International Field Service – Nerve-racking Logistics

The talented people who run these organizations are laser-focused on servicing their customers by getting the technicians and the parts to the customer site as quickly as possible

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Field Service Management is one of the toughest jobs in the supply chain logistics world because managers must deal with complex rapid-response situations every day, said Rosemary Coates, President of Blue Silk Consulting.

Coates, who just published a new book, 42 Rules for Superior Field Service, interviewed several people who run international Field Service organizations at Google, Cisco and Siemens among others. 

“The talented people who run these organizations are laser-focused on servicing their customers by getting the technicians and the parts to the customer site as quickly as possible,” she said.

The complexity of “every day” situations, said Coates, includes the following:

• customers demanding fast response for broken equipment/down time
• emergencies and unexpected events such as natural disasters
• service reps who could be coming from anywhere in the world
• internationally sourced parts, inventory availability globally

“If you are a global organization with an international installed base, you must also plan your field service inventories accordingly,” she said. “Your Purchasing department may be executing purchase orders based on your plan and requirements for spare parts, but there are always pop-up emergencies and unexpected challenges.  You should know if parts are coming from international vendors and where you will stock parts or quickly acquire them to provide fast field service.”

Finally, asked Coates: How quickly can you respond to a customer when a machine is down anywhere in the world?

She said the Logistics department must determine the optimal approach.  Logistics can help determine the best cost and locations for inventory, identify the appropriate logistics providers and put a plan together that best serves your customer. They also help with import/export regulations and documentation for shipping to global destinations when emergencies arise. 

“They do all this nerve-racking logistics work while customers are screaming and the phone is ringing off the hook,” she said.

Coates, the author of 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China, noted that her consultancy found that inventory management and logistics for international Field Service spares and repairs are some of the most difficult and complex supply chain challenges to handle.  This is because there are significantly more variables to model in Field Service vs. product distribution.  These variables include: the prediction of customer needs, maintaining accurate installed base data, and planning for things like natural disasters, import/export requirements and delays.
“You need good analytical and financial skills to model the various options as well as deep logistics expertise for these activities,” said Coates. “Field Service Logistics requires a lot of talented brain power.”

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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