Raising the mobility of field technicians with technology
FM magazine spoke to Simon Ma from Schindler Lifts Australia about the technological advances that have increased the mobility of its field technicians, while also helping them predict and prevent equipment issues before they occur.
Field technicians in the elevator industry have become more mobile than ever before, thanks to new and emerging technologies that are now being widely implemented.
At Schindler Lifts Australia, a large portion of our workforce is made up of field technicians, who spend a substantial amount of time at commercial buildings around Australia servicing and installing elevators.
Due to this, it is vitally important we keep our field technicians as mobile as possible, to remain productive and competitive as a company and to keep the millions of people who rely on our equipment moving each day.
Modern day technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, have provided Schindler with opportunities to develop custom applications for mobile devices that are helping our field technicians achieve greater mobility.
In the past, technicians carried binders or folders stacked with information into the field and were forced to make regular trips back to the office to complete paper-based tasks.
However, technologies that improve mobility have virtually transformed what used to be a typical workday for our field technicians, and provided significant productivity, cost and environmental benefits at the same time.
Today, our technicians are armed with the latest smartphones and tablets, which have a series of Schindler-developed applications capable of tapping into critical systems and data that enable them to monitor and service equipment in real time.
Our field technicians now regard their mobile device as an all-in-one toolbox that contributes to shaping their workday.
From scheduling critical maintenance to diagnosing equipment faults, our workforce of technicians is taking advantage of having unprecedented access to critical information whenever they need it.
Field technicians now commonly start their day on a mobile-based job management application – in Schindler’s case the iOS app FieldLink – to plan and prepare their work schedule.
The application improves the efficiency of our technicians by structuring their workload and site visits to ensure that all equipment is continually maintained.
It provides details, such as a description of the type of visit, any special access requirements the building has, customer contact details, equipment history and when upcoming safety inspections or repair jobs are scheduled.
In addition to transforming how a field technician’s day is structured, the app has also changed how they approach each job by making them predictive, instead of reactive, when assessing equipment.
The installation of sensors on Schindler’s elevators, to measure elements like temperature and speed, has improved the insight and control our field technicians now have to give them this predictive perspective.
Another advantage of FieldLink that benefits our clients is that field technicians can be efficiently alerted of callbacks to a site once Schindler receives notification of an issue, such as a lift shutdown or equipment not operating to the required standard.
Without returning to a Schindler office the job management app provides the technician with a detailed brief on why the callback is required, including information on the issue and which tools or resources our personnel need.
Through Schindler’s call centre a technician is initially informed of a callback by an alarm, signalling that a customer has alerted the company regarding an elevator that requires attention or further maintenance.
In response, the technician will provide a time for when the callback will take place, before processing the job when they arrive to site, completing the work that is required and then reporting back what was carried out via the app.
Once the technician has closed the callback request, they will then trigger an electronic report of the work that will be distributed to the customer to keep them informed of the issue and work undertaken.
Overall, this provides a more thorough record of the operating history of our elevators, including maintenance reports, past faults or issues, and upcoming work they require.
Job management tools, such as FieldLink, are supported by a number of complementary apps that share similar real-time advantages over old processes.
The past custom of carrying binders full of technical information has been replaced by technicians now having real-time access to a library of up-to-date multimedia documents on their mobile devices.
A catalogue of technical information (both Schindler and third party), service instructions, safety guidelines and checklists are accessible by our field technicians through the content engine app, called FieldWiki.
Integrating with FieldLink, FieldWiki has already increased efficiency in a number of key areas. Instead of reading through old, paper-based technical documents to resolve a problem, our technicians can now choose to watch video tutorials on-site to help troubleshoot issues.
Technicians can quickly search and filter the information they require from the app to efficiently address an issue they have diagnosed with equipment.
“Technologies that improve mobility have virtually transformed what used to be a typical workday for our field technicians, and provided significant productivity, cost and environmental benefits at the same time
With the right knowledge to resolve issues, Schindler’s field technicians are also able to utilise a remote access app, known as iSPECI, to control our elevators.
iSPECI was designed to provide technicians with a platform that helps them deliver a quicker diagnosis of any issues that have surfaced with Schindler’s equipment.
On an easy-to-understand, interactive interface, iSPECI enables our technicians to undertake basic controls, such as opening and closing doors, or more advanced tasks, like downloading error logs, for closer analysis of issues.
Like FieldWiki, iSPECI is making our technicians more autonomous and efficient and, most importantly, is reducing downtime for our customers by having their lifts up-and-running more quickly than previously possible.
By embracing these technological advances Schindler has achieved greater mobility for its field technicians, delivering the on-the-spot service customers now demand while ensuring that their equipment remains safe for users.
Traditionally, the vertical transportation sector has not been recognised as being at the forefront of introducing the latest technologies into its processes.
However, digital technologies enhancing mobility have been a turning point and enabled field technicians to make sure more elevators continue to operate reliably.
To support a growing mobile workforce, Schindler redesigned its core IT department so it could develop powerful business solutions with deep integration into its back-end systems around the world.
This technological commitment took a significant step forward in 2013 when Schindler formed a partnership with Apple, which has played an integral part in the creation of the self-developed apps that now have a central role in our field technicians’ digital toolbox.
Since then Schindler has successfully provided our field technicians with the latest technological devices, such as the iOS-based iPhone and iPad, to position the company to take advantage of the tools being developed at a rapid pace in the marketplace.
In 2016, Schindler Australia will continue to embrace technological opportunities by strengthening our backend systems for them to accommodate the latest advances that we believe will benefit our customers.
Schindler plans to launch more apps aimed at lifting the productivity of our field technicians, including a ‘spare parts’ app that will provide them with a database of elevator parts available to order through their mobile device while on the job.
Simon Ma is Schindler Lifts Australia’s systems and processes manager, based in Sydney. He has more than nine years’ experience in the vertical transportation industry.