In case you’re just now tuning in, the Syncron team has spent the week at Field Service USA 2017 live blogging some of the keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions throughout the event.

The Syncron-led workshop on Tuesday was a big hit — centering around the future trends, technologies and their impact on field service with Martin Nowakowski, VP Enterprise Sales America at Syncron. The group was filled with field service organizations debating the pros and cons behind some of the new emerging technology of today, and how they plan to implement them into their field service processes.

In the workshop, the group discussed how these trends and technologies will continue to impact the service supply chain. A full overview of the session details and each emerging tech’s impact on field service is coming soon, but here’s a sneak peek into what the folks at Field Service USA thought of the trends:

3D Printing

3D printing has long been used in manufacturing to create part prototypes. But now, with the advances made to the already mind-blowing technology, they can print parts in metal. This means that 3D printing can now be used to create actual replacement parts.

In the workshop, we discovered that the majority of companies are using 3D printing for research and design, with a much smaller faction using it to produce service or metal parts. The major concern with 3D printing is the reliability and the cost of parts per every request. To combat this concern, the idea is to target usage on low volume parts to keep costs down.

Future thoughts on 3D printing in after-sales service? Most believed that 3D printing will provide usable service parts in 10 years, which will be a game changer, but with the over-hyped technology of today, we need stronger proof of durability, production time reduction, and overall reduction of machine cost.

IoT

The beauty of IoT is the impact it has on customer interactions and its effect on improving the overall customer experience. This holds true for field service, which oftentimes serves as the ‘face’ of manufacturing brands.

During the workshop, we found that the companies who have an IoT strategy in place versus those who have yet to settle on one is evenly split. And without a strategy, there’s no use in having data captured if you can’t use it.

There are still lots of questions around what to do with IoT data, and how to make it actionable for field service. But the main question here is: How can we use IoT to provide benefits to the customer? How do you turn data into customer value?

Driverless Cars

According to Juniper Research, by 2025 there will be 20 million driverless cars on roads around the world, with them becoming most popular in North America and Western Europe by 2021. For manufacturers, this new development could be especially beneficial to field service.

The adoption of the group in this week’s workshop, though, was quite different than that statistic. Only about 5% were actively planning for this technology – but the good news is that many were interested in its potential.

From time optimization of the end to end service call, to cost reduction for fleet maintenance, reduction in accidents, and more service calls per day per technician, driverless cars could be the answer to finding the most optimized routes in field service.

The biggest concern here is adoption: many believe the technological advances are outpacing the ability to implement it – especially when talking about giant corporations where implementing a giant shift like this is a heavy lift. But with the theme of the entire conference being innovation, we believe the idea of business transformation will evolve alongside the technology.

Drones

Drones can be used as a means of diagnosing issues on large-scale equipment, like say, oil rigs. The bonus here is this means less risk for the field service technician, as drones can help them survey large or hard-to-reach areas without putting themselves in dangerous situations. Or, they can be used in warehouses to retrieve service parts, making the process much more efficient.

Of the group in the workshop, a portion of the companies are using drones in their businesses today – but not so much in a Field Service use case. Drones have been a huge asset in a surveying aspect – used to see overheads of construction space, roadways, damage assessment, and seeing where their equipment is located in giant work areas.

But the possible KPI benefits including increasing first time fix rate, decreasing carbon footprints, cost savings implications, and the increase of after-sales service satisfaction rates to rural areas are all drivers that make drones an exciting way to leverage parts supply and parts delivery in the not so distant future.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Expected to be a 120B market by 2020 with 75% of the market share being owned by AR vs. VR, consumers are certainly leading the trend, with business not too far behind.

Within this group, the main understanding for the lack of adoption is around the idea of of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” There are still questions around how you measure and track the success of this technology, and the concerns around if the results are worth the effort definitely give pause to the emerging technology.

But, like any new technology, the adoption is growing, and the possibilities behind AR and VR in field service have endless opportunities – it’s just up to modern organizations to embrace the innovation.

Emerging technologies – from IoT, to drones, driverless cars, virtual reality and 3D printing – continue to impact field service. The 3D printing industry alone is anticipated to grow by more than 31 percent before 2020, generating more than $21 billion in global revenue.

And as these technologies evolve and new trends emerge, field service professionals must be equipped to use them to their advantage to become more efficient and effective.