Gary Brooks, CMO, Syncron talks to Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News about how the discussion around uptime has shifted from how to why…

“Time is something that is incredibly perishable, it’s finite, we never seem to have enough of it and we always wish for more of it in dire times.”

This eternal maxim, that translates across all cultures in all corners of the world, was at the heart of an excellent keynote presentation given by Gary Brooks, CMO at Syncron at the Field Service USA Conference in Palm Springs earlier this year.

“It is interesting to apply that thinking to our business of field service,” Brooks explained when I sat down with him to catch up over a coffee a little later in the day.

“Let’s look at it through the lens of time being a cruel mistress and then imagine you’re a farmer. Not just any farmer but a very excited farmer because it is the first day of the harvest season. You’re deploying your new half a million dollar combine to go out and harvest at a fantastic new rate – but then it fails.” “It is a Sunday morning and your 200 miles from the dealer and can’t get someone out to fix it – then shift your thinking from that scenario to a question around uptime.”

It is an important shift in thinking and one in which the manufacturer bears more of the burden of failure in return for greater profit and a stickier relationship with the customer.

“At Syncron we’re obsessed with coming up with solutions that help manufacturers improve their uptime levels,” Brooks continues.

“We recently worked with WBR to launch a research project that is looking into uptime. How important is it for the OEM? Do they consider it a strategic advantage? How important is it for the customer of the OEM? 

Do they consider it something that can make their business more competitive? How much are the end users willing to pay for maximised uptime? Are they even willing to pay at all for maximised up time?”

“The preliminary research findings have identified that an overwhelming majority of OEMs believe that maximising uptime is a strategic advantage for them. An overwhelming majority of the customers of the OEMs believe it would be a competitive advantage for them. Executives are demanding it from the OEM side. End customers are even willing to pay more for it but the OEM is not ready to maximise uptime.”

It seems clear that the conversation has moved somewhat beyond whether the shift towards uptime was the right path to follow – the question many organisations are now facing is how they make that shift. Although case studies are beginning to surface as Brooks alludes to himself.

“I came to my first field service event three years ago, there was very little mention of the product becoming service, of servitization. Last year there was a tiny bit, but this year we are seeing companies that have now gone out and done it. We’re seeing companies who have now fully evolved to that model.”

However, one consideration I have recently been discussing with the likes of Prof. Baines at Aston University and Ross Townsend of Ishida Europe is just how important a factor within the move towards servitization is the industry that an organisation operates within?

“I think you’re absolutely right that it is industry specific,” replies Brooks when I put this to him.

“For example, there are lots of articles on how the automotive industry is transitioning to a new norm where rather than buy a vehicle customers now want to buy access to a vehicle – the end result of which is that the customers no longer become the end-user but a fleet owner whether that be an internal or external operator.”

“And of course a fleet manager will be far more demanding in terms of uptime, than a single end user, so the market disruption really is felt on numerous levels,” Brookes concludes.

Whilst this is a specific example of a vertical being disrupted there could be wider learnings for other industries in how a shift to servitization could impact there own sectors as some business models evolve and other new models that have yet to be considered emerging.

But what is holding some sectors back, whilst others drive forwards to embrace advanced services?

“Part of the reason for the lack of full adoption could be a mindset, the preliminary response that we are getting from the research suggest that an overwhelming majority of the OEMs view their ability to deliver maximum product uptime or a type of service that guarantees maximum uptime – it was almost 80% that said they would view that as a competitive advantage,” Brookes muses.

“So when things have words like competitive advantage and revenue maximisation tied with it you would think that it would be accelerated implementation – so there is some barrier. The desire exists both on the OEM and the customer side, the opportunity to differentiate your product exists, the technology exists so what are the other variables?”

It is an important question that many companies in many sectors are trying to grapple with and when whoever discovers the answer will hold the keys to the future of field service.