ServiceMax's Stacey Epstein Talks Field Service Worker Safety

May 11, 2020
In this Manufacturing Tomorrow's Workforce Podcast, Amanda Del Buono and Stacey Epstein talk tips for managing field service worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

While many front office employees are able to work from home during the current pandemic, most field service workers don't have this option. In this special edition episode, Amanda Del Buono is joined by Stacey Epstein, chief marketing officer and customer experience officer at ServiceMax, to discuss how organizations and individuals can stay safe while keeping essential equipment up and running. 

Listen to the podcast below or on your favorite podcast-listening app. 


Amanda: Welcome back to Manufacturing Tomorrow's Workforce. I'm Amanda Del Buono, and this is the second special edition podcast focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on manufacturing workforces.

Although some personnel can work from home, field workers are still needed on-site to maintain many operations, but how do we keep those workers safe? What should their employers be doing for them, and what should they be doing for themselves to stay safe, and how can we make their jobs easier during this trying time?

To answer these questions, ServiceMax's Stacey Epstein, chief marketing officer and customer experience officer, is joining me today. ServiceMax provides field service management and real-time communication solutions.

Thanks for calling in today, Stacey.

Stacey: Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Amanda: So, can you just start out by giving us a snapshot of how field service workers in various verticals are grappling with the impact of coronavirus? Are there verticals that are maybe feeling more pressure than others?

Stacey: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely been an interesting addition of stress to the system obviously for all of us in the world, but especially for manufacturers. And I think that it sort of put manufacturers in one of two extremes. On one extreme, you have the industries that are basically shut down, the non-essential items that people aren't going out, people aren't consuming and factories are having to close and shut down. Also, many factories are having to shut down due to the stay-at-home order. I just saw that Tesla was a manufacturer that's having to furlough employees because they aren't allowed to come into work due to the stay-at-home policies. So, you've got some sectors of the industry experiencing an extreme slowing even to the point of shutdown. On the other hand, you have the healthcare or the medical device industries that are just absolutely in dire need of moving as fast as they possibly can. So, it's the other extreme of manufacturing and medical devices, an industry that we really cater to.

So, we see it heavily, those field service workers are absolutely critical, essential part of the workforce. We just take the most basic example of ventilators, like we've got to not only produce as many of those as we can to the point even where some of those factories like Tesla are trying to change their ways and create new types of equipment that they haven't made before, but also we’ve got to get those installed. We have to keep them up and running in hospitals. So, I think a lot of people think about the challenge of manufacturing, whether it's testing equipment, ventilators or whatever, vaccine machines that develop vaccines. It's all kinds of different things that are just ramping up and we think about the manufacturing side of it, we don't always think of the field service side of it, which is, "Okay, now, we've created thousands of new ventilators, but they're on the shop floor. How do we get them into the supply chain? How do we get them into the hospitals, installed, up and running? How do we fix them when they aren't working?" And that's the job of those field technicians. And so, there's been a much heavier reliance on those field workers who are out there making sure those actually work at the end of the supply chain.

Amanda: Right, right. Well, in previous episodes of this podcast, we talk about workforce development a lot and the key to workforce development is communication. But it seems to me that, at this moment, communication has got to be more important than ever. What advice do you have about keeping the communication flowing between the service workers or the field workers and their management or whomever? What advice do you have for them to be constantly in communication or improving their communication? Or are there different things that they need to be communicating about that maybe they weren't before or they don't usually?

Stacey: Yeah. And we at ServiceMax have a piece of our solution called Zinc, which facilitates communication and really helps get real-time knowledge to workers that are in the field. And it's been quite successful for us, but there have been many times over the course of the last few years when our buyer says, "Yeah, it looks really good, but, you know, it's just not mission-critical in terms of what we're looking at today." And that has just...another thing that has taken a drastic turnaround is that everyone's not in offices where they have access to people and information that they need. So, not only do you have your field service workers out in the field, but you also have the people who have the expertise and knowledge to help them. You have them just in their homes, but you can't prevent that communication from happening because that's how problems get solved, questions get answered and the work continues to happen. So, giving those technicians a way to get to the real-time information they need has become just mission-critical.

Again, communication's not a nice-to-have anymore, it's an absolute imperative for these field service workers, especially as the whole industry is shifting to focus on the current need, which is healthcare. So, again, those non-essential items, I mean, they're not being purchased, they're not being installed, and so, you have workforces that are shifting to do something that they haven't done before. So, if I've changed my manufacturing facility to produce ventilators or whatever it is that I've now shifted my focus, I've got a whole workforce of field service engineers or technicians that aren't necessarily trained or up to speed on how to do that. So, we're asking a lot more of our field service teams and we absolutely need to be giving them the ability to reach out when they have a question to send a message to a hotline and have a one-on-one text conversation or even do a live video, which you can do in Zinc.

I mean, certainly, you could also do it in something like FaceTime, but with Zinc, you know it's secure and you can get them to the right expert. With FaceTime, you don't really even know, "Who do I call," right? But if you use a hotline and you can know that you're getting to the right expert, you can do a quick video call and say, "Hey, I'm trying to install this. I've never done it before. Am I doing this right?" And they can get help in real-time. Then that system can be live and experience full uptime in ways that it just wouldn't have happened if you didn't have that line of communication. So, I think what, again, what we all thought of as, "Yeah, you know, communication's important. But what's more important is that I'm tracking parts and that I'm scheduling my technicians properly," and now it's come to, "Hey, if I can't communicate with my field service team, I'm maybe not able to even get the job done." So, it's just become absolutely critical.

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and at least people are seeing that and hopefully acting on it and maybe instituting different technologies or methods to do that like you had mentioned.

Read the complete transcript at Maintaining safety in the field during COVID-19

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