As-built or as-installed BOMs and installed base accuracy are essential

Friday, 11:30 PM: Your service team receives a call from your most important customer, who has a 4-hour response contract.   Your field engineer is on-site in 30 minutes, troubleshoots, and orders a part, only to discover it is not stocked at your local depot. Your customer will have to wait 12–24 hours for delivery from your national distribution center.

Result: frustrated engineer, very angry customer, and maybe breach of contract

Root cause: supply chain error? No. Installed base management error? Yes. Custom configuration not reflected in your service installed base data

This is a common scenario at companies where custom-configured and custom-built products are the norm. Often, engineering change orders or specific customer requests are not well documented. Products are shipped without an as-shipped bill of material (BOM) or configuration documents, or your service systems are unable to support custom configurations. This becomes a significant problem when your field service engineer (FSE) is charged with fixing deployed customer equipment. The FSE may be surprised by the configuration and may not have the correct parts to repair the equipment or may not be able to properly troubleshoot the custom configuration. The only thing a FSE can do is physically examine the equipment then call back to technical support to sort out the correct configuration and get assistance with troubleshooting.

Companies could mitigate this risk by stocking one of every replacement part locally. But this will cause a significant additional investment (we have seen as much as 30%) in field inventories to support the unknown when there are no as-shipped BOMS.

Companies’ ERP systems can capture “as-built” or “as-shipped” BOMs and configuration documents including engineered-to-order schematics if product profiles are set up properly. These systems document what exactly has been shipped and can be used as a guide for field stocking as well as FSE training. ERP systems capture this information either directly or through interfaced systems such as document management and engineering software.

Excerpted exclusively for SmartVan from the new book, 42 Rules for Superior Field Service, by Rosemary Coates and Jim Reily.