Taking responsibility – Developing services sustainably

Thinking digital processes that make technicians work sustainably

Service organisations and service providers are thinking hard about how services can be thought about, offered and implemented in a sustainable way. Digitalisation is an important element here: through digital processes, tools and services, services today can contribute to all three dimensions of sustainability – in ecological and social terms as well as on an economic level. ServiceToday editor Michael Braun talked to Detlef Aden, Head of Business Development & Channel at all4cloud GmbH & Co. KG, about what companies can do today.

He explains where he sees potential in service in terms of sustainability and how systems need to be thought through in order to pave the way to sustainability.

Michael Braun: Sustainability and service – how do they fit together?

Detlef Aden: Perfectly – and it has to fit together, because offering services without paying attention to the aspect of sustainability will no longer be possible in the future. And I’m not talking about some scenario in the distant future – service organisations and service providers have to think and act now in all three dimensions of sustainability: socially and ecologically, and of course it also has to work economically.

Michael Braun: You say that so definitely – do you have corresponding feedback from the markets that the topic of sustainability is actually present?

Detlef Aden: Definitely! The KVD has been talking about the service turnaround for almost two years now, in which sustainability plays an essential role. We saw it at the KVD Service Congress, where we were presented with innovative concepts for sustainable service at the Service Management Award. And we hear it ourselves from customers – just as they hear it from their customers – that sustainability plays a role at all points of contact.

It already starts with the preparation of offers or tender documents: there are more and more questions about how sustainable the services to be offered will be, and also to what extent these services can reduce the company’s own CO₂ footprint. Of course, this applies above all to the service itself when it comes to practice. Today, customers expect sustainable service – that is becoming standard.

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Michael Braun: Do you have any examples?

Detlef Aden: In technical service there are many examples that show how strongly sustainable ideas can sometimes be integrated into the processes. Let’s take classic machine repair: a few years ago, there was a move away from replacing individual small parts to replacing entire component groups. This means that only a small element of a component could be damaged, but the entire unit was still replaced.

A rethink is taking place here: Service organisations are now thinking about how parts can be recycled, how they can be remanufactured and brought to market as a new part at a reduced price, or whether they can be repaired right on the customer’s site. Repairability must therefore be considered even more clearly in product development.

The aim here is to increase the service life, improve the repairability and ensure that parts can be easily recycled in order to act in the spirit of the circular economy.

Michael Braun: When you talk about repairs at the customer’s site, I immediately think of the distance the service technician has to travel…

Detlef Aden: … and which can also be optimised, exactly. The times when technicians had to travel to the customer several times to solve a problem are definitely over. Whether customers use our techserv4cloud solution for SAP or other systems: today, it is no longer possible without elements such as digital malfunction reports, dynamic and predictive route planning and digital processes for purchasing, project management or spare parts management. Ideally, all this happens in one system, because when things get hectic and the machine is at the customer’s, it must be immediately apparent which technician is the right one, which spare part he needs, when he can help the customer – and of course what is in the maintenance contract with the customer.

The deployment of technicians must also be planned and controlled efficiently and sustainably. When the customer reports a malfunction, as much information as possible should be provided so that it can be assessed which skills the technician to be deployed must have – if he has to travel to the customer at all, because after all, many things can also be solved in self-service or under guidance, for example via augmented reality.

If a technician’s intervention is indispensable, it should already be clear when the malfunction is reported which component is defective so that the technician can bring it directly for repair. This saves travel time and, of course, CO₂ thanks to the reduced travel distances. Dynamic route planning can also help to find out whether there might be another technician in the vicinity who would have to travel even less distance. Dynamic routing then includes determining and offering the most efficient driving route. And driving training can teach technicians to drive as economically as possible, with regard to tire and brake wear, or even fuel consumption.

Speaking of which: the fewer unnecessary parts the technician carries, the lighter the vehicle, and the lower the consumption. So there is a lot that can be done in this field alone.

Michael Braun: The technicians would also benefit from these measures if they had to spend less time travelling, if they arrived more relaxed and met more relaxed customers.

Detlef Aden: Yes, it is important to me that people are not neglected in all these measures.

Of course, when it comes to sustainability, people reflexively look at the ecological factors, but especially in service, the social factor is also important. From my point of view, this also means working on processes and procedures: I am a friend of making complex things simpler.

We also pay attention to this in the further development of our cloud solutions. Digital processes must be thought of from many perspectives, they must make as much sense in the field as they do in the office. This increases employee satisfaction, leads to a better work-life balance, and that in turn reduces staff turnover. This also has something to do with the other major megatrend of our time, the shortage of skilled workers.

Of course, there will always be colleagues who retire, leaving a gap. But if I avoid the general fluctuation by setting up sustainable processes and providing a good working environment, I can ensure that the skills shortage is at least mitigated.

Source: Article published in SERVICETODAY 2023/04

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Detlef Aden - Head of Solution Sales

Detlef Aden, Head of Business Development & Channel, all4cloud SAP Cloud ERP experts