More companies are looking to aftermarket and field service operations as an opportunity for growth. According to Statistics MRC, the Global Field Service Management market is expected to reach $4.45 billion by 2022, up from $1.78 billion in 2016. This means companies just adopt new business processes, including contract and warranty management, mobile technician scheduling, subcontractor management, and others that their existing ERP cannot address. These demanding disciplines require powerful FSM software tightly integrated with the ERP system of record.
To make aftermarket and field service a core discipline, companies running Dynamics as their core ERP system need to extend their offerings with FSM software—a best-of-breed system which goes further and deeper into field service operations than their underlying instance of Dynamics. The combined solution must encompass the entire service lifecycle, starting with contractual requirements or the initial service request through to invoicing and, ultimately, contract renewal for repeat service and customer loyalty.
There is no reliable way to offer the type of service the market demands without integrating field service software alongside core enterprise systems.
BUILT FOR CHANGE
When integrating any two enterprise systems, there isn’t a standard “plug-and play” approach—a field service application is highly configurable, and the business processes and data that extend between systems can be unique to each customer.
Because the Dynamics product line encompasses multiple services, there will be some configuration needed on the ERP side as well. But, while these products differ in terms of how they facilitate business transactions, each of the products in the Dynamics line been migrated onto Microsoft technologies and rearchitected to be easily opened to integrations.
The Microsoft strategy involves multiple independent software vendors (ISV) which means that core functionality will be from Microsoft, but various ISV products may also deliver functionality for specific verticals or business functions, such as field service. This means the ISV solutions should also be a consideration in planning the integration strategy, as each time the underlying Dynamics ERP product is upgraded, each of these integrations may also need to be uplifted to account for functionality changes in the new core version.
KEY AREAS FOR INTEGRATION
Regardless of which FSM solution you select and which Dynamics ERP product you are running, there are four key areas to think about before integration begins:
Master Data. Typically, the ERP solution holds the master data on customers, suppliers, inventory, and the integrated applications it interacts with. So, when this data is accessed by a FSM solution, you will need to decide whether the Dynamics ERP product or the FSM software needs to transform the field service operations data.
Stock, for instance, should be tracked in real-time to provide visibility on the location and status of inventory. Technicians working on products or assets at a customer site may need to input that asset into a reverse logistics inventory, or the status or location of the product may have changed. If a technician removes a component from a customer asset and needs to receive a part in the field service solution, the stock movement needs to be done immediately. These real-time stock updates can happen every few seconds with no noticeable downtime.
Sales/Purchase. Sales orders, service orders, and other transactional tools all contain data used for invoicing in ERP that need to be shared with the FSM solution. This means that any integration needs to ensure the FSM system can extract everything that is required to build an invoice. It is essential that the underlying data supporting the invoice resides in the FSM system, as this enables a more streamlined approach to service reporting. Otherwise, efforts to gain visibility into the performance of the service organization would have to pull data from both systems, which increases complexity and time.
If pricing information is contained exclusively in ERP, and a field service technician is issuing an estimate for parts and labor, the pricing information will need to be confirmed before that estimate or quote is issued. Or, if someone in the back office or in the field receives a request for service, the system may need to do a credit check prior to initiating the work. If a given customer is already delinquent, the integration may decline the transaction. The ERP system may also send a warning response to the FSM solution to notify the user that the customer is in arrears and to proceed when outstanding invoices are authorized before work commences.
Logistics. Another important factor to consider is where stock information will be stored. The data could reside in both Dynamics ERP and the FSM solution, but a method needs to exist to keep stock levels accurate—two systems using the same inventory need to be kept in sync.
Stock can be purchased in either the ERP or FSM solution—an area where the functionality of the two systems overlap. The question is whether inventory resides only in the FSM solution, only in ERP, or both. If you opt to keep it in both places, you need to ensure inventory levels increase and decrease simultaneously. This requires a single point of entry for requesting a purchase order (PO), and back flushing a receipt on a PO line so that it is only received in one system.
Mobile Data. A mobile solution is also a critical part of both the integration decision-making process and the product offering. Technicians are a major part of the equation, and it is vital for them to have a full view of what has happened with the equipment as well as instant access to critical data—whether in the field or back at base. Having the capacity to work in offline or online mode is essential for technicians who move from one site to the next. This ensures field workers have access to necessary information needed to effectively work in remote locations as well as a secure line of communication to the back office once back online where they are able to upload any work from the offline period.
Regardless of whether you are a service-based or product-oriented company, you need
About the author:
Tom DeVroy is a senior product evangelist, North America, with IFS, a company that develops and delivers enterprise software for customers around the world who manufacture and distribute goods, maintain assets, and manage service-focused operations. For more information, visit www.ifsworld.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, December 2018
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