: Yeah, sure. So after a long career at the Otis Elevator Company and a successful transformation of their service business, that’s what we talked about the first time, I decided to join another really great company, and also a leader in their industry, Husky Technologies. And like Otis, Husky has truly enabled the industry through technology and innovation. And it’s really part of the DNA of the company.
And so, I joined here as the president of the service business. And what I found was, we’re already a really good service business with talent founded on high responsiveness, really strong global infrastructure of technicians and service centers, probably the best in the industry, and really close to our global customer base. But the real opportunity was to transform our service business with more predictive and proactive solutions, and really all centered around delivering on our commitments to our customers. And not only delivering on those commitments, but then maintaining those commitments through the life cycle of our product. So, that’s what I’ve been up to the last few years. I’m really enjoying it and looking forward to talking to you more about it.
Sarah Nicastro: Good, good. So, moving to a more predictive model. So we’re going to talk a bit about that. Before we do though, can you talk a bit about the drivers for the move to predictive? So, what are the customer needs that you’re witnessing? What are sort of the expectations on service that are prompting Husky to evolve into a more predictive approach?
Tony Black: Yeah, I think, let me just tell you a little bit about our customers and how they operate, some of the dynamics that are happening. Our customers operate their facilities 24/7 for the most part. And they’re producing very high volumes, we’re talking in the millions per day or billions per year. So any performance erosion or unplanned downtime is really unacceptable. Just can’t have it. So you kind of couple that need with complex technology, there’s material changes happening in our industry, there are new customers coming into the industry, and then there’s a skilled talent shortage as well. So you put all that together, and our customers have really come to us and said, “We really need your help to help us maintain our performance with all these dynamics happening, but please do it in a proactive way. We can’t afford to do it the old way.”
Sarah Nicastro: So, the predictive service offering at Husky is called Advantage Plus Elite. So tell us some of the details about what the offering is, how it works and how this kind of changes the way that you interact with your customers and provide levels of service.
Tony Black: Sure. So, Advantage Plus Elite, but we also call it We Call You. So actually, a lot of our customers just call it, We Call You, because that’s what we do. And I’ll explain how we actually do that. But it’s a connected solution. It’s powered by the technology I described, we call that NSM. And NSM is the analytics and the tools inside and developed by a full-time team of SMEs here at Husky. And they’ve identified, through their experience, the key variables to monitor, the tools to use to detect trends, and the dashboards to monitor, and then proactively see the potential issues, but also do this at scale.
And so we launched this officially about a year ago, a little over a year ago now. Since then, we’ve stood up monitoring centers here in Bolton, Canada, in Luxembourg, in Shanghai, Mexico, Japan and Brazil. They’re all staffed with monitoring center specialists. And when those specialists, using the dashboards and the tools, detect a trend or a problem, potential problem, they issue a We Call You to the plant and they issue it in local language. And this is all done 24/7. And that We Call You, it explains the issue, and then the solution is also explained. But the ultimate solution comes in the form of, either we give the customer enough information where they can resolve it themself. That would be one use case. The second is, we actually are connected and we resolve it remotely. And then the third is, we send in an informed technician and sometimes even send the part in advance as well. In all of these cases, we then monitor the solution and verify that we’ve really found the root cause.
So our customers really see the value in this. In just one year now, we have over 200 service contracts across 20 countries. We’ve issued well over 2,000 We Call Yous, and there’s a lot of value in those We Call Yous. We estimate, directionally, for every We Call You, about $10,000 of cost avoidance or of lost production capacity. Now, we balance the technology with Husky people, people power. Each contract has a dedicated program manager, and that program manager facilitates a weekly and a monthly 30 minute standup meeting with the plant to go over the prior week’s We Call Yous. They use a standard weekly performance report showing the trend of unplanned downtime, OEE, energy usage, and so on. And again, these things are critical because of the nature of the way they operate.
So with that weekly meeting, it’s actually a weekly and a monthly, combined with the technology, our customers, they’re hardwired into the Husky knowledge base, if you will, hardwired into our SME base 24/7. And that, combined with the technology, has really proven to be powerful, and our customers see a lot of value in it.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. Just a couple points to clarify. What does NSM stand for?
Tony Black: It’s new service model.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. And then second question is, so it’s called, We Call You, but is it just a call or is it a video interaction? Is it an augmented reality interaction? What is the format of communication in that initial outreach?
Tony Black: So the initial communication with the We Call You is in the form of an email, or it can be different media to get it out. But it’s in that form. It’s a kind of a standard format that we use that is pretty concise. But then the follow up work can be an augmented reality call. It can be a connection to their system where we’re actually troubleshooting and solving the problem remotely. But the initial We Call You, it’s really a one page communication explaining the problem, showing the problem actually with the trends that we see, and then the probable root causes of the problem.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. And then you mentioned that for every We Call You, you’ve noticed, on average, a $10,000 cost reduction. So that’s a $10,000 cost reduction for the customer or for Husky?
Tony Black: For the customer. It’s really a cost avoidance. So, for example, if the system, for some reason, is using excessive energy, and then there’s a problem and we detect that early, that’s a cost avoidance of energy cost. Or if the system is using too much material to produce the solution, just the volume, it really adds up quick, so that’s a significant cost avoidance. Or if we prevent a shutdown, an unplanned shutdown, again, with those volumes, and our customers, even more so today are really at capacity, they can’t make their volume and they can’t sell the product that they need to sell. So they’ve lost that revenue, if you will, that they would be getting. So it’s really significantly beneficial for our customers.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. And then I wanted to talk a little bit more about the program managers. I like your point around the balance between technology and people. I think this is something that we see people trying to land on, what’s the right mix? So I was at a conference at the end of April, and there was someone on a panel there that was very honest in saying, we went way too far into automation and AI and saw our customer satisfaction scores decrease because they were missing that human connection. So we know that both are important. It’s important to use the technology to work smarter and have these more sophisticated capabilities, but it’s also important to customers to still have that human connection. So I think it’s really fantastic that you are aware of that. And from the very beginning, Husky is working to align those things really well. So the program manager though, did they exist before this program, or is that something that is new and intended to sort of build that balance between people and technology?
Tony Black: Yeah. It’s a new role, Sarah. Actually, I’m thinking about what you were saying. So there’s really, I would say, three new roles in this solution. There’s the program manager, there’s the monitoring center specialist, and then we have connectivity specialists who are not centrally. Actually, we try to have the program managers able to speak the local language so they’re around, located in different countries. Some are in the centralized, but can speak the local language. We do have the critical centers for the monitoring centers, with the monitoring center specialists. And then we have connectivity specialists who are also located closer to our customers who can help get our customers connected, that initial connection, and get the contracts up and running.
But the program manager isn’t, back to your question, it’s a new role. Actually, it’s really nice to see because it’s creating new opportunities for employees inside Husky. We have a really strong group of program managers, a complete cross section of people with different backgrounds, all have good program management skills, but a real high energy group, good with customers, but also understand how to work with the SMEs. They’re really, if there’s a problem, and through our initial monitoring center specialists we can’t get to the root of it, then we tap into the Husky SME base. And they know how to get that done.
So again, that weekly meeting, it’s part of the people factor. Our customers love that weekly meeting because it’s efficient. It’s 30 minutes max, because they don’t have the time for meetings. So 30 minute max, but if they kind of see what’s happened in the last week, we give them suggestions on ways to continue to improve. And if there’s an issue or a question, they get it answered right in that meeting. So, I was concerned, could we scale that? But with the tools that our NSM technology team is building, and with the standardization, we’re scaling it. That NSM is actually developing modules of technology. We’re on module six now. So those modules include analytics, but also tools to help allow us to scale. And so, as we develop more, release more of these modules, we can even do it more efficiently.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So I think it’s really interesting. And I want to give you the context so you don’t think I’m trying to get you to answer a question that gets layered. But the reason I think this is so interesting is because when we started talking about the technological capabilities that allow a lot of what you’re doing, remote diagnosis, remote resolution, customer remote resolution, et cetera. You ultimately get to a point where you are talking about less onsite work. Now, I think this is all very positive, but there’s a couple of topics here that start to make companies uncomfortable because it just requires change. One is the business model shift. So if you’ve always billed customers for onsite time, then how do you evolve towards something different? That’s one. The second is, you start to get into technicians fearing that their jobs are going away. And I always say, there aren’t enough technicians. No one can hire enough technicians right now. We don’t need to worry about people being out of jobs. It just changes the way the work is done. It’s not going away. It’s just shifting.
And so, I just wrote an article, I think, a couple of weeks ago about one of the opinions I have is that we obviously need to let go of some of the, well, this is how we’ve always done it, because that’s what keeps people held on these challenges. So we have to kind of let that go. I think there could be a lot of value in segmenting service and even technician work. And so, to me, it sounds somewhat like this is where you’re going, which is, let’s say over time as this solution scales, and you can correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not putting words in your mouth. I’m just thinking out loud. Let’s say, over time, you do have significantly less onsite work. But you, at the same time, are increasing this program manager work.
These customers want to not only have the relationship but, as you mentioned that’s very, very important, the knowledge. So it becomes less a transactional, we come to you, we fix X, and more a partnership of, yes, if something needs fixed on your site, we’ll be there. But we’re providing you all of this value in the form of information and uptime. And they want, to your point, a human being to have that relationship with. So you have program managers. And then technicians, hypothetically, if they didn’t want to be that people person, some will, some won’t, they could be the connectivity specialist or the remote specialist that you mentioned.
So, I just think it’s such an important conversation to start looking at how companies are tackling those two big roadblocks everybody puts up, well, we can’t do that because X. Well, you can, and ultimately you’re going to have to. This is the future of service. The future of service is not field service, it’s service. And we need to look at it more holistically in terms of what’s the overall customer experience. So I just think this is a really fantastic and really important conversation to think about. If the onsite work decreases, that’s fine, because these new roles are being created that allows you to take that same talent and give them different futures within the business. So that was a lot of words, but what are your thoughts?
Tony Black: No, no, I think you’re spot on with that. I guess just a couple things that, for sure, I think it’s a fallacy if you think you can just kind of have this magical AI and bots and automation, auto emails. Success there is going to be super limited. It’s not going to work. It doesn’t work. So the other thing I would say is, like you said, there is always going to be a requirement for a tech base close to our customers period. That is the reality. And so, the type of techs and the number of super techs you need, the mix is going to change, but that will always be needed. And again, what we’re doing is we’re creating more informed technicians. And techs like that, they like having that information. So that’s one thing I would say, Sarah.
The other thing I would add again, and we’re seeing it real time playing out, these new roles, they’re being filled by technicians. Not just technicians, others as well, but there’s a good mix of technicians who are really interested in doing this and they like it and they’re enjoying it and they’re growing. And this is really growing. So it’s creating these nice jobs for our techs and others in Husky. But again, we still need technicians. So those that want to stay out in the field, we need them as well.
Sarah Nicastro: I just always want to put everyone at ease. It’s like, okay. On the technician thing, there’s ample opportunity. There’s ample opportunity for onsite work, whether you call them program managers or customer success. And not just that, to your point, you mentioned three new roles that have come up as a part of this program. So I always just want to disarm everyone of, no one’s taking jobs from anyone. In almost every conversation I have, there is more customer facing work to do than there are people to do it. So no one needs to be concerned that anyone’s going to be out of a job. It’s just a matter of being open minded about what it could look like in the future, instead of being tied to what it has looked like historically.
And then on the business model part of it, I always say that if you feel you can’t sell a new business model to your customer base, you haven’t defined what the value is to them. You’re thinking about what the value is to your business, because if you can do it right, it benefits everyone. And I think knowledge is such an important word that you brought up, because it isn’t just about delivering the service Husky’s always delivered, but in a different way, it’s about delivering more than what you’ve delivered based on the information you’re gathering with analytics.
So it just seems like you really are onto the concept, which is, you’re becoming a knowledge partner. You’re not just having a weekly check in and saying, “Okay, well, we identified three issues. They were fixed before they became a problem, so happy days.” You’re also saying, “Oh, and we noticed this. Oh, and the data shows us this. And, oh, have you considered this?” That’s where the big term everyone’s working toward is trusted advisor. That’s where that comes from. It’s about thinking about not just what service can we provide, but what knowledge, what insights, what value can we share with our customers about their business?
Tony Black: Yeah. So it’s truly a partnership when we kick off that first kickoff. The customer name’s a champion that is a champion of this solution, they work in the factory. But those weekly meetings, a lot of times it’s almost like a just in time training session, actually, very effective. More effective than any training I’ve ever seen, because it’s really kind of point of need and very effective. And again, it’s about the customer having access to the Husky genius, if you will, and the SME base. And that’s why, again, as I say, it’s a partnership. We do tailor the solution a little differently for a new customer versus an existing customer who’s more experienced. As I said, we do have new customers in some new markets. And in those cases, we do provide more training. Even in addition to the analytics, we provide toolkits, spare part kits to get those new customers kind of end to end covered along with the commit and maintain portion.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. Now, Tony, how would you say that this and Husky’s vision for the future aligns with industry 4.0?
Tony Black: So it’s fully aligned. But what I like to explain is, it’s really beyond in industry 4.0. A lot of what I’ve seen in 4.0 in a factory setting is about predictive around hardware, bearing life or a pump life or a motor life. The advantage plus elite solution does that. But the way I like to explain this is, we look at it like a pyramid. And if you think about the top of the pyramid, it’s the product that we’re making for the customer, our machine is making for the customer, and the master process on how that product is made. If you go down to the bottom of the pyramid, it’s the hardware, those bearings and pumps and motors, it’s the hardware that makes up our system. And then if you go up higher in the pyramid, then we have subsystems for our system. And then you go up higher, and you have controls and drives and tuning. And then eventually, at the top, is actually the product that we’re making with the master process. That’s the pyramid.
And then outside of the pyramid, there’s a lot of external factors. There are things like shift changes that are happening, or temperature or elevation pressure, all these environmental factors that are happening. The NSM technology is built around really looking at the entire pyramid from the bottom to the top, as well as the environmental factors. So, I don’t know how clear that explanation was, but that’s why I think it really is unique, this solution, and really industry leading, because it’s not just focused on the hardware, which is important, but there’s a lot more that needs to be kind of monitored in a proactive way.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. I think there’s a lot more discussion today around ecosystems, and not only thinking about, if you manufacture a certain thing. Like, not only thinking about that thing, but thinking about the world in which it operates. And sometimes, again, that can be scary because it can be more work to take into consideration anything outside of your own pyramid. But ultimately, that’s where a lot of the increase in value comes from, because your customers have to think about everything outside of the pyramid. So if you are not thinking about those things and they are, you can only provide a certain level of value. If you share that thinking with them and can figure out how to help them with some of those external factors, or what have you, through insight, knowledge, et cetera, then you can significantly increase the potential of your own value proposition.
And it goes back to this holding tight to the legacy of the business. I mean, that’s really what we all have to move beyond because the companies that are doing that intentionally or circumstantially are falling behind the companies that are willing to not stick to the way it’s always been, or the good old days, or the past successes. So Tony, it’s really interesting to hear the journey Husky’s on. And I think there’s a few points you have brought up that I think just hit the nail on the head in terms of what it takes to get this right. I’m curious if you had to share a piece of advice with listeners that have the goal of going down the predictive service path and doing it the right way, what would you tell them?
Tony Black: So I’ll try to keep it really practical and pragmatic, that’s usually the way I like to. I like to hear things that way. So we talked a lot about the technology and the people, I cannot emphasize that enough. That is just so important. And it is a change, so it’s important to have those discussions with your organization and with your technicians to make sure that they understand that, actually, we’re going to create job opportunities for them, career opportunities. We’re going to give them new tools. Because our technicians, more than anything, they want to deliver on the promise to our customers. So if we can help them do that, they’re happy and they’re motivated and engaged. So, critical to balance that internally and externally.
The second thing is, I talked about the NSM. So my advice there to do that is to create an internal and fully dedicated advanced technology team to build those analytics and the tools that I talked about. Do it with your own SME knowledge. It’ll be much more efficient. It’ll move faster. It’ll be much more impactful as well. Use Microsoft for your cloud, use companies who are experts in edge technology for your edge device. You don’t need to go develop that. But my advice, again, is use your own. And it has to be a dedicated team of really strong SMEs. That’s what we have. And really, it’s instrumental. And it’s been instrumental in, again, coming up with insights that really are impactful.
And then the third thing is really about just a lot of focus. As you kind of go down this path, it’s really easy to start thinking about a lot of things that you want to do and can do. And what can happen is you just kind of get paralyzed and you don’t really get anything done really well. So my advice here, very specifically, is just focus on several key insights. Just one good insight can provide enormous value for our customers. And it builds you. It builds a platform to expand on. So, don’t worry about having 50 great insights. Have one and start. And customers will see value. It’s a journey, right? It’s a continuous journey. And you keep, as I talked about, we call it modules, but we keep innovating and adding insights as we go and as we learn. But we didn’t wait. We started with that. Soon as we had a base, we started. So I would say, those are the three things I would recommend to someone.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. And last question for today is, when you think of the journey that Husky’s on with this, I know part of the next steps are to continue to scale. What else do you think will come next? If you sort of envision what the future looks like, what comes to mind?
Tony Black: Well, when I look at our business, we have to apply this proactive and predictive kind of mentality and approach across the whole business. A big part of our business, and I think every service business, is spare parts. And spare parts are truly the lifeblood of service. So what we’ve also been working on is kind of applying this approach, we’ve developed analytics to help our customers understand what they need to stock. We developed online digital tools recommending value solutions to our customers when they search for a part. We’ve developed proactive maintenance kits. And we’re working on really even enhancing our service centers to make sure we can have parts next day anywhere in the world. So spare parts, but applying the proactive and predictive mindset and tools around that, we’re all over that right now as well.
We also have a very significant install base that ranges in age. And so, there’s an obsolescence challenge with that. So we’ve built up a strong kind of modernization, upgrade, engineering organization to help our customers. Again, maintaining that commitment through modernization and upgrade packages. So those are a few of the things that we’re working on in parallel with the advantage plus elite solution.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. Well, it’ll be interesting to see how it progresses. I’m thankful that you came and shared your perspective and the journey thus far. There’s some really important points that you’ve made that I’m glad that you have already taken into consideration. It’ll make Husky’s journey a bit better. And for those listening, hopefully it’s some good food for thought. So thanks for coming back, Tony. It was a pleasure to have you again.
Tony Black: Yeah, it was great to be back. Thank you.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter, @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service Podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.