The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That’s a cliché, but guess what? It’s a cliché because it’s true.
If you doubt me, take a look at a painfully current example: the collision of a venerable career field like field service, with radically new tech like the internet of things (IoT). The IoT is changing how field service technicians do their jobs… but without technicians, that change is all theoretical.
For all of the IoT’s revolutionary advances, you still need technicians willing to get their hands dirty. Sensors enabled by computerized maintenance management software can tell you if an asset is broken, but it’s the technician who goes out and does the dirty work to fix it.
And all of that is a good thing, given how much the IoT can help field service technicians. Though new tech can sometimes raise “will I be replaced?” fears, the IoT is one technology that can really aid in field service management jobs. Here are three ways IoT-enabled software is helping, but not replacing, technicians in the field.
1. The IoT makes dirty jobs more efficient
Working as a wastewater treatment operator is a dirty job in more than one way. There’s the obvious part of literally dealing with other people’s messes, and there’s the necessity to work long hours and be constantly on call. There’s also the need to take samples, check on water quality, and sometimes manually clean things out.
IoT sensors help wastewater treatment pros with these constant responsibilities.
“Some of the dirtiest places IoT sensors can be found is in your local sewer plant where values and pumps are controlled with smart technology,” explains Maintenance Connection’s Leah Garcia.
The job, she continues, can be taxing: “Being a lineman or technician who checks these important IoT sensors can be a dirty and non-glamorous job.”
The sensors help alert you to what needs to be checked, but the checking itself requires someone willing to get their hands dirty:
Wastewater treatment might be the dirtiest of the dirty jobs
Where the IoT helps is in alerting you to changes in water quality, or when a specific asset needs to be cleaned. It focuses technicians’ efforts, rather than requiring them to constantly walk the facility.
2. The IoT makes dirty jobs safer
Oil and gas refineries are another dangerous, dirty place where the technician’s involvement is still necessary. They’re also a place, however, where IoT devices can reduce the number of times it’s necessary to go check something in person. If you doubt that’s a good thing, consider what a flare stack looks like:
I wouldn’t want to get too close to it, either
While flare stacks have rigorous safety protocols, it comes as no surprise that a 100-foot tall flame tower that looks like something out of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is still, well, dangerous.
“Numerous safety checks are performed before coming close to an open flare stack, but you never feel 100% safe,” says Ryan Chan of CMMS vendor Upkeep.
Fortunately, IoT sensors and CMMS software can reduce the risk, and ensure that visits to the flare stacks are necessary ones.
“With technology and even drones, we can remove the need to have an actual human check sensors or need to go there to do a visual inspection,” Chan continues.
Sensors do the inspection work for you, making it so the technician’s physical presence is only necessary when there’s maintenance that has to be done. The focus shifts from danger to downtime.
“We’re seeing a big shift with technology which is becoming very important for the safety of many technicians,” Chan notes.
It’s a happy marriage of the old and new— a venerable concern such as technician safety, addressed by the future-looking resources of the internet of things.
3. The IoT makes dirty jobs more lucrative
Duke Energy, a major utility company in the South and the Midwest, demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between the IoT and field service technicians. After a 2010 incident that cost Duke $10 million, the utility invested in IoT sensors. To be specific, they invested in over 30,000 IoT sensors, placed in assets throughout their facilities.
Thanks to their IoT sensors and computerized maintenance management software from Schneider, Duke Energy saved a lot of money. But that couldn’t have been done without the actual engineers. While IoT sensors were necessary to sniff out problems, it was the engineers who did the corrective maintenance who made that technology worth the investment.
Duke Energy’s Gibson Station
In one particularly lucrative case, noting an odd vibration in one turbine lead technicians to schedule corrective maintenance on the asset. Duke estimates that maintenance saved the plant $4.1 million.
In one sense, this story demonstrates the value of CMMS software. What it also demonstrates, however, is the necessity of field service technicians who will go do the dirty job of fixing the asset.
What IoT dirty jobs did I miss?
No matter how much the IoT and software change the work of field service, there will always be a need for people to do the actual work. The good thing about software? It’ll help engineers do more dirty work.
Are there any dirty jobs that deal with IoT sensors that I missed? Tell me about them in the comments below!
If you’re further interested in the IoT, check out one of these other great Capterra pieces:
Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.