In a business landscape that is experiencing almost constant disruption thanks to emerging technologies, as well as new uncertainties and risks introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult for field service organizations in Japan to identify new opportunities and generate more revenue. That’s where Jiro Nobukuni and his team lend a helping hand.
“Turning field service departments into profit centers is a top priority for many Japanese businesses, but they don’t always know how to do it,” says Jiro Nobukuni, a senior executive with Japanese solutions provider ISID. A trusted industry veteran with deep experience in auto manufacturing, medical device, precision machinery and other sectors, Nobukuni now guides Japanese field service organizations through the process of business transformation.
Japanese businesses are not alone in seeking ways to identify new opportunities. More than a third of field service organizations around the world say their top priority is increasing service revenues, according to a recent survey by ServiceMax.
“Field service operations such as product repair and maintenance provide critical customer insights for new services and increased revenues,” says Nobukuni. “The problem is, in a Japanese business environment where paper-based records can’t be easily shared internally and where information is siloed, it can be challenging to identify and then quickly act on new business opportunities.”
Nobukuni and his technology strategy team in ISID’s Manufacturing Industry Business Operations are on a mission to fix this problem.
A Shift Toward Digital
ISID (Information Services International-Dentsu, Ltd.) was originally launched in 1975 as a joint venture between Dentsu Inc., the world’s largest independent advertising firm in terms of revenues, and General Electric. In this era before personal computers or the Internet, the aim of the project was to utilize GE’s massive computer center over international networks to provide Japanese companies with innovative services. Today, ISID is known for its product development solutions for the manufacturing industry and system development for financial, retail, and service industries.
“In recent years ISID has utilized the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, AI, and robotics to focus on service lifecycle management and help businesses improve customer value,” says Nobukuni. “For example, by working with ServiceMax, ISID has helped one Japanese manufacturer reduce customer lead time by nearly 40 percent.”
Topcon, a leading medical device manufacturer with an expansive, global footprint, worked with ISID to standardize and improve its service delivery with ServiceMax. One of Topcon’s core businesses is selling and servicing devices used in optometry clinics and retail eyeglass outlets. Like other manufacturers, in order to calibrate and maintain these devices, Topcon’s field service team relied on paper reporting and an assortment of legacy software applications that made it time-consuming and sometimes practically impossible to share data internally.
“Topcon had thousands of devices to service and thousands of warranties to manage, just in Japan,” says Nobukuni. “The traditional, paper-based method of managing field service delivery made it more difficult for the company to track repairs and warranty coverage and determine service entitlements. Topcon was essentially giving away free service, to say nothing of losing out on opportunities to increase customer value.”
By working with ISID to implement ServiceMax and automate their field service operations, and then track and record all customer interactions and requests in a single place in the cloud, Topcon decreased cycle times and improved service lead time by 39 percent in Japan, Nobukuni says. Performance at operations around the world also improved. After incorporating ServiceMax, Topcon’s American business unit reported a 10 percent increase in service revenue, and a 30 percent increase in productivity.
Leveraging AI to Disrupt the Business Environment
ISID continues to develop powerful new tools to help Japanese organizations improve service lifecycle management and increase customer value, as well as compete in a rapidly changing business environment.
“At the start of 2020, ISID established a new AI Transformation Center intended specifically to provide AI services to a wide range of industries,” says Nobukuni. “By building on our work over the past several years consolidating the latest AI-related technologies and resources, and by strengthening cooperation with AI start-up companies and academic institutions, ISID helps businesses plan and develop new products and solve problems.”
ISID’s focus on AI has also helped accelerate cross-innovation and develop new solutions that help businesses compete in a disruptive business environment, Nobukuni says.
For example, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis may have transformative implications for field service delivery in Japan. Field service technicians who provide much-needed service to customers may not be able to observe physical-distancing protocols that keep them safe.
“Due to constraints imposed by the pandemic, Japan’s field service industry may adopt emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and telepresence in order to work remotely and keep safe,” says Nobukuni.
Powerful computing and processing power and other IoT capabilities, the ability of manufacturers and other businesses in Japan to more easily collect, fuse, and visualize large amounts of data in AR, combined with the pressing need to respond to the threat of COVID-19, should see Japan’s field service providers start to seriously consider remote working solutions, says Nobukuni.
“Businesses here generally haven’t explored remote working solutions in the past because Japan is quite geographically compact compared to the United States. In Japan, it’s easy to hop on a bullet train or an airplane and travel an hour to make a service call,” says Nobukuni. “COVID-19 makes in-person visits riskier. So, this could be a transformative moment for Japan’s field service industry, where service calls are conducted virtually, reducing costs and potentially opening up new business opportunities.”