By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
If you missed my recent podcast with Tony Black, President of Service at Husky Injection Molding Systems, it is worth the time to go back and listen. Tony relays firsthand the company’s recent efforts to create and rollout a new, predictive service model. As you know, I believe strongly in the value that comes from sharing our journeys and perspectives. While I’d never assume that Tony’s retelling of Husky’s path and lessons learned can serve as a blueprint for anyone else, I do believe there are nuggets of wisdom in these stories that can make a real difference.
I talk to many leaders who have passionate visions of how their company’s service model and service delivery can evolve, but struggle with execution. As such, what I want to do here is give my take on some of the points from Tony and I’s conversation that I think serve as important food for thought for others looking to take their visions to reality.
#1: Predictive Is (or Soon Will Be) Essential to Remain Competitive
Husky’s introduction of its predictive service offering, Advantage Plus Elite, was a direct result of looking to meet modern customer needs. “We’re already a really good service business with talent founded on high responsiveness, really strong global infrastructure of technicians and service centers, and really close to our global customer base. But the real opportunity was to transform our service business with more predictive and proactive solutions, centered around delivering on our commitments to our customers and maintaining those commitments through the life cycle of our product,” says Tony. “Our customers operate their facilities 24/7 for the most part and produce very high volumes. Any performance erosion or unplanned downtime is really unacceptable. Coupled with complex technology, material changes happening in our industry, and the skilled talent shortage, our customers have come to us and said, ‘We really need you 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.’”
Whether you call it predictive service, proactive service, outcomes-based service, Servitization or XaaS, the through line is that customers today care far less about your products and even services and are beginning to demand uptime and peace of mind. Companies like Husky who are taking this demand seriously and evolving to meet today – and tomorrow’s - needs will leapfrog the competition that continues to embrace the status quo.
#2: Service Maturity Requires Digital Adeptness and Automation
You can’t achieve baseline acceptable service performance today without a reliance upon digital tools, let alone a predictive or outcomes-based approach. The level of sophistication that Husky is aiming for – that any company looking to progress along the services maturity continuum is – cannot be achieved by scaling manpower alone. It requires a strong digital strategy and proficient use of technology, as well as a reliance on automation.
“Advantage Plus Elite is powered by technology we call NSM. NSM is developed by a full-time team of SMEs here at Husky. 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,” explains Tony. “We launched this officially a little over a year ago. Since then, we’ve stood up monitoring centers here in Bolton, Canada, in Luxembourg, in Shanghai, Mexico, Japan and Brazil all staffed with monitoring center specialists. When those specialists, using the NSM detect a trend or a problem, potential problem, they issue a ‘We Call You’ to the customer’s plant in local language. And this is all done 24/7. That ‘We Call You’ explains the issue, and then the solution is also explained. Sometimes this alone gives the customer enough information to resolve the issue themselves. If not, we connect and aim to resolve it remotely. The third option 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.”
#3: People (Human Centricity) Must Balance Technology
While Husky’s offering relies on automation, Tony was sure to emphasize the critical role people play in the success of the company’s new service model. This is a point echoed in many of the conversations I have – we know that for customers, it isn’t just about the guaranteed uptime or performance, but also the relationship. Customers want human touch and a level of knowledge and insight that helps differentiate the company further than simply predicting and proactively resolving issues – this is where the ‘trusted advisor’ term we hear so often come into play.
“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,” explains Tony. “That weekly meeting combined with the technology allows our customers to be hardwired into the Husky knowledge base 24/7. That combination has really proven to be powerful.”
#4: Remote Service Does Not Threaten Service Jobs
When we start discussing the role that connected assets, remote monitoring, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence play in service today – and how their role is rapidly expanding – it often causes tension or angst among the frontline workforces. They fear technology will replace their jobs. That is absolutely not the case, and an important initial step in managing change is to ensure they understand and truly believe that.
Will there be less on-site service work over time? Of course, but it remains an important service delivery model even with a remote-first strategy. In new models like Husky has introduced, any reduction in on-site work is balanced by ample opportunities for new service roles. “It’s a fallacy to think you can just have this magical AI and bots and automation, auto emails. There is always going to be a requirement for a tech base close to our customers, period,” emphasizes Tony. “The type of techs and the number of super techs you need, the mix is going to change, but they will always be needed. And again, what we’re doing is we’re creating more informed technicians.”
What’s exciting, though, is how Husky’s story illustrates the way a mature service model will create new service roles that can be filled – in part – by service technicians who no longer desire to be on-site. “There are three new roles with the introduction of this solution. There’s the program manager, there’s the monitoring center specialist, and then we have connectivity specialists who are located closer to our customers,” says Tony. “The program manager role is 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. These new roles are 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.”
#5: Execute Before Expanding
A final point Tony made in the conversation is around keeping your focus as you begin your transformation journey to a predictive or outcomes-based model. As he says, it can be tempting to get wrapped up in the potential and try to take on too much too soon, but it is best to keep things simple at the start while managing the internal and external change.
“Focus is important. As you 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,” says Tony. “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 innovating and adding insights as you go and as you learn.”