SPP Pumps ditches fax machines and heads to the cloud with ServiceMax

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez November 13, 2014
The pump designer and manufacturer is in the process of modernising its field services organisation, equipping its engineers and coordinators with iPads.

SPP pumps
ServiceMax wasn't the first choice for SPP Pumps when head of IT, Damian Hudson, decided that the company's field services organisation needed modernising and should no longer rely on fax machines, paper-based processes and telephone calls to provide a quality service. In fact, it wasn't even really the designer and manufacturer of pumps' second choice.

However, as Hudson explains, moving to the cloud with ServiceMax has allowed SPP Pumps to reduce its time to invoice, motivate its staff and introduce some new business development opportunities for those working in the field.

As is common with many field service organisations, SPP had become a laggard, stuck in its ways and relying on processes that had been introduced decades ago. However, Hudson recognised the potential for the department and decided a few years ago that a new, modern system was needed. And change was driven by the desire to improve cash flow. Hudson says:

We had had the same field service system, which wasn't a system, for twenty years. Fully paper based, using fax machines, mobile phones – we never really had an efficient way of dealing with getting information out to the field service engineers in a timely manner ready for their visits. We used to utilise a very manual T-card system, which was just on the wall with slots and dates and people.

We identified about three years ago that we needed to improve that process and one of the big drivers was to increase time to invoice. As you can imagine with a paper-based system, guys would go off and manually write on their sheet and at the end of their day or at the end of their week would fax that information back to the office. That information would then manually get re-entered into our backend systems, so the time to invoice was two weeks.

At the time ServiceMax didn't have a strong presence in Europe, according to Hudson, and as such he hadn't come across the cloud-based system. The first choice for SPP three years ago was a small, UK based company that installed an application locally, but ultimately wasn't right or fit for purpose. SPP ended up “pulling the plug” and going back to the drawing board.

Cloud service management
Once that decision was made, Hudson began looking at what SAP had to offer in terms of service field functionality, given that SPP is running SAP on its back-end. However, by coincidence, at the same time, the company was looking at running a Salesforce.com project for a CRM implementation – and that's how Hudson came across the ServiceMax offering, given that it runs natively on the Salesforce platform. Hudson says:

We went through quite a long evaluation process comparing ServiceMax with SAP, and ServiceMax was the partner we wanted to go with. ServiceMax is cloud-based, whereas the SAP solution wasn't, and as a result would have taken a lot more management from out internal teams.

SAP is not the easiest thing to get implemented and can be quite a long drawn out process. ServiceMax was already cloud based, it already had apps that were designed and ready to go, the ease to change the system ourselves without a huge team was pretty key for us. Time to implementation was pretty quick too.

Following a fairly lengthy implementation – as a result of some internal resource issues at SPP – ServiceMax went live at the company in March this year for all of its 24 technicians and its 10 coordinators.

However, going from a paper-based system to a system that relies on your service engineers to do everything from an iPad is never going to be easy – especially when some of your service engineers have been with the company for decades and aren't accustomed to using modern consumer technologies. This is a common challenge for many service organisations going through this transformation and SPP Pumps was no different. Hudson says:

Some guys were really good. But some guys had been with the company for 40 years and the only way they knew how to do the job was with the 'system' we had used previously. So for those guys it was quite a slow process, from a user adoption point of view.

Some of those guys have never touched an iPad before. It was a steep learning curve from an iPad perspective, let alone a field service application perspective. But some of the younger guys took to it pretty well.

However, with some focused training, Hudson claims that SPP is now over the pains of climbing the learning curve and most of the service engineers are pretty well versed using the iPad and the application. SPP Pumps is now focused on fine-tuning the system that has been implemented. Hudson says:

The system has settled down, but now we are starting to improve upon some of the system processes. We are changing some things to simplify the field process, simplifying the process for the coordinators as well. We are really reviewing and maintaining.

We tried to do too much too soon, too quickly. That was one of our biggest mistakes. We tried to do too much in the iPad app for example, which meant that for the engineers it took them a long time to get to the process of doing it because we had put too many steps into the process that they were doing in the field. We are sort of changing that now.

SPP is also planning to integrate its upcoming Salesforce CRM system with ServiceMax, so that when a sales person goes to a site, they will now know whether a service field engineer has previously visited. At present, a sales person doesn't know if a potential customer has had any work orders, or whether or not they have had any problems with kit in the past. Once integrated, they will be able to see this information via a mobile app ahead of the visit and as a result should be better prepared.

And although field services engineers don't have the opportunity to sell directly to SPP customers, as the products they service typically have gone through

an intermediary, Hudson has introduced some capabilities for business development to help the sales teams. He says:

What we are getting our service field engineers to do – and we have a business development opportunities section in our app – is when they go to a building, there might be one SPP pump and there might three competitor pumps. So rather than writing that information down or phoning us up and trying to get that information through to sales, they can input it on their iPad app. We then run a port to our new business guys, telling them to target those customers.

Hudson also admitted that whilst SPP isn't quite there yet in terms of a complete modernisation of its services organisation, it is heading in the right direction. He says:

It's still early days, but ServiceMax has improved productivity, it has improved the information that the engineers get. Before they wouldn't have anything because they were reliant on a phone call or a fax to tell them where they were going tomorrow, but the contact could be wrong, the postcode could be wrong, they would get there and the parts wouldn't have been delivered etc etc.

We can now also invoice on the same day because of the integration with SAP. There are lots of benefits – all our field service engineers feel that they are moving with the technology and that the company is investing in them, in people and in systems.